THE TALKING AIRPLANE
maybe it's just me, but I found this Kiddie Record to be both
fascinating and discomforting at the same time. I guess this goes
back to my childhood days when I first discovered that I was drawn
to and yet frightened by anthropomorphic machines in books and
animated cartoons, or as toys. Robots, steam shovels, trains, even
vacuum cleaners all had the same chilling effect on me and "Whizzer"
is no exception here. I just don't like his unimaginative,
"stuck on" face with the dead, unexpressive eyes and
mouth. The stiff, crudity of the drawing also adds to the odd,
otherworldly quality. But I think, more than anything else, it is
his strange, ethereal, mechanical voice that raises the "Whizzer"
creepy quotient to dangerously high levels.
create that "Whizzer" vocal, the producers of the record
used the ubiquitous "Sonovox" system which was sort of an
early form of electronic voice synthesizer, (it's descendant was no
doubt used by Peter Frampton in the 1970s for his odd "talking
guitar" effect). I first became aware of the
"Sonovox" in the Walt Disney movie "The Reluctant
Dragon", a live action feature that is a tour of the studio in
1940. In it, Robert Benchley experiences a voice recording session
where a young woman is supposedly recording a voice for the Casey
Junior train in "Dumbo." She shows how the device alters
the voice of a person holding microphones up to their voice box and
mouthing the words. She does this while running a recording of train
sounds through the machine at the same time and viola, you get
yourself an eerie talking train. This was obviously the same process
they used for "Whizzer" only they mixed the voice with
airplane sounds instead. The "Sonovox" technology coupled
with the slow, affected delivery of the actor supplying Whizzer's
voice resulted in a very strange and somewhat disturbing mechanical
sound that is anything but appealing.
don't get me wrong. I like the "Whizzer" offering for the
odd, interesting, almost quaint item it is. I mean, imagine kids
being interested in an airplane in this day and age. Kids today
would probably be more interested in dressing up their little iPods
than conversing with a plane or a jeep or a taxi or a tuba. Yet
"Whizzer" and "Joey the Jeep" and "Tickity
Tock" and "Herman The Locomotive" and others all
share a wonderful history which, for me, holds a very valuable place
in the Kiddie Records kingdom. Machines have feelings too, you know.