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Transcript:Skeletons in the Closet (commentary)

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Long Feng and Dai Li agents
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Note: From the beginning of the commentary to its first cut-to-black, the voices of the four doing the commentary are artificially altered. The voice of Ben Wynn is pitched down, producing a deep sound; the other three voices are pitched up.
Michael Dante DiMartino We're back, everybody! So, this is Mike DiMartino, uh, and I am the co-creator and executive producer of this program that you are watching.
Bryan Konietzko [Even higher in pitch than Mike's, spoken slowly and rhythmically for comedic effect.] And I am Bryan Konietzko and I co-created this show with Mike. And I do other stuff, too.
Ben Wynn [Very deep tone.] Uhhh ... [Chuckles from the others, continuing throughout his introduction.] uhhh, mmm, this is Ben Wynn and, uhhh, yeah, I'm in the Track Team with Jeremy, he's about to tell you his name, and I do the sound design.
Jeremy Zuckerman [Playing with the sound effect, sliding the tone of his voice upward, to chuckles from the others.] Whoooaaa! What's up? This is Jeremy Zuckerman and I make music for Korra.
Bryan Yep.
Ben I like how you say "Koooorra". [Several others repeat the word in the same drawn-out fashion.]
Bryan And -- [Specifying the pronunciation of Jeremy's last name.] "Zook-er-man", not "Zuck-er-man".
Jeremy "Zook" as in "book". Dot, dot, dot.
Bryan Yeah.
Ben Oh, as in "Facebook"?
Bryan Mike -- Mike, what's goin' on in this episode? [Chuckles in background.]
Mike Uh, this is, this is, you know, the second-to-last episode, so things are gettin' serious. Kids are hidin' out --
Bryan Aw, yeah.
Mike And, uh, the Equalists have taken over. It's, uh, it's a sad day for our heroes, really.
Ben Gettin' real.
Jeremy It's a low point.
Mike I wonder how many, uh, rallies and speeches and microphones we had in this first, uh --
Bryan Yeah. Too many.
Jeremy [As the others chuckle.] I think so.
Bryan That's how many. But yeah, Mike and I always knew there'd be a time when, when, some point in the season when the Equalists had control. Which was fun.
Mike It's always fun to see our heroes in, you know, the bad guy outfits.
Bryan Yeah.
Mike Put 'em in the chi blocker costumes and --
Bryan It's like, uh, Luke Skywalker.
Jeremy It suits them.
Bryan And Han Solo.
Ben What do you guys think? I mean, I think they're a pretty attractive couple, but do you like them more with, uh, Asami or, I mean, 'cause she's pretty good-lookin' too.
Bryan Okay, this is why, I'll tell you why Ben's bringing this up.
Jeremy Oh, here we go. [They chuckle.] All right. Nice setup, Ben.
Ben 'Cause they're all such attractive people.
Bryan Smooth ... smooth move, Ben. So, it definitely wasn't, like, the intention, but once, like, once we had animation back, we started noticing that Mako looks a bit like Ben. He's got the same kinda, like, poofy fauxhawk. [Chuckles from all.] And, uh, and then we realized that Asami looks like Ben's wife Lara. And, uh, so I took this one still of those two characters, and all I had to do was give Asami bangs, and, uh, I gave Mako some glasses and stubble, and it was like, "Oh, yeah, that's Ben and Lara."
Jeremy That's Lara's Facebook, uh, photo.
Bryan Yeah, they're, they're both pretty proud of it. I think they tell people that, like, we created the characters based on them and stuff, but it's not true.
Ben You know, what's funny, though, is that I knew what was gonna happen with the series a little bit before she did, and I knew that it wasn't really gonna ... you know, things were gettin' dicey with Asami [Laughter from all, especially from Bryan.] and I was like, "Bryan, what are you tryin' to do to me", you know?
Bryan [As the others continue to chuckle.] "I'm tryin' to break up your marriage!"
Ben My home life is gonna be disrupted.
Bryan Yeah.
Ben But the crazy thing is, she, she kinda wants Korra to be with, with Mako.
An outburst of sarcastic sympathy from the others.
Bryan Aw, man, that says more about you guys.
Jeremy Let's analyze that for a second.
Bryan That ain't, that ain't my doing. That's all you.
Ben What does that mean? What's goin' on?
Jeremy What does that mean?
Bryan That's all you. [Brief pause.] Yeah, that's weird, I don't –
Jeremy [Laughing.] Let's talk about something else! I'm uncomfortable.
Laughter from all and a parting cackle from Bryan.
Ben Do you guys, is it, is it gonna be okay? [More laughter.]
Bryan Yeah, I don't know. We'll figure it out.
Jeremy Probably not, Ben.
Ben Can you draw something? I mean, make it, make it work out in the series.
Bryan [Laughing.] We'll see what we can do.
Ben It's in your hands, guys.
Bryan All right. We'll save your marriage.
Ben Thanks.
Jeremy [As the scene shows Amon and the metalbender whose bending he is about to remove.] So, my three-year-old daughter likes to take my bending away. [Chuckles from the others.]
Mike Oh, really?
Jeremy She loves it.
A few garbled words follow and a short break as Amon removes his bending.
Mike Does she watch this?
Jeremy She probably, she watched the whole, uh, season. She probably shouldn't, though.
Bryan Does she come up behind you and, like ... she's like ...
Jeremy No, she puts her hand on my head ...
Mike Yeah.
Jeremy When she's wearing her, um, her, her, like, bathrobe. [Laughter from the others.] It has a hood and everything.
Bryan Is it scary at all?
Jeremy It scares me a lot.
Bryan [As the others chuckle.] Yeah.
Mike Is the show scary to her, though?
Jeremy Uh, sort of. She, she has started closing her eyes at certain spots, but she doesn't seem scared. It's weird.
Mike But she identifies with Amon, apparently.
Jeremy Uh-huh. [Bryan laughs.]
Ben So what does she say when she takes your bending?
Jeremy She says, "Let me take your bending away, let me take your bending away!" [All laugh.] But then she gives it back.
Bryan Aw, that's nice.
Jeremy I say, "Give it back," and she says, "I'm Aang, I'm Aang."
Bryan [As all the others, himself included, laugh.] Aw, man. That's awesome. Has she seen the old series?
Jeremy Uh, yeah, but not all of it.
Bryan Oh, yeah. It's pretty long.
Jeremy No, but she's seen a lot of it.
Bryan Wow.
Jeremy Yeah.
Bryan Does she understand that you did the music?
Jeremy Uh, yeah, I think so. I mean, we tell her that and I say, "Isn't this music awesome?"
Chuckles from around the group.
Bryan She's like, "No, that's why I'm closing my eyes: I'm waiting for it to end. I'm trying to pretend I'm somewhere else." [More chuckles.]
Ben [As Mako appears on screen, looking through a spyglass.] Do you tell her that I star in the show?
Bryan [As more laughs pop up.] She's like, "Uncle Ben, Uncle Ben! Aunt Lara!"
Jeremy She knows intuitively.
Bryan [As the shot descends underwater, revealing mines below the surface.] Well, and then Ben got that, uh, got a fancy convertible sports car, [Ben grunts in approval.] which is a lot like Asami, too. We're like, "Oh, there's Ben and Lara, in their fancy convertible." [More laughs.]
Jeremy There they go.
Ben I'm gonna try to get an airplane soon.
Bryan [Chuckling.] Awesome.
A short pause as the scene plays out: Korra dives into the water, disappearing into the depths as she makes her way toward the ailing fleet of ships in the harbor.
Ben Oh, it's about to go down. [Draws out the last word, making a low, rumbling sound.]
Jeremy This is a cool scene.
Bryan Oh, man, I forgot this was in this episode.
Jeremy Oh, the nice calm before the storm.
Mike Yeah, it's the lead-up to the big battle.
Bryan Yeah.
Jeremy I love his breath.
Ben [As Iroh walks out of the bridge, listening to the growing drone of engines in the distance.] Oh, I like the airplanes.
As Korra surfaces, they speak in hushed, ominous tones for a moment.
Jeremy Here are the airplanes.
Ben They're coming.
Bryan Here they come. [Begins to make a buzzing sound in imitation of the engines.]
Jeremy [In reference to Mako's confused "What now?"] What?
Ben uses his low tone to create a low rumble as Mako searches for the aircraft with his spyglass; as Bryan begins to talk, Jeremy joins Ben, producing his own higher-pitched tone.
Bryan This is a great, this, this whole --
Bryan abandons the thought, adding his own very high tone to the cacophony of noise as Mike laughs. As the aircraft round a set of buildings and fly straight into the camera, the noise builds to a climax, Jeremy changing his voice to a sort of garbled yowl as Ben's low growl pitches briefly up and ends. They all laugh.
Bryan [Exuberantly.] Airplane!
A short pause.
Bryan Yeah.
Ben That's how we do it.
Jeremy That's how it works.
Ben Magic.
Bryan I think whenever, like, whenever Mike and I, like, "Oh, at a certain point, they're gonna have airplanes!" [Chuckles from the others.] And, like, in the old series, it was like, "They're gonna have airships!" You know, it's a big deal within the world and I think we, like, really freak out about protecting it so that no one knows, like, the fans don't find out ahead of time. Like, "Aw, man, they're gonna have mecha tanks! It's crazy!"
Jeremy Well, the reveals are always awesome.
Bryan But, I find ... no one seems to care. [Laughter from all.]
Mike It's like, "Oh, yeah, there's airplanes."
Bryan [As the laughter continues.] It's like, "Yeah, whatever." They're like, "Yeah, that's an airplane, I've seen one." [Others chuckling.] Yeah, 'cause, I mean, airplanes've been around, you know?
At this point in the commentary, as Korra tumbles toward the screen underwater, the episode cuts to black. There is a pause and when the scene resumes, showing Korra swimming toward the surface as explosions rock the ships above her, the voices of the four men are normal and no longer artificially pitched.
Mike So, this was kind of our World War II, World War I-inspired, you know, battle scene, which was cool, but also kinda crazy. As usual.
Bryan Yeah, and I remember we ... [Clears throat.] Jeremy really wanted to kind of go against the grain and do some really mellow, somber music.
Mike Yeah, yeah.
Bryan And, I mean, I love, in, like, Ghost in the Shell. You know, there's just like, just really sparse ambient music and, uh, a lot of the action scenes, it's not your typical, like, "DUN-dun-dun-DUN-dun-dun-DUN", you know?
Jeremy Yeah.
Bryan So we've, I mean, we've done stuff like that from time to time, but this one was definitely, uh, different. I remember we kinda had to fight for it a little bit.
Jeremy Oh yeah?
Bryan Yeah. Yeah.
Jeremy I didn't know that. With who?
Bryan The network, a bit.
Jeremy About the music?
Bryan Yeah, just, just that it ...
Jeremy In this moment now, because of that, it's, like, really stirring, you know?
Mike Totally.
Bryan I like it. I mean, it shows ... it shows the different side of, you know, this is basically war, and it's like ...
Jeremy [Seeing the point, agreeing.] Mm-hmm.
Ben Exactly.
Bryan Instead of, like, [Enthusiastically.] "Yeah, war" ...
Jeremy [As the others chuckle.] Exactly.
Bryan It was more like, "Wow, this is all really sad."
Jeremy It's more the reality of it.
Bryan [As the others give "Yeah"s and "Mm-hmm"s of agreement.] Yeah, so ... no, it was a bold choice. I mean, even I was ... 'cause, you know, we always want things to be as exciting and engaging as possible, so ...
Jeremy Right.
Bryan Usually the default, or how you have something in your head while you're working on it for months is, like, "Oh, this is gonna be so energetic and crazy," but ...
Jeremy But what's cool is how this scene has somewhere to go because of that, you know?
Bryan Yeah.
Jeremy It's building, building, building, it starts off really somber, and then, you know, it goes into Korra's heroic moment, and now it's, like, a more traditional sort of approach.
Bryan Yep.
Ben I remember one of the hard things sound-wise with the scene is differentiating all the different kinds of fire.
Jeremy [Chuckling.] Yeah.
Ben 'Cause there's explosions, there's those fire cannons and then there's firebending.
As Iroh, incapacitated by the fighter planes, tumbles into the water and begins to sink on screen, there is a brief pause, broken by several low mutters.
Ben And they all should sound different.
Bryan I love all the underwater scenes for sound. It's always so cool.
Ben I do, too.
Bryan It's fun to, like ... yeah, those are cool places to dip the music down and just let the sound take it away. Which is, you know, it's like, when you go underwater, everything gets so muffled and quiet, it sort of plays off that ... experience.
As the shot cuts out, showing Korra and Iroh escaping the decimated fleet, and the scene transitions to the underground camp, a short instrumental trill plays. Mike's comment is in reference to the trill.
Mike Little dízi transition with Hong ... Hong Wang [The musician.].
As the sound of the dízi fades, Ben hums pleasantly and someone sighs relaxedly. A chuckle is heard in response.
Jeremy No music.
Short pause.
Bryan Gonna take a little break.
Jeremy Definitely.
Mike Take a day.
Ben [In reference to Korra healing Iroh's burns.] That's a good ol' water healing.
Bryan Is that the same ...
Ben That's, that's the same, that's a similar sound.
Mike It's the same?
Jeremy Yeah. From Avatar. That's spectral shifting.
Ben [Whispering.] There you go.
Jeremy For you nerds out there. [Ben chuckles.] Nerds.
Ben [Changing his voice to sound like a stereotypical nerd.] "That's some FFT-based, uh, spectral, uh ..."
Jeremy [As the others chuckle.] "Are you using IFFT, or ..."
Ben [Chuckling.] "Using the reverse, uhhh ..." [Trails off, extending the last "uh" for a few seconds.]
Mike See, this is how they got the job. 'Cause, you know ...
Ben [Continuing to sound nerdy.] "We're technical."
Mike I knew ...
Jeremy "How many bands, uh, that was, that was about, uh, 8,000 bands."
Ben "80, uh, 8092?"
Jeremy "Click those in, uh, yeah, 92, 92 bands."
Bryan We joke, but it is, I mean, the nice thing is that you guys really understand, like, I mean, you have sound processing at your disposal and so if Mike and I say something really, like, vague, like, "Make it more ... you know ... dream-like, squishy, nightmare, whatever," you know, it's like, "Oh, yeah, I could figure out a way to do that," 'cause you guys have, like, such a ... [Trails off.]
Ben Yeah, in all, in all seriousness, the education that I got, and I'm sure Jeremy would say the same, in sound synthesis and digital signal processing, and using computers to mess with sound really pays off.
Jeremy Oh yeah.
Ben Just, just the difference of knowing the theories behind all of it really, really, really helps out.
Jeremy In so many ways. It gives you another ...
Ben [Speaking rapidly.] Go to school.
Jeremy Yeah, it gives you another, uh, another tool, you know?
Bryan And, probably, I would imagine, all of the ... especially, like, the production work that you guys do might feed into your own personal music or other projects, too, just all the, like, chops that you get ...
Jeremy Oh, totally.
Ben And vice versa. I mean, interestingly, you know, when ... [Chuckles.] We didn't know much about doing music for animation, or sound for animation, when we started Avatar and I think we have realized that, you know, in some ways we were lucky, in terms, because it's so, animation is so hard.
Jeremy Yeah.
Ben And you really, it really does make you get good, because it's so ...
Jeremy So technically challenging. There's so much material, um ...
Short pause.
Ben Like, we had the opportunity to do an indie film and we were just like, "Wow."
Bryan [As the others chuckle.] You found it easier, or ... ?
Jeremy So much, yeah, much easier.
Ben Much easier, yeah.
Bryan Alright.



"When Extremes Meet"

"Skeletons in the Closet"


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