How Attack Of The Clones Got Help From A Fruit Bat And Mating Penguins

Matthew Wood has probably played more "Star Wars" characters than any other actor. Thanks to his involvement in feature films, TV shows, video games, and ancillary shorts, Wood has played Kylo Ren, Anakin Skywalker, General Grievous, Bib Fortuna, various Battle Droids, IG-88, D-O, Darth Maul, C3-PO, and Magaloof. His voice work, however, is done in addition to his career as a sound designer, a line of work that began for Wood in the early 1990s with the film "Soap Dish" and the series "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles." Wood had since worked on notable blockbusters like "The Rock," "Mission: Impossible," "Volcano," and "Con Air" before landing the job of sound recording for "Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace" in 1999. Wood worked as a sound editor on most of the "Star Wars" films since, and is currently working on the miniseries "Obi-Wan Kenobi," currently airing on Disney+. 

Wood was present at 2022's Star Wars Celebration, a large-scale "Star Wars" convention that frequently features interviews, panels, and "Star Wars"-related press releases. 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of "Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones," which was as good an excuse as any to look back on the film and tell stories of its making. Wood revealed at the "Clones" anniversary panel that "Star Wars" has always been an opportunity to experiment with new sounds. Given the technology and creatures resplendent across that universe, there is always going to be a need to create something new. Wood talked about how bats and penguins came into play for "Clones."

The song of a fruit bat

There is a sequence in "Attack of the Clones" that takes place on a planet called Geonosis, where the titular attack will take place. There is also a sequence wherein several characters are kidnapped and forced to fight monsters in an area while onlookers cheer them (or the monsters) on. In order to create all the sounds of Geonosis, Wood — who had just wrapped filming on "Moulin Rouge!" in Australia — stayed in the country to record various creatures and ambient animal noises for use in the film. 

While the film's head sound supervisor Ben Burtt (another longtime "Star Wars" employee) was working on the main mixing of the "Clones," Wood went to the forests of Queensland and the rainforests of Melbourne to find new sounds to add to the "Star Wars" aural collage. Wood was able to record the sounds of penguins who were particularly noisy because he happened to catch a rookery at the height of their mating season. There are about seven species of penguins native to Australia, and Wood does not specify what kind they were, although it's fun to picture an Eastern Rockhopper because of their yellow, punk rock haircuts. 

Wood also talked about capturing the sound of a fruit bat at an Australian animal sanctuary. On the panel, Wood said that he saw two bats fighting over a banana and was able to get the angry screeching on tape. Australian fruit bats — the grey-headed flying fox — are one of the world's largest bat species and can have a wingspan of up to six feet. Their song is a brief, high-pitch shriek, not unlike that of a parrot, but with a rougher, more "vocal" quality. 

Where did they go?

Wood didn't have a plan for the animal sounds once he had them on tape; he was simply scouring for interesting noises that could pass for alien. It wouldn't be until the recording was returned to Skywalker Ranch in Northern California that the sounds would start looking for a place in "Attack of the Clones." 

During the panel, Wood reveals that the fruit bat and the mating penguin noises were mixed together to form the voices of the native Geonosians as they cheered on the monster fights in the gladiatorial arena. If they sound like real animals to the listener's ear, that's because they are. 

Wood also talked briefly about the voice work he also did for "Attack of the Clones," notably remembering the character decision he made for the Battle Droids he played. Wood has a long career acting in theater, so it was important to him to give his characters some actual texture. In 1999's "The Phantom Menace," the Battle Droids had their central processor destroyed, and Wood figured that each individual droid wouldn't have a very powerful brain outside of that processor, making for a more "broken down" voice. To offer a moment for his fans, Wood said one of the droid's lines — "Roger roger" — to great applause.