200 Wilhelms


Private Wilhelm

"200 WILHELMS" was created for Dan Zettwoch's annual Famous Fictional show at Mad Art Gallery in St. Louis (the opening reception is Nov 2, 2012 at 7 pm). The challenge for the 2012 exhibit was to show no humans — the theme was PEOPLE / PLACES / THINGS.

In Dan's words: "To shake things up a bit, the theme and format for this year's show is a bit different. The idea is famous fictional world without humans. To get away from the traditional portrait-heavy show we've done, there will be no human characters depicted in the show..."

I figured it was a good opportunity for me to try something different as well. No design. No found objects. No photography. I went in a different direction and chose as my "thing" a sound effect called The Wilhelm Scream — and came up with a way, technically, to not "depict" any humans. It might not fit in too well with all the awesome illustration and such that you'll see at the show, but Dan did want to shake things up.


Frame grabs

The Wilhelm Scream is a sound effect that has been used in more than 200 films, television shows, commercials, and video games. You’ve heard it. You might not know it but you have, but you’ve heard it. Want to hear it now? There should be a player embedded below.

The backstory? Six screams were recorded for a 1951 film called Distant Drums to be used in a scene where a man is attacked by an alligator. The scream actually is named for a character from the third film it appears in, 1953’s The Charge at Feather River. A cowboy named Wilhelm gets shot with an arrow. He screams. And perhaps the first modern pop culture meme is born.

Versions of the scream appear in everything from 1950s westerns to Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King. From A Star is Born to all six Star Wars films. From Reservoir Dogs to Juno. It’s in 1968’s The Green Berets, episode 404 of Family Guy, Cars, and the Grand Theft Auto video game. And it’s in every single Indiana Jones film.