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I want to make a small figurine (about 6 cm / 2 inches high) of a Kodama from the movie Princess Mononoke. They are tree spirits, have a vaguely humanoid body and an oddly shaped head that rattles when rotated. The head is roughly as big as the rest of the body, so it would be 3 cm / 1 inch in my figurine. Here's a short clip showing their appearance and their rattling.

I plan to either 3D print the head as a hollow object or use a small plastic container that I can deform with a lighter. I want to mount the head on a spring scavanged from the tip of a ball pen. But I don't know how I can make it rattle. I was thinking about putting a bead or small marble into the head cavity, but you need to shake the head a lot more than the typical movement shown in the movie to make it rattle. Small beads also wouldn't produce a remotely similar sound to that in the movie.

Does anyone have an idea how to make a Kodama head rattle?

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  • Would small bells make sound on the amount of movement? (Some are triggered by little but as I have not seen the movies I can not say whether it is enough.)
    – Willeke
    Nov 7 '20 at 17:27
  • @Willeke The link I added to the name Kodama is a Youtube video where you can see the movement of their heads and hear the corresponding rattling. I don't know what implement they used to make the original sound, but it sounds a lot like wood or maybe bone and not metallic at all.
    – Elmy
    Nov 7 '20 at 17:38
  • I took another look at the video. Like most movie sound effects, the sound you want to replicate wasn't produced by anything like the action you see on the screen. It was produced by something else and synced to the animation. There's nothing you could put inside the head that would make a similar sound. You might get in the ballpark with something bigger that works similar to a rattlesnake's tail that could be shaken. One solution would be to use a little digital recorder. (cont'd)
    – fixer1234
    Jan 13 at 7:13
  • Record the sound on it and play it back when triggered by a button or motion sensing switch in the figurine. The kind of device I'm referring to is used in keychain note takers and talking greeting cards. It's a cheap little couple-of-chip device powered by a button cell and plays back through a tiny speaker. The whole thing would fit inside the figurine.
    – fixer1234
    Jan 13 at 7:13
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To really mimic that sound experience, I'd recommend using multiple small pieces of something in the cavity. A single piece would have to bump against its enclosure to make a sound, but many objects inside will produce noise against each other as well as the enclosure. (While a single Kodama may actually produce only a small rattle on its own, I rather like the idea of being able to hear the raindrop-like patter of many at once...)

  • Ball bearings are metallic, but en masse they will have a more "rattle" than "chiming" sound, particularly if enclosed in a non-metallic casing.
  • Aquarium gravel will give an authentic stone sound. Since the shapes are irregular rather than spherical, it may contribute to the natural pattern that is heard in the linked video.
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    Just some supplementary thoughts. Something irregular like gravel may not move around inside via "bobblehead" movements; you would probably need to shake it. BB-sized ball bearings would be a better bet. They need to be small enough to have room to move inside the head but large enough to produce a sound you can hear. The head will also need to be made of a hard material that will transmit the sound and resonate. Something like wood or hard plastic would work. Soft plastic or a molded material that is "dead" will muffle the faint sound produced in something that size.
    – fixer1234
    Nov 9 '20 at 19:56
  • Very good points! I think a lot of the behavior ends up depending on how large the encasing head is -- I'd still lean towards BBs for the smoothness factor that you mention, though :)
    – Erica
    Nov 10 '20 at 16:06

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