If you think we’re going to be telling you all about famous actors who voice talking animals in movies – nope! We’re going to be talking about real animals, the type that roar or grunt and bark, who have provided some of the most iconic sounds in movies.

Chewbacca’s vocalisations, for instance, include the field recordings of real animals such as four different bears, a lion, a seal, and a walrus from Long Beach in California.

So here are the real animals behind some very famous sounds. We bet you might not have even realised that these sounds were created by animals!


1. Leo the Lion – the MGM Lion

The famous MGM lion you see and hear is Leo the Lion – but he’s not the first lion they featured! He’s actually the seventh lion they used. The very first lion the used was named Slats (just in case you think that they were boring and named all their lions with lion-themed names). Leo the Lion holds the distinct honour of being the youngest lion to be filmed roaring (of all the seven lions), and was born in Dublin Zoo.

He’s also appeared in other films , so he’s actually quite a talented lion too. He’s appeared in religious epic King of Kings, children’s movie Zebra in the Kitchen, comedy Fluffy, and even adventure drama Napoleon and Samantha. He’s a pretty versatile lion, and has far more acting range than some Channel 8 wooden blocks that we know!


2. Tarik the black bear, Pooh the cinnamon bear, and Petulia the walrus – Chewbacca in Star Wars

If you’re a Star Wars fan, then you’ll remember the giant hairy humanoid friend of Han Solo named Chewbacca, who speaks in roars and grunts. His voice isn’t provided by the guy in the suit – it’s actually an amalgamation of several animal sounds. Ben Burtt, the sound designer of the Star Wars film series, recorded grunts, moans, purrs – noises which “had emotional feelings associated with them”, then “cut them together to get a sense of speech out of Chewy.”

There are many animals who “voiced” Chewbacca, but there are three main voice actors for him – Tarik the black bear (just a baby when he did the recording), Pooh the cinnamon bear, and Petulia the Walrus. Sadly, Tarik has passed away already. But his voice lives on in the form of Chewbacca!


3. Baby elephant seals, sea lion – orcs in The Lord of the Rings

The Orcs in The Lord of the Rings were voiced by baby elephant seals, as sound designer David Farmer explains. Of course, we’re not talking about the actual spoken dialogue, but the guttural growls that they utter. The Uruk-hai (basically the super Orcs of The Lord of the Rings) were more powerful, so sea lion sounds were used to signify their power and fierceness.


4. Buster the Jack Russell – the T-Rex in Jurassic Park

Buster is a tiny Jack Russell that belongs to sound director Gary Rydstrom, who’s worked on shows like Jurassic Park and Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

So guess what? Buster is actually the voice behind the Tyrannosaurus rex that you see! Rydstrom thought that the dinosaur was animated in a very doglike way, especially when it came to killing prey – just like how Buster would move when attacking his own prey (dog toys). So Rydstrom used Buster’s voice for the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Buster is first heard in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, providing the biting/crunching sound when the evil T-100 robot stabs a poor victim’s eye. If you’re cringing at that thought, then you’ll know exactly what it sounded like. Ouch!


5. Young cougar – Frenzy in Transformers

Do you remember Frenzy, the little creepy Decepticon from Transformers? His “voice” was created from ticks of a metal clock (the kind that you wind up), but with a literal twist. They’re synced to the waveform cadence of a young cougar growling, meaning that it fuses the mechanical sounds of an actual machine to the ferocity of a wild animal, as Transformers sound editor and designer Erik Aadahl reveals.

While it’s not an actual animal sound per se, it’s actually interesting to see how they conveyed the wildness of the Decepticon with its basic robotic origins.

Ferdinand. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Ferdinand. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

But it’s tough to voice direct animals, and they don’t talk anyway, so it’s no surprise that it’s more common to find human voice actors, just like in Ferdinand. World Wrestling Entertainment legend John Cena lends his voice to this animated film about a gentle giant of a bull, who has to reconcile his pacifist nature with his vast strength. Several other talking animals join him on his journey to find acceptance, even though they’re not that bullish about his success.

Catch Ferdinand and see how he learns to show the world what he’s really like inside!

Credit: Golden Village Cinemas