Burtt created the voices and sounds for the aliens and droids of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and the voice of E.T. To come up with Chewbacca's voice, he went to a zoo, but that day did not find what he wanted. Later, at an animal farm, a bear's growls provided the basis for Chewbacca's speech, and Burtt added to that the barks, growls, and whimpers of dogs and lions. He was finally satisfied when he went to Marineland, in California, and recorded a walrus, which was moaning because its pool had been drained for cleaning.
Rediscovered and named the now ubiquitious "Wilhelm scream" sound effect in the Warner Brothers sound archives. To date, it has been used in over 75 films.
His favourite sound is the famous "Arrow" sound from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). He has used it in almost all of the Star Wars films, and almost every other film he has worked on.
Received an honorary doctorate from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania on May 9, 2004. He was a 1970 graduate of the college, where he majored in physics.
To create the rumbling sound of the gigantic boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), he placed a microphone close to the tire of his Honda Civic as it coasted slowly down his gravel driveway. The recording was later engineered at various speeds to best replicate the rolling boulder.
For Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), he created the sound of the lightsabers by mixing the humming sound of his TV set - tuned between channels - with the sound of an old 35mm projector.
June 2005: Left his long-term job at Lucasfilm to work for the spin-off company, Pixar.
Spent 28 years at Lucasfilm Ltd. before joining Pixar in May 2005.
While speaking at London's National Film Theatre in 2009, he disclosed that the alien gibberish spouted by the Mos Eisley spy Garindan/Long Snoot in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) was actually the processed voice of John Wayne.
Graduated in 1975 from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts with a Master of Fine Arts degree in film production.
Personal Quotes (1)
Your success as an artist, to say something new, ultimately depends on the breadth of your education. My recommendation would be to major in an area other than film, develop a point of view, and then apply that knowledge to film. Because if film is all you know, you cannot help but make derivative work. I found that what I had learned about sound, history, biology, English, physics all goes into the mix.