June 5, 2014

When 2 Worlds Collide: Designing the Sound on Disney's 'Maleficent'

MaleficentSound design is a multi-layered, rich, and complex art form that isn't as self-explanatory as we might like. Which is why SoundWorks Collection can be your best friend if you're trying to wrap your head around aesthetic concepts of sound design. In this new video, Michael Coleman brings us a profile of Supervising Sound Editor and Sound Designer Tim Nielsen of Skywalker Sound, who worked on Disney's live-action fairy tale Maleficent.

There were several obstacles that the sound designers faced in creating the soundscapes for the film, namely between the two opposing worlds in the diegesis, the land populated by humans, and enchanted woodland area of the magical beings called The Moors. Nielsen describes carefully selecting soundscapes for each; using magical, ethereal sounds for The Moors to create an atmosphere that was otherworldly -- even going as far to make a distinction between the sounds of the two worlds' birds.

He also talks about the challenge of integrating the sounds from the 1959 Disney animated film from which Maleficent was based, Sleeping Beauty. One area in which they paid homage to the original was the classic, bone-chilling laugh of the villain/anti-hero, Maleficent -- that guttural, evil laugh that is iconic in Sleeping Beauty, which was originally voiced by Eleanor Audley.

Check out the SoundWorks Collection video below to find out more about the approach to sound design in Maleficent:

One key takeaway from the video is very simple, yet it can often get overlooked in all of the craziness of producing images: be intentional about sound. It's a given that in a visual medium, care must be taken when crafting your visuals, but don't forget that we also work in a medium that uses sound, too. If you're a professional sound designer, this comes as no surprise, but if you're an indie filmmaker working with a skeleton crew and most likely designing the sound yourself, take notes on how Nielsen and other sound designers approach their craft. Many times you're building a world from nothing -- and with nothing but sound!

Let us know how you approach sound design in your films in the comments below!

Link: The Sound of Maleficent -- SoundWorks Collection

Your Comment


Holy crap, I'm first commentor?

Wow, uh, what a moment. I'm not even prepared.... Um... I'd like to thank the academy, No Film School for the platform...

June 6, 2014 at 9:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM


@Jordan Haha! That was quite the speech.

I saw the film just before I read the article. I went in not thinking it would be very good, but it was actually very well done. I felt very attached to some of the characters by the end, and I think a lot of it was due to the great sound design. (Although the visuals and acting was really good too.

June 8, 2014 at 12:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM