I’ve been a huge Jim Henson fan basically my entire life. I grew up with The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and all of the Muppet movies. Given all of that, The Dark Crystal was a movie I watched a lot as a kid, but at that time, I don’t think any of the important detail stuck. It wasn’t until watching it last year as an adult I finally really appreciated it. The Dark Crystal functions in such a dense, beautiful world. It’s got new cultures, strange creatures, and symbols on top of symbols. I recently got the chance to see it with a Q&A by Toby Froud that expanded upon the time and love it took to create this masterpiece.
The Dark Crystal is an epic. It was Jim Henson’s passion project. He wanted to be known as a filmmaker and not just The Muppet Guy. It took Henson five years to make along with a team of highly dedicated creatives with a wide range of talents (jewelry making, costume designers, puppeteers, writers). Among them were Brain Froud who was the designer for The Dark Crystal and Wendy Midener who sculpted and created the Gelflings. They met working on the film. Toby Froud is their son and, following in the footsteps of his parents, a puppet fabricator for Laika. (He also was the baby in Labyrinth.) Although The Dark Crystal was before he was born, he grew up with goblins and Gelflings all around, and has a unique perspective. It obviously was extremely influential for him.
Toby showed a slideshow of original concept art, screen tests, behind the scenes messing around, and supplied anecdotes to go along with each one. The Dark Crystal is one of the only movies in the world that is all puppetry. So many of the pictures showed just how much work and ingenuity these creatures took: men being stuck into Garthim suits, faces being sculpted, strange contraptions to figure out exactly how things would realistically move. Everything was crafted from the ground up. There was no story even to begin with. Jim Henson just started with images of creatures and ideas about the world; everything else just came as they started making things. People dedicated their time. Some people even risked their lives walking on stilts in Landstrider costumes on top of raised sets.
Given the dense nature of the world a lot of material has been written to expand it. There are the Creation Myths graphic novels and an upcoming full length novelization of events that occur after the original story. There have been rumors of a sequel coming for years, some sounding more serious than others. Toby Froud even said not to count the possibility out. That got me wishful thinking. A Laika-made Dark Crystal sequel is something that I would line up to see.