ToyTalk: How to Create Space Sounds from Everyday Life


Two years ago, two Pixar alumni came together and founded ToyTalk—an app designed to combine conversation with entertainment. ToyTalk’s first project, The Winston Show, is a talk show starring characters—Winston and Ellington—that can listen and talk back to the app’s user.

And while designing an app comes with its own unique challenges, ToyTalk’s biggest challenge is recreating sounds of fantasy from everyday events and objects.

In the newest sketch from The Winston Show, "In the Movies," ToyTalk created a special episode where kids can play alien invaders who attack Winston’s ship. So how do you create sounds of interstellar warfare? And how do you make these sounds realistic for the kids who play the game?

Enter Frank Clary.

Clary, who worked on movies like Toy Story 3 and Avatar, is the sound designer of ToyTalk. He works to recreate sounds for the app by sourcing urban and metal sounds from everyday life. Clary first picked up sound design when he was a musician and worked with turntables. “I really loved shaping sounds and twisting them,” he said.

Clary’s love of sound continued into his professional career. “I’ve had the privilege of working on some amazing tracks before that offered me the opportunity to ride dragons on Avatar and buckling up in the drivers seat to reenact car chases for MI4: Ghost Protocol, but I’ve never had the chance to board a starship and engage in interstellar warfare,” Clary wrote on the ToyTalk blog.

According to Clary, the sound team needed to create the following sounds for the latest episode:

1. photon torpedo fire
2. impact and explosion
3. reverberant low frequency rumbles for the shaking ship
4. moaning metal
5. hissing air released by valves
6. heavy metal and plastic rattling on the ship’s bridge
7. a distress alarm

After compiling the list of necessary sounds, Clary then set out to find them.

“I believe that sound is responsible for bringing images to life,” Clary tells mental_floss. “Sound is an invisible medium that we’re always being exposed to.”

The team arranged to have mortar shells and dynamite blown up. They scoured submarines and battleships for heavy metal doors with stressed hinges. They dragged an anchor across different surfaces. They even called an officer from the San Francisco Police Department to record the sound from the department’s newest siren, which Clary had heard one day when he was sitting in his office. “It really caught my attention,” he says. The police department had adopted a new siren that mixed low frequency and high frequency sounds that would carry the screech of the siren further distances. Fortunately, the police department let ToyTalk stop by to record it for The Winston Show.

“My goal is always to sort of stretch our acceptance of reality on a visual medium of sorts,” Clary says.

The Force Field Cloak
This Glowing Blanket Is Designed to Ease Kids' Fear of the Dark
The Force Field Cloak
The Force Field Cloak

Many kids have a security blanket they bring to bed with them every night, but sometimes, a regular blankie is no match for the monsters that invade their imaginations once the lights are off. Now there’s a glow-in-the-dark blanket designed to make children feel safer in bed, no night light required.

Dubbed the Force Field Cloak, the fleece blanket comes in several colorful, glowing patterns that remain invisible during the day. At night, you leave the blanket under a bright light for about 10 minutes, then the shining design will reveal itself in the dark. The glow lasts 8 to 10 hours, just long enough to get a child through the night.

Inventor Terry Sachetti was inspired to create the blanket by his own experiences struggling with scary nighttime thoughts as a kid. "I remember when I was young and afraid of the dark. I would lie in my bed at night, and my imagination would start getting the best of me," he writes on the product's Kickstarter page. "I would start thinking that someone or something was going to grab my foot that was hanging over the side of the bed. When that happened, I would put my foot back under my blanket where I knew I was safe. Nothing could get me under my blanket. No boogiemen, no aliens, no monsters under my bed, nothing. Sound familiar?"

The Force Field Cloak, which has already surpassed its funding goals on both Indiegogo and Kickstarter, takes the comfort of a blanket to the next level. The glowing, non-toxic ink decorating the material acts as a gentle night light that kids can wrap around their whole body. The result, the team claims, is a secure feeling that quiets those thoughts about bad guys hiding in the shadows.

To pre-order a Force Field Cloak, you can pledge $36 or more to the product’s Indiegogo campaign. It is expected to start shipping in January 2018.

The Most Popular Holiday Toys of the Past 35 Years

From Tamagotchis to Teddy Ruxpin, everyone remembers the most coveted holiday toys from their childhood—the toys that, whether you knew it then or not, your parents stood in line for hours to buy or paid premium prices for (it's not too late to thank them).

Online coupon site and shopping portal Ebates took a festive walk down memory lane to pay tribute to the most impossible-to-find toys of holiday seasons past, beginning with 1983's Cabbage Patch Kids craze and leading up to last year's Nintendo NES Classic. How many did you own?

The Most Popular Toys Through the Decades


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