July 4, 2012

Where Red Tails and Star Wars Collide

If you can take your eyes off the fantastic dog fights in Red Tails, listen closely to the P-51 Mustang fighters; these planes that the Tuskegee Airmen had to fight so hard to earn might sound familiar to observant Star Wars fans.  To create the sound of Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt used sound effects from a Mustang fighter he recorded at air races in the Mojave Desert.  In J.W. Rinzler’s The Sounds of Star Wars, Burtt recalls that, “Using piston-engined aircraft is one of the things that distinguishes Star Wars vehicles from most movie vehicles.”  That distinctive sound carried through to the prequels as well.  More than twenty years later, the sound of Sebulba’s pod racer was created using a mix of P-51 engine sounds and a speedboat – making the North American P-51 Mustang a key part of both Red Tails and the Star Wars history.

The similarities between Star Wars and Red Tails don’t stop with the sounds; Star Wars fans watching the breakthrough aerial dogfights will notice that the battles in Red Tails bear a striking resemblance to their Star Wars counterparts.  Pilots are known by their call signs, like “Red 1” or “Red 5”.  Even the command for younger pilots to “cut the chatter” echoes the same order from Red Leader in A New Hope.

Finally, fans of Star Wars: The Clone Wars will want to listen closely to the beginning of Red Tails.  Over the loudspeakers in their Italian airbase, the Tuskegee Airmen hear propaganda radio broadcasts hosted by “Axis Mary,” a fictional character based on actual wartime personalities known as “Axis Sallys.”  One famous “Sally” was Rita Zucca, an Italian-American who moved to Italy and hosted propaganda radio broadcasts across Italy and North Africa, attempting to demoralize Allied troops in the region.  Jaime King, best known for lending her voice to The Clone Wars Aurra Sing, voiced Axis Mary in Red Tails. 

Whether it’s the sound of Mustang fighters, the classic dogfights, or the voice of Jaime King, Red Tails and Star Wars share many common threads.  These similarities are just a small part of what makes Red Tails a modern classic in my mind.

No comments: