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December 5, 2013 4:59 PM   Subscribe

A YouTube user has uploaded an earlier cut of Jim Henson and Frank Oz's The Dark Crystal (with characters designed by Brian Froud). Some scenes are re-ordered, there is some different dialogue and the narration has been removed. It didn't perform well in testing, so changes were made to the version we all know and love. A threatened sequel, to be directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, is on hold.

Bonus: Defending The Dark Crystal.
World of the Dark Crystal: The YouTube of the book.
posted by Mezentian (33 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
When I was a kid I was in a focus group screening of The Dark Crystal. I wonder if this was the one I saw? The one I saw was too scary for me, that's all I remember.
posted by escabeche at 5:26 PM on December 5, 2013


This is a find, Mezentian. Thank you.

A threatened sequel, to be directed by Genndy Tartakovsky

Threatened? Dark Crystal sequel? Genndy Tartakovsky? While they're at it, they could also threaten me with an endless bucket of moderately-hopped domestic microbrews and a backrub from the early '90s Sports Illustrated swimsuit model of my choice.

Too bad they're not making it, I'd love to see somebody making crazy puppetry-based fantasy movies again.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:33 PM on December 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


In February 2012, it was officially announced that the project was no longer in production.[13] Apparently no one told Tartakovsky. He was still uncertain about the status in October 2012: "I haven't heard from the Dark Crystal people in a long time, so I feel that's gone."[14]

Jesus hell that's sad.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:35 PM on December 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


At one stage (and it may be in the links) the sequel was going to be CGI, which always made me sad.
posted by Mezentian at 5:39 PM on December 5, 2013


And it looks like a great copy, too. I can't wait to watch this all the way through.
posted by Catblack at 5:42 PM on December 5, 2013


Tartakovsky looks a hell of a lot like Tarkovsky, when a person is skimming.
posted by Sara C. at 5:43 PM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


they did the right thing to cut that nude scene
posted by klangklangston at 5:46 PM on December 5, 2013


Also, Tartakovsky would look a hell of a lot more like Tarkovsky if he grew a mustache.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:48 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would have liked to see more from this universe, but not rendered in the massless, hypermannered voidforms of CGI, so I'm content that the sequel faded away.

I do think naked gelfling is a bit too near to something that would chase Karen Black with a knife, I think.
posted by sonascope at 5:51 PM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


TRIAL BY STONE? noo.... HAKK-SKEEKAHHHHHH!
posted by edheil at 6:46 PM on December 5, 2013


BTW a 30-or-so-year-old copy of the book, The World of the Dark Crystal is one of my prized possessions.

JEALOUS MUCH???

Back in those days you couldn't just the movie again. You saw it and then it was gone. So the book is my main memory of the world of the Dark Crystal.
posted by edheil at 6:48 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some scenes are re-ordered, there is some different dialogue and the narration has been removed.

I thought narration and intelligible Skeksis dialog were added after focus-group testing. The original idea was to have the Skeksis only speak in their bird noises.
posted by Nomyte at 6:55 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I've asked a question about the speech of the podlings, which is completely unintelligible, but way too close to words from Slavic languages to be a coincidence. The answer is that nobody knows.
posted by Nomyte at 7:04 PM on December 5, 2013


Bringing Skeksis Back
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:07 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The original idea was to have the Skeksis only speak in their bird noises.

That would have been... better.

We have a software package called "Chamberlain" at work. Whenever someone mentions it, I have to resist the urge to yell this.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:31 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought narration and intelligible Skeksis dialog were added after focus-group testing. The original idea was to have the Skeksis only speak in their bird noises.

That makes a lot of sense. I do not have a strong recollection of the final version, but some of the long stretches here of grunting Skeksis reminded me a little bit of watching Chewbacca's family in the Star Wars Holiday Special. I remember seeing this movie in the theater in 1983 and coming in late and being awed by the heavenly globe machine.
posted by steinsaltz at 7:41 PM on December 5, 2013


edheil, I've got that same book, same age. It was reprinted not to long ago, and anyone who hasn't seen it definitely should. It's essentially the world of the film as told by Aughra, but also something of a Brian Froud sketchbook of awesome. It's one of the few things that I've decided was important enough for me to bring to Japan, given suitcases and limits.

A sequel could have been horrible, unless it was by Tartakovsky. He'd be the only person I'd trust with it.

I've had the bluray for about a year now, and I keep trying to get Mrs. Ghidorah to watch it, but thus far she's avoided it. I'm hoping she someday feels like watching it. I'd love to be able to share it with her, as it's one of the best things I remember from an otherwise unpleasant childhood.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:50 PM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I picked up a copy of The World of the Dark Crystal on Amazon (through a 3rd party seller).

It's one of the things I intend to devour during my time off for the Holidays.

I hope this youtube lasts until then too.
posted by DigDoug at 7:57 PM on December 5, 2013


Why would it make you sad? Hasn't Pixar proven that CGI can be used to make excellent films? And I think a prequel would be a lot more interesting, but it certainly wouldn't have a happy ending.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:07 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The original idea was to have the Skeksis only speak in their bird noises.
That would have been... better.


According to the Henson biography, tons of the dialog in the film was rerecorded, and the lines were written to match the already filmed puppet mouth movements. The weird diction is as much a quirk of budget as the imagination of the writers. Also, the lack of love the film got seemed like a real blow to Henson and Froud. They came up with the idea for Labyrinth in the car ride from the screening. Working together, but making it 'more human'.

I don't love Labyrinth in any way the way I love The Dark Crystal.
posted by DigDoug at 8:15 PM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Huh. I've never seen it before. Between the yucky giant tick-things and the sadwise barbershop humming camel sloth hippies, I'm going to have quite the menagerie in my dreams tonight.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:46 AM on December 6, 2013


the lack of love the film got

Personally, I can't fathom that. I don't think I've ever loved anything quite like I loved the Dark Crystal. I'd never seen anything like it, and I'd be shocked if I saw something that had a world so completely developed which seeming so utterly different from what I know. How it was made, and the lengths they went to in order to make so that everything was a puppet of some sort, although made with an absurd level of craftsmanship. The Garthim suits, the gymnasts bounding around in the landstrider suits and stilts, trying to figure out how to make the gait 'real.'

It's stunning at every level, and as far as absurd attention to detail, I can only think of Guillermo del Toro, or, to a slightly lesser extent, Peter Jackson when doing Tolkien. I'd love to see something as perfectly realized, but I just can't imagine it happening.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:01 AM on December 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'd love to see somebody making crazy puppetry-based fantasy movies again.

I have a friend with that same dream. He's spending a lot of time and money building puppets in my basement.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 1:58 AM on December 6, 2013


~the lack of love the film got

~Personally, I can't fathom that. I don't think I've ever loved anything quite like I loved the Dark Crystal. I'd never seen anything like it, and I'd be shocked if I saw something that had a world so completely developed which seeming so utterly different from what I know. How it was made, and the lengths they went to in order to make so that everything was a puppet of some sort, although made with an absurd level of craftsmanship. The Garthim suits, the gymnasts bounding around in the landstrider suits and stilts, trying to figure out how to make the gait 'real.'


I've found that, when talking with people who really, really, really love Dark Crystal, it becomes evident that their love of the film seems to be centered on exactly what you describe...the production of the film, and not on the film as a, well, film. As is, in general, usual with Henson and Oz, it's the writing that's the very weak link. It's definitely an amazing, incredible piece of world-building, set design, character design, craftwork, etc. But, honestly, taken as a whole, it's kind of a mediocre movie.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:26 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad, aside from the obligatory pistols at dawn comment, I think I might see what you mean, in that as revolutionary and new as the film is, the story doesn't match that newness, and is, in itself, pretty traditional (thing was lost, heroes journey, thing is restored).

The thing is, and this might just be going along with what you've said, is that it's not just a movie, or not even a movie at all. It's a fully realized world of stunning depth and history, and we've been given a chance to see it. It's Henson and Oz and Froud and all the people who made the film letting out pure and unfettered imagination. As someone who can page through the book I mentioned above for hours, or who can read through The Making of for even longer, I admit that I might have a hard time stepping back and judging it as a movie. Movie, though, just seems so small, so insignificant to what it was, though, at least to me.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:00 AM on December 6, 2013


I'm flagging this as a "Fantastic Post" for the purposes of the 2013 MeFi Choice Awards!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:11 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad, I did want to say that, in some ways, though, you're absolutely right. What they accomplished given the limitations of the time and materials is astounding, but there's only so far you can go with Jen and Kira and their faces, which are essentially a real world version of an early attempt at the uncanny valley. Pretty much everything else (y'know, aside from the main characters) is awesome.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:14 AM on December 6, 2013


Yeah, I definitely agree with the uncanny valley sentiment regarding Kira and Jen; their movements aren't QUITE human, but much more "realistic" than Muppets, Doozers, or Skeksis. As a kid, they freaked me out immensely.

Anyway, for as much I love puppets, I think a CGI version would have actually improved things a lot, given Up's demonstration of CGI human faces as able to convey warmth and love rather than the Polar Express nightmare that I used to think of when I heard CGI.

I love love love Genndy Tartakovsky, and Samurai Jack proves that he has a great sense of patience -- long stretches of quiet and beauty between frenetic exciting action-pieces are really that dude's forte -- so if I were to pick anyone to direct a sequel, it'd be him. Shame that didn't work out.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:44 AM on December 6, 2013


I don't think I've ever loved anything quite like I loved the Dark Crystal.

I think the secret of The Dark Crystal is that you have to sort of discover it for yourself. I can see opening weekend moviegoers seeing it, being baffled, and the movie tanking at the box office thus leading to a reputation that it was Not Loved By Audiences.

But the real way to encounter The Dark Crystal is in some forgotten corner of the Family section of your local mom & pop video store. You know, the one with the bad fluorescent light, janky fixtures, and the scary Horror section with its copy of Ghoulies you have to walk past really quickly lest your eyes rest on it too long.

You see the video cover of The Dark Crystal, and it looks kind of like muppets, and kind of like Labyrinth and Fraggles, which are both pretty cool, and evocative of this strange world that you want to know more about despite only seeing it 4 x 7 on a video tape cover.

Then, when you take it home and put it in the VHS machine, you discover this whole cryptic little world.

But the finding is half the enjoyment. The Dark Crystal is a movie that has to find you, and you have to work a little bit for it. Even if it's just adjusting the tracking five times.

TL;DR if The Dark Crystal was getting made now it would probably be a Netflix Original.
posted by Sara C. at 9:08 AM on December 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can see opening weekend moviegoers seeing it, being baffled, and the movie tanking at the box office thus leading to a reputation that it was Not Loved By Audiences.

I saw it at the cinema back in the day (from memory I got a sheet for it after seeing ET which led to a brief period of time where I assumed it was sequel to ET) and I loved it.

Everyone I knew loved it (and was terrified in parts), and I think the story actually holds up quite well. I even had the storybook, which annoyingly I can no longer locate (from memory is featured drawings telling the story of the film). I loved that damn book. Where in hell is it.

Incidentally, io9 says this is a fan edit based on notes to recreate the original version, not the original cut itself.
posted by Mezentian at 6:03 PM on December 6, 2013


I thought one of the main problems with the success of the movie was that it was released on the same day as "ET" (or something)? We can try to dissect exactly why audiences didn't pick this over ET, but I'd wager it all boils down to which movie had better marketing.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:56 AM on December 7, 2013


Seems ET came out in June '82 in the states, and the Dark Crystal was December '82, so in the US that doesn't seem hold true.

But, Wikipedia says:
The Dark Crystal was released in 858 theaters in North America on December 17, 1982. In its initial weekends, it had a limited appeal with audiences for various reasons including parental concerns about its dark nature, creative connections with Henson's family-friendly Muppet franchise and because it was overshadowed by the film's competition over the Christmas of that year, including Tootsie and the already massively successful E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.[16] By the end of its box office run, it made $40,577,001 and became the 16th highest grossing film of 1982 within North America.[17]

I guess we've all forgotten how long films could run in the cinemas at the dawn of the video age.
posted by Mezentian at 2:34 PM on December 7, 2013


Yeah. I was born in '81 and yet was old enough to see E.T. in the cinema at some point, probably at some point in '83 or '84.
posted by Sara C. at 3:00 PM on December 7, 2013


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