The Little Mermaid: A Sonic Deep Dive
Lawrence takes us through String and Tins' immersive, musical, emotive take on the classic story of 'The Little Mermaid'. Mixed in 3D Dolby Atmos, take a sonic dive into the underwater 'behind the scenes' depths of this beautiful audiobook, narrated by Leigh-Anne Pinnock for Audible.
Lawrence Kendrick, Sound Designer 'The Little Mermaid'
We couldn’t be more excited and proud with our rendition of ‘The Little Mermaid’, written originally by Hans Christian Andersen and adapted for audio by the incredible storyteller, Dina Gregory. Audible had a beautiful vision of an immersive, musical, emotive audiobook narrated by Leigh-Anne Pinnock of Little Mix fame, crafted from the ground up to be mixed in 3D Dolby Atmos.
I knew it was the perfect book for Atmos. The depth and height potential of Atmos lends itself perfectly to building a world underwater and gives so many creative opportunities in the mix to move between a three dimensional underwater world and the more familiar land above with more of a ‘void’ in the mix between the birds, weather and church bells above and the ground beneath. Joe Wilkinson set about creating a sophisticated, contemporary score which beautifully steers the listener through the protagonist’s journey. We worked closely together throughout, batting ideas back and forth and developing our work as our ideas progressed. From the early conversations, it was clear Audible had high ambitions for the music in the project. After a great collaboration working on the Mermaid School series we discussed how we would upscale the approach here. We wanted a cinematic sound, rich and textured that felt more grown up and sophisticated.
Lawrence Kendrick on Dolby Atmos for 'The Little Mermaid' at Dolby Day, Soho
Singing from the off was going to be key. We enlisted the talents of Nadine Samuels, anaiss, Kersha Bailey, Sariah Row, and our very own Laura-Leigh Smith to perform for us. Collaborating in the studio brings a magical alchemy to the process, and this was no exception - each of them brought a bit of their personality giving the music far more depth.
Laura-Leigh Smith, Audio Producer for 'The Little Mermaid' with Dirk Maggs at Dolby Day, Battersea
After discussing the intention for the project with the excellent creative team at Audible, we were ready for the first piece of the puzzle. The narration. Leigh-Anne was a joy to work with. Her down to earth personality really resonated with the story and the casting was a fascinating and bold choice from the Audible team. She has a lovely tone to her voice (as you can imagine) and she was keen to lend her own creative flair and performance chops to the delivery. Voice director, Harriet Blackamore, was keen to keep a strong sense of Leigh-Anne throughout, even with characters such as the Prince and the Witch. The performance stays relatively grounded and relatable but still dynamic and expressive, which maintains the sophisticated feel we were looking for. This also meant we could have some real fun with the creative effects and processing to add that extra ‘otherworldly’ vibe. The Airy Spirits, the musical Sisters and of course the evil Witch each have their own distinctive processing flavours to bring the magical characters to live within the 3D, Atmos world.
Left to Right: Chris Jones from Audible, Nathan Freeman from Granny Eats Wolf, Dirk Maggs Writer/Director/Producer, and Laura-Leigh Smith from String and Tins at Dolby Day, Battersea
For the musical sisters, we asked Leigh-Anne to read the dialogue lines several times, firstly with her instinctive initial performance, then again several times with different projection levels and emotions. It was super fun placing these all around the 3D space, echoing out lines with reverbs from different spaces to give this dreamy, supernatural feel to the scene. There’s a sound design tool called Sound-Particles which I often use for building bespoke atmospheres for say, a battle with thousands of sword clashes and battlecries. After feeding in source recordings you have incredible control to create layers of moving, modulating voices and it was perfect to build extra subtle layers of mystical voices in a 3D space.
What makes great sound design in 'The Little Mermaid'? Audible go behind the scenes with String and Tins' Sound Designer, Lawrence Kendrick and Executive Producer, Laura-Leigh Smith
There are so many moments I’m particularly proud of with the sound design. Transitioning between a thunderous storm, straight into the claustrophobic underwater with dangerous debris crashing about and back up to the calming weather and lapping waves all within a few moments all feels very three dimensional and epic, but it’s the emotional journey the sound effects assist with that I’m most pleased with there. Swirling abstract radio waves, thundering hooves of an approaching horse as the heroes head on their adventures, the magical transformations and the dense world building are all moments I look forward to hearing again each time I play back, all carefully mixed to assist Leigh-Anne and Dina’s storytelling, rather than dominate it.
I’m going to look back fondly on this project forever, not only because I love what we’ve made together, but it’s felt like such a supporting, creative and collaborative process with a talented team that has served to make something special. It’s only 45 minutes or so and included with an Audible subscription without using a credit. So if you love an audiobook, slip on some headphones and give it a listen! Or there are a few extra taster demos on the link below.
Lawrence Kendrick, String and Tins
Adapted for audio by: Dina Gregory
Narrated by: Leigh-Anne Pinnock
Directed by: Harriet Blackamore
For String and Tins
Sound Design & Dolby Atmos Mixing by: Lawrence Kendrick
Original Music by: Joe Wilkinson
Produced by: Laura-Leigh Smith
Casting by: Nicola Wall with additional casting by String and Tins
Script Editing by: Olivia Farrah
Executive Producer: Nicola Wall
Commissioning Editor: Robin Morgan-Bentley
Singing Performed by