Ben Burtt demonstrates sound of malfunctioning Millennium Falcon


The master sound designer deconstructs the sonic elements of the memorable Millennium Falcon engine stall-out

Han Solo is an iconic and important character in the Star Wars diegetic universe. We here at the Dork Side have been taking this month to explore his character, and the many facets therein that have contributed to making him so enduring and popular.

Part of what builds that mystique is the collection of notable characters that have sprung up to orbit around him. Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, and some unsavory gangsters have all contributed in enriching Han’s characterization: to say nothing of a certain princess-turned-general.

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No less important an edifying Solo totem is that of his beloved YT-1300 Corellian freighter – the ship in many ways serves as an externalization of the man himself – scruffy, rugged, not much to look at, but has the right stuff where it counts. Except when it doesn’t…

Enter Star Wars sound design master Ben Burtt to breakdown the various sonic elements that contributed to this memorable sound effect. The video comes to us from the Eyes On Cinema YouTube channel. The footage is vintage to be sure, but the audio is clean and provides the goods for hyper-obsessives (present!)– check it below:

One of the recurring themes (or jokes depending on your mileage) that threaded through The Empire Strikes Back is that of the malfunctioning hyperdrive in the Millennium Falcon. At essentially every crucial moment for our heroic smuggler and company, the hyperdrive craps out – placing our heroes in no small amount of peril.

Unsurprisingly, the aural component of the malfunction does the majority of the heavy lifting in communicating the fact that things aren’t working on the ship. This, in stark contrast to the heavily visual representation of when the ship is operating correctly – a literal blue whirlpool of hyper-space. The visual clue for a faulty Millennium Falcon is simply, more space. Not the most thrilling eye candy.

As viewers of The Empire Strikes Back we rely almost entirely on the sound design of Ben Burtt to tell us what state the Falcon is in. In the ice hangar on Hoth, we hear the false revving of the engine and we know something is not quite right. When R2D2 fixes the pulverized hyperdrive motivator we hear the perfectly pitched hum spring to life well before we see the undoubtedly iconic blast of blue stars. Perhaps, in this instance, sound travels faster than light.

Next. Should Solo Get A Sequel?. dark

Han Solo is an icon. The Millennium Falcon is an equally important totem to both Star Wars past and present. No less iconic is the exemplary work of Burtt and the sonic explorers that have followed in his stead. Their dedicated, technically rich, work has helped to further develop the aural language of the Star Wars films. To celebrate their achievements we needn’t rely solely on Solo September.

Do you have any favorite sound effects from Star Wars? Sound off in the comments below!