Mark Dejczak And J.R. Fountain: The Fun And Exciting Sounds Of Paw Patrol: The Movie

PAW Patrol: The Movie, the film adaptation of one of Canada’s most successful children’s series, hits theatres and streaming this Friday, to the delight of preschool kids everywhere. Ahead of the film’s release, we caught up with two DGC Ontario Members on the Post-Production team, Supervising Sound Editor J.R. Fountain and Sound Editor Mark Dejczak, to talk about their creative process, designing sounds that aren’t scary, Toronto as a global destination for post-production, having your work heard by millions of kids, and more.

How does sound editing for children’s film and television differ from other productions?

JRF: From my experience children’s films are their own sub-genre in that they may be sci-fi, action, drama, etc. but catered to a child’s palette. While Paw Patrol: The Movie is very much an action/adventure, the challenge was keeping it super fun and exciting without getting too harsh or intense. When you’ve got cars racing around, a fireworks debacle, a huge storm, and massive set pieces, it’s easy for a sound designer to give in to “action film sensibilities” that could overwhelm and/or scare the kids. So our goal was always to steer towards the fun sounds, cars revving as opposed to tires screeching, fireworks whizzing instead of big explosions, etc.

MD: J.R. Fountain and I were in constant communication about scenes as we cut them.  Finding that sweet spot where the sound supports the visual but doesn’t scare the audience was challenging at times but in the end, I think we really hit the mark.

Did you refer to the PAW Patrol series for inspiration for the movie, or did you aim to try something different?

MD: Going into this project we knew that the scope of the movie was going to be huge. It was clear early on that the vision for the movie was to put it right up there with the other heavy hitters in the feature animation genre.  With the introductions of some new characters and a whole bunch of brand new vehicles, we were presented with the opportunity to come up with a Paw Patrol that’s unlike anything anyone’s ever heard before. 

JRF: On the sound effects side of things our direction was to come up with new sonic material. The film has a fleet of new vehicles and a new headquarters, so it made sense that they should all have new sounds. The callback to the series came from music with the iconic theme song and in the phrases the pups typically say in the series.

The sound crew at a helicopter recording session in Niagara Falls (left to right): Mark Dejczak, Tyler Whitham, J.R. Fountain, Jack Madigan, Claudia Pinto
The sound crew at a helicopter recording session in Niagara Falls (left to right): Mark Dejczak, Tyler Whitham, J.R. Fountain, Jack Madigan, Claudia Pinto

Could you describe your creative collaboration with the rest of the post-production team?

MD: J.R Fountain and Nelson Ferreira were in the very first meetings with the creative team at Spin Master Entertainment. When I came on, J.R. had already begun building some scenes which really set the tone for the rest of the movie.  He and I were constantly bouncing ideas back and forth.  This was without a doubt the most collaborative project I’ve ever been a part of.

JRF: My work actually began before animation started, so my first sounds were designed and edited to hand-drawn storyboards. As a result, I was reliant upon the post-production team to supply concept art, animations tests, visual effects renderings and any other reference material to help fill in the blanks. We established open lines of communication early on with the team at Mikros to allow access to these assets which allowed us to get glimpses of where shots and sequences were going visually. It was vital because often we’d be working to partially finished shots where you might have animated main characters, but no crowds or backgrounds or visual effects like wind and rain. In sound we’ve learned to lean heavily on our imagination and experience but that can only take you so far. Thankfully the team at Mikros was able to provide everything we needed as we worked which was a huge help.

What was it like working on the movie version of such a long-running and beloved children’s show?

MD: I’m a father of two girls ages 5 and 3. Any parent of young kids knows what a force the Paw Patrol franchise is. When the opportunity to be a part of this project presented itself I jumped on it without hesitation. My eldest daughter who just wrapped up JK had a class where the kids were all sharing what their parents did for a living.  She felt like the coolest kid on the planet when she got to say “Well, my dad is doing the sound on the Paw Patrol Movie”. It was her mic drop moment haha! 

JRF: At first, it honestly wasn’t very significant to me, but two moments certainly drove the point home. The first occurred after we completed Chase’s cruiser transforming sounds and our director Cal relayed that his 4-year-old daughter couldn’t stop watching the clip and had likely watched it 600 times in the past week. The second moment happened in conversation with Timothy Muirhead, the series’ sound designer, when he told me “One thing you can be sure of is that you and your team’s work is going to be heard and enjoyed by millions of kids over and over and over and over”. That was an exciting consideration!

Sound Editor Mark Dejczak
Sound Editor Mark Dejczak

What do you love most about working in Toronto/Ontario?

MD: I was born and raised in Mississauga. Being able to do what I love while still being close to family and friends is a dream come true. Toronto has always been a global destination for filmmakers but it really feels like the number of top-tier productions that are sticking around for post-production is at its strongest point in my career.  I think it really is a testament to the amount of world-class talent we have here.  

JRF: First, it’s home. I’ve lived here my whole life and I love it. I’ve been blessed to learn from and work with amazingly talented people in post sound. There continues to be opportunities to work on top-notch productions in significant roles. I earn a good living doing work I enjoy. My family and friends are here, my church is here. What else could I ask for?

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