One of my favourite films as a child was Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal. I bought a DVD of the movie a little while back, and just got around to watching it on Sunday. Produced by the Jim Henson Company and released in 1982, the fantasy film utilised puppetry and a small amount of live-action. The concept art for the film was created by Brian Froud.
One of the special features on the DVD is the made for TV behind-the-scenes documentary called The World of the Dark Crystal. I could not find this documentary available anywhere online, so unfortunately it looks as if the only way to see it is by purchasing the DVD or blu-ray. Also available is Brian Froud’s book The World of the Dark Crystal, which has now been re-published with new material.
If you have not seen The Dark Crystal I thoroughly recommend it, the amount or work and detail that went into creating every aspect of this film is amazing.These were the days before CGI was run-of-the-mill; the world of the Dark Crystal and every character that you see on-screen has been designed, sculpted, painted, and brought to life by a massive team of artists and craftspeople.
The documentary describes the process of creating the world and its characters in detail but I was only able to find two small clips available on Youtube. In the first clip Frank Oz talks about performing his character “Aughra” and we see the puppet in action with its team of performers:
The Dark Crystal was so unique at the time that an accompanying art exhibition was created. This exhibition ran in 1982 in both New York and Los Angeles:
The Dark Crystal puppets are still held by The Jim Henson Company and some were recently restored by the Creature Shop’s Head of Puppet Fabrication, Julie Zobel. In this episode of the Jim Henson podcast she explains the challenges of restoring three Skeksis characters, which were brought out of storage after nearly 30 years.
If you are already a fan of the film, you may know that the plan for a sequel which was in development for a very long time has been cancelled. The storyline for the sequel which was to be called The Power of the Dark Crystal, would have been set after the first film when the two main characters Jen and Kira are reigning as king and queen. While on the one hand it is disappointing that the sequel has been cancelled, on the other hand Jim Henson stated in this interview with Entertainment Tonight that he saw the original film as a complete story, and that there should not be a sequel to The Dark Crystal. “The story itself, does not lend itself to a sequel… we will not follow it with a sequel to this picture. You could tell another story in the same world, but the story itself is complete.”
Even though I was originally excited to hear there might be a sequel and then disappointed to find out it was cancelled, I always did think of the Dark Crystal as a stand-alone story. There was nothing like it at the time, and there has not really been anything quite like it since. Perhaps it is best left just as it is.