Wildlife photography can take you to all sorts of places, from annual spawning displays in the ocean to capturing elusive species on distant mountaintops. It’s not something you’d typically expect to lead you to the silver screen, but exactly that happened for one committed photographer after they spent several months photographing orphaned baby squirrels in Sweden.
The photographer in question is Danni Connor Wild, who documented her adventures in Sweden across YouTube and social media during her months with four baby squirrels. She’d found the animals after their mother, who Connor named Remy, unfortunately passed away. Over the coming weeks, Connor captured countless beautiful and humorous videos and photographs of her unlikely lockdown squad, many of which feature in a 2022 calendar.
One video in particular struck the hearts of social media users everywhere: a recording of a squirrel named Baby Pear nibbling on some food. In it, the heart-melting squeaks of a baby squirrel can be heard in all their magnificent, high-pitched wonder. Wanting to share it with the world, Connor sneakily popped a mic up to the baby and shared the clip online. Within a day, the video had clocked over 15 million views on Twitter.
It was this clip that piqued the interest of Mark Mangini, an Oscar-winning sound designer and editor. Mangini contacted Connor saying that he wished to use the clip on a film – though they couldn’t reveal what they were working on. A quick IMDB check however gave Connor some idea: the would-be hit Dune was in the works.
Sure enough, the adorable squeaks of Baby Pear can be heard in Dune as a small, big-eared desert mouse is seen scuttling across the arid landscape of the imaginary planet Arrakis. You can see Connor in conversation with Mangini about the acquisition in the video below.
The unusual acquisition apparently began with film editor Joe Walker, who discovered Connor’s content while watching videos on YouTube. The clip was passed to Mangini, who was in the process of trying to create a suitably expressive sound for Dune’s desert mouse, but not having much luck.
“We had already been playing around with sounds for the desert mouse,” explained Mangini in an interview with Connor. “We had the visual effects created and we were playing with the sounds of hamsters and guinea pigs. Small, [rodent] like real things that we would manipulate with speed or equalization to make it sound just a little bit different for this creature that doesn’t actually exist in real life.”
Fortunately, upon hearing Connor’s recording of Baby Pear’s squeaks, Mangini and team felt they’d struck desert-mouse gold.
“When we heard those sounds, we all felt as though this is something we've never heard before," continued Mangini. "First of all it's real, it’s an organic sound, it’s not a synthesizer of anything we've fabricated. It also had the right body size and there was a certain expressiveness to it that we couldn’t find in any other animal recordings that we had.”
So, next time you’re out on a shoot, don’t forget to grab some audio recordings while you're there. You never know where they might lead you.