Recording a New Voice for Leo the MGM Lion

/// Audio Clips & Pics Below! ///

Radium is asked to craft Leo’s brand new voice for the latest MGM ident, and what better way to do justice to the most iconic animal onscreen since 1916 than to fly to South Africa to capture the real voices of his faraway cousins!

Twelve hours later we land in Capetown and head north through Stellenbosch to the Drakenstein Lion Sanctuary, a place of safety where lions rescued from sad existences in many parts of the world are able to live out their lives free from abuse and amongst their own kind.

Camped out in an enclosure encircled by lions, separated from us only by a 2.5 metre high chickenwire electric fence, we see dark falling and the big cats rouse from their daylight torpor to prowl and stalk through the deepening night… director chairs and mike stands at the ready we sit and wait … and wait … and wait …

Big cats play games just like their smaller household cousins – lions don’t just roar on demand. Bad-Boy and Shy-Boy, only 2 metres from our tent, amuse themselves at our expense by remaining utterly silent, loitering nearby with the occasional menacing glare until we give up and retire to the tent for some sleep. Then we hear not just roaring but a kind of unearthly prehistoric keening … a song they sing to each other, one by one, multiplying and echoing throughout the entire reserve … a choral symphony of 35 lions in full voice under the African starry night sky, which of course ceases as soon as we run back outside to turn the mikes on! We spend the entire night fitfully dozing, fully clothed and shoe’d, in and out of the tent like bedraggled jack-in-the-boxes, much, we suspect, to Bad-Boy’s and Shy-Boy’s quiet satisfaction.

Nonetheless we manage to record the feline soundscape eventually, and the final piece of the project falls into place on our last day when we unwittingly stand directly between Bad-Boy and the object of his unrequited affection, feline femme Simba in the opposite enclosure. Bad-Boy is far from happy, and the roar literally shakes the ground underneath us … now we have Leo’s new voice…

We are grateful to Paul, Elzette and Jacques at the Drakenstein Lion Sanctuary for making us so welcome and, of course, to all the lions, especially Bad-Boy and Shy-Boy, whom Radium have sponsored for life as a thank-you for all their help in the making of the new MGM ident.

Here’s a clip of Bad-Boy in a bad mood:

The Lion Chorus singing at night:

  1. Very nice capture! Thanks for sharing. What kit did you use and what was the setup?

    • Hey Colin,

      We used a Sound Devices 788T to record with, and used a DPA 4017 along with a stereo pair of DPA 4041-SP mics! We also used a boom to get a bit closer with the DPA 4017 shotgun… The various film clips (featured in the “Radiumphonic Workshop” post below this one, and the pictures, were all taken using a Canon 5D 🙂

      Hope that helps!

  2. nice work! congrats!

    • leftofdeth
    • August 23rd, 2011

    Very cool story, thanks for sharing!!

  1. May 5th, 2011

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