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Jungles Sound Like Kookaburras

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Merry, merry king of the sound catalogue, he. Source

"In at least one scene in any movie about the "jungle" — no matter where in the world — the soundtrack must feature the demented call ("who-who-who-ah-ah-ah-ah-HA-HA") of an Australian kookaburra."
Ebert's Bigger Little Movie Glossary
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One of the Stock Sound Effects that pop up whenever films, cartoons or TV series depict a jungle environment with a Noisy Nature is the cackling laugh of a species of kingfisher called the kookaburra, which sounds something like: "OOOOOO-HOOO-OOO-HOO-HOO-AHAHAHAHA" and is often assumed to be a monkey by people unfamiliar with the bird. It doesn't help much that we often hear the sound without actually seeing the animal making it, thus adding to the confusion. The laugh sounds great and really puts in the right mood for a mysterious adventure set in an impenetrable jungle.

The sad thing, though, is that this bird is actually only native to Australia, yet in popular culture you can hear him in literally every forest from Latin America over Africa to Asia. A prime example of Misplaced Wildlife. Still, the kookaburra laugh has become so prominent for scenes taking place in a jungle that creators will still add it to the soundtrack, because somehow it just doesn't sound the same without it. The sound effect is quite bemusing for Australians who are used to hearing the sound.

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It should be noted that Australia does in fact have small areas of jungle/tropical rainforest in the northeast. Though there is no monkeys there.

Can also be Played for Laughs, by depicting a regular forest or somebody's backyard at night. Unless the backyard is in Australia.

Subtrope of Misplaced Wildlife (unless a story is set in Australia) and Music And Sound Effects.


Examples

Film

  • Tarzan. Definitely the Trope Codifier, as this franchise, set in the African jungle, used the kookaburra sound effect first in the 1930s.
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. When the protagonists enter the Mexican forest a kookaburra can be heard in the background, despite not living there at all.
  • The sound of a kookaburra can be distinctly heard in the Peace Corps flashback of Airplane!! when Elaine and Ted meet the isolated jungle tribe, the Molombo.
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  • Raiders of the Lost Ark has a kookaburra laughing in the Action Prologue when Indy is looking for treasure in the Amazon.
  • Looney Tunes: Back in Action. One scene takes place in the African jungle and yes, the kookaburra cackles again.
  • The Lost World: Jurassic Park: Kookaburras can be heard on the tropical Isla Sorna, a fictional island that is supposed to be west of Costa Rica.
  • The Lost World: The sound of the kookaburra used in the establishing shot of the jungles that the explorers are making their way through to the plateau.
  • In The Naked Gun, Frank Drebin hears a Kookaburra shouting when he gets lost in the hills of Los Angeles.
  • Spy Hard parodied this. As a spy sneaks into a secret base in a Caribbean jungle, a bunch of jungle sounds can be heard, including the kookaburra call. Then the camera moves to the side a little, where we see that a guard is making all these sounds, while reading from a book: The Cries of Common Jungle Animals.
  • The distinctive cry can be heard throughout Creature from the Black Lagoon which is set in the heart of the Brazilian Jungle.
  • In The Wizard of Oz, a kookaburra can briefly be heard in the forest. Could be explained away by noting that Oz is a Dream Land.
  • In Objective, Burma! (1945), the kookaburra is heard early in the movie, in Burma (which is not Australia).
  • Exaggerated in Freaked. We not only get the obligatory kookaburra call, but it's also followed up by Woody Woodpecker's signature laugh.
  • In Black Narcissus, the kookaburra can be heard in the bamboo forests of Himalayan foothills.
  • In West of Zanzibar (1954), kookaburras can be heard while the poachers are hunting for elephants. Zanzibar is in Tanzania, in eastern Africa, which you will note is not Australia.
  • In Revenge of the Creature the kookaburra is heard during the opening scenes, in the Amazon river basin of South America.
  • In The Leech Woman, when the characters travel to the African jungle, a kookaburra is heard yet again.
  • In Swiss Family Robinson, a kookaburra can be heard on the deserted tropical island. In the original novel, the family is shipwrecked in the East Indies (which definitely isn’t kookaburra territory), but at least they were on their way to Australia.
  • In Cape Fear (1962), a kookaburra sound appears during the third act of the film, along the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, USA. Given that a kookaburra sound is usually assumed to be a monkey, note that there are neither kookaburras nor monkeys native to the American South.
  • In Jess Franco’s Count Dracula (1970), a kookaburra can be heard in the Borgo Pass, aka the Tihuta Pass of Romania.
  • Francis (1950) is set in Burma. Not only are there sound effects of kookaburras, in one jungle scene a sulfur crested cockatoo is shown in the branches.
  • Kookaburra sounds can be heard in Romancing the Stone in the segments that are set in the Colombian jungle.
  • A kookaburra laugh is heard in the opening scene of The Jungle Book, which takes place in the jungles of India.
  • When Spencer first arrives in the jungle in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the distinctive cries of kookaburras can be distinctly heard. Of course, the fictional land of Jumanji features wildlife from all over the globe, so kookaburras might actually be native.

Live-Action TV

  • The Twilight Zone (1959). The episode "The Jungle" takes place in the African jungle, yet the kookaburra sound pops up.
  • The old pirate serial The Buccaneers repeatedly uses kookaburra sound effects. It's set mostly in the Bahamas.
  • One episode of McHale's Navy has McHale and his crew trying to capture a toucan bird who was keeping the whole base awake at night by screaming like a Kookaburra. They never manage to capture or kill it, but they did manage to drive it over from their island to right outside Captain Binghamton's office window.

Music

  • In one version of the children's song "Kookaburra", the kookaburra "counts all the monkeys he can see". The species of kookaburra known for its laugh-like cry is native only to Australia, which has no native monkeys. Since the end of that verse has the singer object to being counted as a monkey, "counting monkeys" might be a roundabout way for the kookaburra to make a Son of an Ape joke.
  • "Jungle Fever" by Dick Dale (available as a bonus track on Surfers Choice) evokes this trope, as the band members imitate the sound of a kookaburra.
  • "Tarzan" by Johnny "Guitar" Watson kicks off with a jungle atmosphere, including kookaburra sounds.

Western Animation

  • Goofy: One short had Goofy going tiger hunting in the Indian jungle and the first shots of the jungles start off with all kinds of jungle sounds, including the kookaburra.
  • The moonbird that the little boys find in Moonbird makes a cry like a kookaburra.
  • In ‘’Duck Amuck’’, Daffy Duck of all birds makes this classic jungle Stock Sound Effect of a bird noise. Also counts as a Silly Animal Sound as Daffy is a duck.

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