Roald Dahl created a world of fantastic fiction. He bought into our lives an array of characters, from the eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka to the miserable Twits and took us soaring into the sky on a giant peach, to the land of giants and the canteen at Crunchem Hall.
Roald Dahl captured children’s imaginations with his extraordinary stories which have now been brought to life in the form of the brand new Roald Dahl audiobooks, with famous faces lending their voices to transport you into the stories.
We’re sure you’re thinking, how do you even begin to make audiobooks from stories that are so vivid and classic? In true George’s Marvellous Medicine form, an audiobook takes many ingredients, including: excellent storytellers from stage and screen, sound technicians from a state-of-the-art film studio, and of course, heaps of imagination.
An Extraordinary Cast – Told by Roy McMillan, Audiobooks Producer
The first task for the audiobooks was finding narrators. They needed to have the right voice and be able to give a performance that could tap into the imaginary world a person creates whilst reading. The Roald Dahl estate, editors and the Roald Dahl Literary Trust were consulted with carefully to make sure the most suitable narrators were picked. The choices for how the books should be narrated were endless; from an unexpected narrator to give a book a new spin, to a traditional voice who would bring out the iconic style and fun of the books. The final list included a bit of both of these qualities.
Some choices came naturally, such as Douglas Hodge who was set to play Willy Wonka in the West End adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and some choices were decided for us; Kate Winslet was asked to narrate Matilda, and then insisted on The Magic Finger as well. Some decisions took months!
No matter how they got there or who they were, all the narrators managed to do the same thing: bring the comfort of Roald Dahl’s books along with the excitement of something new. All the actors brought bits of themselves, from David Walliams’ comic energy to Richard Ayaode’s dry wit, and soon each audiobook became unique, not only through the story they held, but also through the way they were told.
Making Some Noise – Told by Ravina Bajwa, Senior Commissioning Editor
As key as the voice and characters are to Roald Dahl’s books, a lot of the fun comes from the bizarre situations the characters happen upon. So to add a new layer to the story, and to make ideas so wonderful and weird seem real, we worked with leading sound designers from Pinewood Studios to add bespoke sound effects to the recordings.
The team at Pinewood had a lot of fun creating the sound effects for a whole variety of scenarios, which they probably had not come across before, such as walking on a giant peach from James and the Giant Peach. They employed many creative solutions to gain the perfect sounds, from smashing plates to a full-grown man wearing heels and using a cane. You can see more of their adventures in this YouTube video
A Musical Introduction
Once the stories had been recorded, and sound effects created, the only thing left to create was the music. Each of the Roald Dahl audiobooks feature an original composition that introduces the story, created by Florence and the Machine musician and composer for TV and Film, Rusty Bradshaw.
Each piece Rusty composed had to introduce the story and the tone and themes of the book. His creative process involved scoring the music on a computer, and then adding in layers from the orchestra to create an impressive final result, that conveyed the themes of each story in just one minute. During the composition process, there were instruments which instantly sprang to mind for certain books, and usually they were dubbed over the computer generated sounds to bring the piece to life. These involved traditional members of the Orchestra, like the tuba in The BFG, low and plodding, and the trumpet in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, along with more unusual instruments, including the tin whistle in Danny the Champion of the World and the pheremone. Find out more about the composition process in the Penguin podcast.
The Complete Package
Throughout the project, the stories were kept at the heart of the creative process. All the music, sound-effects, and narration were inspired by the original books, and were put together to create an experience that would add to the readers imagination, for both newcomers and old lovers of Roald Dahl’s amazing worlds.
The audiobooks are now available on Audible or just search Roald Dahl Audiobooks in the App Store.
This blog post has been written by Penguin intern and book Vlogger Rachael Fernandez as part of the Penguin Random House intern scheme. Would you like to work with us or know someone who would? You can find out more about work experience at Penguin Random House by visiting our careers site.