Jim Henson: Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal
James Maury “Jim” Henson (September 24, 1936 – May 16, 1990) was an American puppeteer, artist, cartoonist, inventor, screenwriter, actor, film director and producer. He became famous in the 1970s when he joined the children’s educational television program Sesame Street, and there helped develop characters for the series. He also appeared in the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. In 1976, after scrapping plans for a Broadway show, he produced The Muppet Show. He won fame for his creations, particularly Kermit the Frog and Ernie, and he was involved with Sesame Street for over 20 years. He also had frequent roles in Muppets films such as The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper, and created advanced puppets for projects like Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. During the later years of his life, he also founded the Jim Henson Foundation, and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. He won two Emmy Awards for his work on The Storyteller and The Jim Henson Hour (source: wikipedia).
Two of Jim Henson’s Masterpieces – both who developed a cult following – is Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.
THE LABYRINTH (1986)
“You remind me of the babe! What babe? Babe with the power!” sings David Bowie as the character Jareth in the 1986 Jim Henson movie – The Labyrinth.
This movie has a lot of interesting facts:
- Labyrinth, who has developed a cult following over the years, was directed by the late Jim Henson (creator of the Muppets), with executive producer George Lucas (Star Wars) with conceptual designs by Brian Froud (well-known fantasy illustrator). The baby that plays Toby in the movie, is also the son of Brian Froud!
- To make the film even more appealing, David Bowie (well-known pop singer) stars as Jareth (King of the Goblins) with now well-known actress Jennifer Connelly as Sarah.
- A further interesting fact is that Labyrinth started as a collaboration between Jim Henson and Brian Froud, with ideas for the film first being discussed between them following a screening of their previous collaboration, The Dark Crystal.
For more interesting facts about The Labyrinth, check out this YouTube video: Facts You Didn’t Know: Labyrinth.
The plot revolves around 15 year old Sarah’s quest to reach the center of the Labyrinth maze to rescue her infant brother Toby, who has been kidnapped by Jareth, the Goblin King. With the exception of Bowie and Connelly, most of the significant characters in the film are played by puppets produced by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. There are also some great musical numbers in the movie.
More Labyrinth developments after the 1986 movie –
22 April this year, the Labyrinth novelization came back in print and for the first time in hardcover. It is written by A.C.H. Smith and was personally overseen by Jim Henson. This beautiful hardcover features unpublished goblin illustrations by legendary illustrator and concept artist Brian Froud and an exclusive peek into Jim Hensons creative process with 50 never-before-seen pages!
Once a Labyrinth Fan – always a Labyrinth fan! “Dance! Magic Dance!”
THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982)
The Dark Crystal is a 1982 American–British fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. The plot revolves around Jen, an elflike ‘Gelfling’ on a quest to restore balance to his alien world by returning a lost shard to a powerful but broken gem. Although marketed as a family film, it was notably darker than the creators’ previous material. The animatronics used in the film were considered groundbreaking. The primary concept artist was the fantasy illustrator Brian Froud, famous for his distinctive faerie and dwarf designs. Froud also collaborated with Henson and Oz for their next project, the 1986 film Labyrinth, which was notably more light-hearted than The Dark Crystal. The film stars the voices of Stephen Garlick, Lisa Maxwell and Billie Whitelaw (source: wikipedia).
Another World, Another Time… In the Age of Wonder. A thousand years ago, this land was green and good, until the Crystal cracked. For a single piece was lost; a shard of the Crystal. Then strife began, and two new races appeared: the cruel Skeksis… the gentle Mystics. ”
1,000 years ago the crystal cracked, and the spirits of the UrSkek were divided into the peaceful Mystics and the evil Skeksis. A prophecy was written that stated if a Gelfling healed the crystal, the world would be renewed and the UrSkek would be reunited. Due to the prophecy, the Skeksis hunted down and killed all the Gelflings.
The last Gelfling left on Thra, a male named Jen, was saved and raised by the Mystics. Jen is sent by his dying master on a journey to heal the Dark Crystal. If Jen succeeds, the world will be saved; but if Jen fails, the Skeksis will rule the land forever. On his quest to The Castle of the Crystal, Jen meets Kira, another Gelfling. The two must battle the evil Skeksis and save Thra (source: http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/The_Dark_Crystal).
When Jim Henson began work on The Dark Crystal in 1977, he had no story, just a sense of the kind of fantasy world he wanted to create. Henson was beginning to visualize the creatures that would inhabit this world of good and evil when he discovered The Land of Froud, a collection of drawings by Brian Froud. Henson immediately contacted Froud, who agreed to act as the project’s conceptual designer.
Once Henson and Froud had developed their ideas into a storyline, David Odell was commissioned to write the screenplay. The Dark Crystal was filmed at the EMI Elstree Studios near London. While the puppeteers who operated the main characters were drawn from the ranks of the Muppeteers, the Mystics and many of the other creatures were brought to life by a specially recruited group of mimes, actors, dancers, acrobats and clowns. All of these artists performed their craft on sets that, although scaled to the puppet’s size, were built up off the floor to allow them enough clearance to operate their characters unhindered. (The puppets were controlled through a variety of radio, mechanical, electrical and hydraulic systems.)
The test screenings of The Dark Crystal had the Skeksis speaking a language based on ancient Greek and Egyptian, specially created for them by linguist Alan Garner. Jim Henson stated, “My whole approach to this film is visual. I wanted as little dialogue as possible because I believe the story is stronger that way.