Of Tarzan and Kookaburras

Laughing Kookaburra (source: Wikimedia Commons)
Laughing Kookaburra (source: Wikimedia Commons)

I apologize that The Sound and the Foley hasn’t had a regular posting for a couple months, but this post took a while. In fact, I wound up pouring over 45 hours of media into my eyeballs and earholes in order to find the answer to this one.

You may recall the prior post about the sound of the Australian Kookaburra bird, and how it somehow came to be used as a stock background noise for all jungles that had nothing to do with Australia.

In one section of that post, I note that most online sources cite Tarzan films as being a prime source of ill-placed kookaburra sounds. However, none of those sources specify which Tarzan film first contained a wayward kookaburra. There are around 90 Tarzan films listed in the Internet Movie Database, ranging from the silent film era to modern day. Obviously, if the first several films were silent, the kookaburra bird call was not always part of the Tarzan entertainment franchises. So… where did it start?

Nobody online seemed to know.

Of course, that meant I had to start watching a crapload of Tarzan films just to find out. Because that is the way I am.

Welcome to my madness.

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This Week’s Spotted in the Wild

It has been a busy few weeks at Sound and the Foley Studios (aka my apartment), but our dear owl-eared listeners have not been slacking. Below are recent discoveries by readers of this blog.


Listener Gerry Masi writes: “Hello, Frank Zappa used it in his song Zomby Woof (sic). [The Villains Theme] comes after the guitar solo in all the live versions of the song (complete with villain laugh). Thanks for your investigations, we have been wracking our brains trying to find any info on this. Hear it at 4:22 [in the clip below]. … That’s a cover band BTW.”

If I’m not mistaken, the singer in that video is also our owl-eared listener above. Well played, Gerry! Glad we could help, and thank you for the link!

I did poke around the Internet to find a live Frank Zappa recording that also included the Villains Theme, but I haven’t found one yet. Looks like I need to listen to a lot more Zappa. Not that I mind. I do loves me some Zappa.


Listener Ken Hite writes, “Perhaps some mention should be made of Italian pop band Baltimora‘s joy-inducing 1985 New Wave song ‘Tarzan Boy,’ which uses the Tarzan yell as the melodic throughline of the refrain.”

First, I feel silly for missing this one. Second, I am suddenly 10 years old again, sitting cross-legged in front of MTV, surrounded by my collection of snap bracelets, prismatic unicorn stickers, and Stephen King novels (which were covered in prismatic unicorn stickers). Thanks for the time travel, Ken!

That Other Jungle Sound (Fixed)

(Note: an obviously unfinished version of this article accidentally went live on Tuesday. This one is the real deal.)

A few days ago, I wrote a post wherein I mentioned the Tarzan yodel:

Striking and iconic, the Tarzan Yell is one of the most famous sound effects in the history of film, recognizable even to people who’ve never seen an actual Tarzan film. But where did it come from?

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That Jungle Sound

Below is a clip from the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). The scene is set deep within the jungles of South America, and the sound department is ensuring that we know it’s a jungle. The key part starts around 2:12 in the video:

(Side note: this clip is from a pan-and-scan Laserdisc copy of the film, which simultaneously horrifies and amuses me.)

Here’s another sound clip, of the more stereotypical version of the sound heard in films:

Okay, show of hands. Who actually knows what that jungle sound is? Hint: it’s not a monkey.

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