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The Dark Crystal
February 5, 2010 8:04 AM   Subscribe

In the 1980s, the creative team of Jim Henson and Brian Froud, together with Frank Oz and George Lucas, collaborated on two ambitious film projects: The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. While Labyrinth (incredibly exhaustive fan site here) was more lively and featured actors as well as puppets, The Dark Crystal embodied a darker vision and featured only puppets. Rumors have circulated in the last few years that a sequel to The Dark Crystal, entitled The Power of the Dark Crytal, is in production. While the status of the film is still up in the air, there is a blog for the project that contains a video of new concept art.

Some extra links:

Robot Chicken tries to update The Dark Crystal for a new audience.

Link to a download of The Dark Crystal font at the bottom this page.

There is also a book of drawings and concept art by Brian Froud - this SLYT shows the contents of the book in its entirety.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates (79 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh man, the scene where the skeksis are sucking the life-force out of those cute little creatures is right up there with a dying ET lying in the stream bed in my pantheon of childhood nightmares.
posted by chinston at 8:07 AM on February 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


Oh wow, I am inappropriately excited about this. I watched The Dark Crystal over and over when I was a kid and had a thousand dreams about being one of the skeksis (I was an ambitious and power-mad six-year-old I guess). Now I want to watch it again! Thanks for this post.
posted by bewilderbeast at 8:14 AM on February 5, 2010


The Dark Crystal is available on YouTube [part 1 here] but the video quality is not great. The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth are both now available on regular DVD and Blu-Ray.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:17 AM on February 5, 2010


The Dark Crystal is still one of my favorite movies ever. It was originally shot all in a made-up language, which I wish was an option on the DVDs.
posted by yeloson at 8:21 AM on February 5, 2010


"most favorite" Look, I'm making up my own syntax there! When triple shine the edit function...
posted by yeloson at 8:21 AM on February 5, 2010


While the status of the film is still up in the air

Prophets don't know everything!
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:22 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


When DC came out, a lot of the props and costumes were exhibited in Manhattan. I remember going to see the show--it was totally cool. I may be one of the few MeFites to see gelflings and skeses in person.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:26 AM on February 5, 2010


The orrery that Augrha had was like the coolest thing ever. I still want one.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:27 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Dark Crystal was the first movie we rented on VHS when my mother got a player. It scared the crap out of me. Twenty years later, I got it from Netflix. It still scares the crap out of me.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 8:33 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm happy to see on that blog that the sequel will make use of CG-enhanced animatronics. Last I read about it, rumor had it the film would be completely CG, which sounded like a terrible, lazy idea that would have put it in direct-to-video* territory.

*In the negative sense of the word.
posted by brundlefly at 8:33 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Loved Dark Crystal since it came out when I was a kid; still own The World of the Dark Crystal book and it is a prized possession.
posted by edheil at 8:35 AM on February 5, 2010


Nothing to add but love dark crystal. What? Don't give me looks. This is the bloody dark crystal yo. It's extra plus more dark than bergman.

Hands up if you've tried to impress people with your impression of chamberlain. Mmmmmmmmmm?
posted by Smegoid at 8:37 AM on February 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Adding to the "scared the crap out of me as a child" list. I think I slept with the light on for six months after I saw it.

However, Smegoid--I married someone who has, indeed, tried to impress people with his impression of the Chamberlain. Not sure what that says about me.
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:41 AM on February 5, 2010


I actually didn't see the Dark Crystal until I was a teenager (we were a Labyrinth family), but I love, love, love it. It's like Labyrinth with out that whiny teenage girl and David Bowie's package to distract you from the magic!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:43 AM on February 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Mmmmmmmmm? became part of the lexicon of my family when I saw this when I was a kid. I took my six year old to see it on the big screen a few month ago and now she does it all the time.

Incidentally, the first song on The Crystal Method's "Vegas" album starts with the into from the movie "....the grass was green and good until the crystal cracked....once more they will replinish themselves..cheat death for another day...the power of their source, the crystal.." For years I listened to it and didn't realize that was what it was from until I saw it last month again. Props to The Crystal Method!
posted by aacheson at 8:43 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


edheil beat me to it, but yeah, there's a copy of The World of the Dark Crystal on the bookshelf behind me. Do you have any idea how hard it is to pick and choose which books to take with you on a transoceanic flight when you've realized that you're going to live overseas for probably the rest of your life? There's only so much room in your carry on, and they're too heavy to check.

The World of the Dark Crystal came over on the first trip. First ballot. The concept art, the tissue thin layovers that show you the various designs within the designs. I loved everything about that movie, from the making of shorts, to the movie itself, to the fact that Aughra is the narrator of the book as well. And that it ends with a full page drawing of Aughra staring at you, saying

"Of the race of Aughra, I was alone, first and last, and this was my song."

Pure genius, each and every person involved with it.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:47 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is no movie, in the history of... me... that i have watched, purchased, or spent more time wishing i lived within than the Dark Crystal.

Absolutely gorgeous film. More film makers ought to try and outdo it.
posted by phylum sinter at 8:47 AM on February 5, 2010


Everything I've done, I've done for you. I move the stars for no one.
posted by ninjew at 8:51 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Genndy Tartakovsky of Samurai Jack fame is directing. Wow.
posted by HumanComplex at 8:54 AM on February 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Puppet sequel. Awesome.
CGI sequel. Lame.
posted by madajb at 8:59 AM on February 5, 2010


HumanComplex, you just made me happy... I hadn't seen that, and if anything was going to make me edge away from my growing 'let the past be the past' stance, it'd be news like that.

While I know I wouldn't be able to resist the sequel, I'm still nervous that it would have a negative impact on my memories and feelings for the original.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:00 AM on February 5, 2010


> It's like Labyrinth with out that whiny teenage girl and David Bowie's package to distract you from the magic!

David Bowie's package in Labyrinth has been a running joke of my sister's for 20 years, ever since she watched it (the movie, not the package per se) at a sleepover. Sounds like there were some poor decisions made in the costuming department...
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:09 AM on February 5, 2010


I loved this movie as a kid, even though it terrified me.
posted by TrialByMedia at 9:11 AM on February 5, 2010


Never mind the effects or the CG-vs.-puppetry, what about the story? How the hell did they come up with a decent storyline for a Dark Crystal sequel? I mean, at the end of the first movie,[1] the crystal isn’t exactly dark any more. What are they going to do, break it again? (See also the hey-let’s-build-another-Death-Star gambit, or the entire premise of Disney’s direct-to-DVD sequels.)

[1] Don’t give me shit about spoilers, fuckos; it came out 28 years ago.
posted by mcwetboy at 9:13 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Card Cheat, you've never seen it? Take a gander.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:13 AM on February 5, 2010


See, I have a 4-year-old, and a copy of this movie, and judging from all the "I loved it and it scared me stupid as a kid!" comments...I am not going to combine the two just yet. He's scared of random bugs that are two rooms away ("Squish it Mama!"). I don't need to introduce soul-sucking Skekses yet.

...or giant spiders...or Aughra...yeek.

Maybe he'll be ready by the time the sequel comes out. I think I was 12 or something when I saw it, so I can't judge.
posted by emjaybee at 9:18 AM on February 5, 2010


I was terrified by this movie as well, but felt compulsion to watch it.
It wasn't as terrifying as The Neverending Story, however.

And Labyrinth? I still rock out to Dance Magic Dance.
posted by Theta States at 9:19 AM on February 5, 2010


It's like Labyrinth with out that whiny teenage girl and David Bowie's package to distract you from the magic!

David Bowie's package was the magic.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:21 AM on February 5, 2010 [17 favorites]


My short lived metal band in High School was "Fizzgig."

I guess a fluffy ball of muppet from a kids movie, doesn't really project menace as much as we had hoped.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 9:24 AM on February 5, 2010


The Dark Crystal has had an enduring impact on my in that, to this day, I still refer to pets acting crazy as "doing a Fizzgig".

I've often wondered how much of origins of the Furry culture today can be traced to people finding the Gelflings attractive as kids.
posted by quin at 9:28 AM on February 5, 2010


Genndy Tartakovsky of Samurai Jack fame is directing.

I just went from "meh" to "yeah!"
posted by vibrotronica at 9:29 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


> The Card Cheat, you've never seen it? Take a gander.

*moment of silence*

I guess they were hoping audiences would be too distracted by that wig to notice anything else.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:40 AM on February 5, 2010


I could see a Dark Crystal sequel working in the same way that 'Return to Oz' did... technically a sequel set in the same universe, even with some of the same characters, but without being overly slavish to the original.

I wonder what the odds are of such a film being CGI-free.
posted by usonian at 9:43 AM on February 5, 2010


I am not going to combine the two just yet.

Do you not see all the love and fond reminiscence here? That's because their parents let them see the damned movie when they were still impressionable.

Parents these days.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:49 AM on February 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, the Dark Crystal fucking rules. That is all.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:50 AM on February 5, 2010


The Dark Crystal rules.

And dude, (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates? That is like the most amazing handle ever. If I could favorite your name I would do so 5 times.
posted by cavalier at 9:54 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think a little CGI enhancement could be a good thing. I just rewatched the movie and while the puppets and puppetry are almost entirely wonderful, so expressive and alive, the Gelflings themselves are oddly stilted and their faces feel too inexpressive.
posted by aldurtregi at 9:55 AM on February 5, 2010


That's because their parents let them see the damned movie when they were still impressionable.

Yeah, but I was EIGHT, and still impressionable. emjaybee's kid is FOUR. Huge difference, and she's absolutely right about waiting several years, IMHO.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:56 AM on February 5, 2010


I loved the Dark Crystal when I saw it as a kid when it first came out. Then I tried to watch it as an adult and oh. my. gosh. it's. the. longest. most. boring. movie. ever.

(But still awesome and scary.)
posted by The World Famous at 10:00 AM on February 5, 2010


I've never seen either Labyrinth or the Dark Crystal, and I'm kind of scared to watch them now. I know a lot of films are best when seen at a magic age and I'm no longer at that magic age. I've seen so many films that were billed as great that proved out to be lame to my adult self that it's hard to overcome that reluctance. Which is not to say Labyrinth and the Dark Crystal aren't great movies, just that I don't know how they'll stand up to my ubercritical adult self picking at them without the fond halo of youthful memory to protect them.
posted by immlass at 10:07 AM on February 5, 2010


Labyrinth actually began a long crush on Jennifer Connelly for me, which was rekindled with The Rocketeer, and more importantly, Career Opportunities.

This once-innocent childhood infatuation was promptly crushed after watching Requiem for a Dream.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:14 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


immlass:

Just as a data point, I recently watched both The Dark Crystal and The Neverending Story - two films I adored as a child. The Dark Crystal held up surprisingly well (to me at least - obviously that's not true for everyone, including The World Famous, natch), but The Neverending Story was absolutely heartbreakingly thin and boring compared to how I remembered it and it really did, kinda, sorta, ruin the perfectly imagined piece of cinema I had been carrying around in my head. But if you enjoy the kind of inventive puppetry that Henson was known for, I think you'll still like The Dark Crystal even if the story is a bit of a LoTR ripoff.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:14 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Skeksis: those dudes are craaa-zy assholes.
posted by steef at 10:15 AM on February 5, 2010


AHWO: Thanks, that's actually useful to know. I'll keep it in mind when we clear out some room in our Netflix queue.
posted by immlass at 10:18 AM on February 5, 2010


Just as a data point, I recently watched both The Dark Crystal and The Neverending Story - two films I adored as a child. The Dark Crystal held up surprisingly well

Funny, I had the opposite experience. The Dark Crystal was great visually, but the acting... ugh. It's like someone condensed all of Mark Hamill's whining from Star Wars and put it into one puppet.

Conversely, I was surprised much fun Labyrinth still is.
posted by rodgerd at 10:26 AM on February 5, 2010


aldurtregi: "I think a little CGI enhancement could be a good thing."

I still haven't seen it, but the titular creatures in the "Where the Wild Things Are" movie are a mixture of (Henson's) puppetry and CG, and are apparently pretty remarkable. That's also one of things I love about Guillermo Del Toro: he loves to augment his practical FX with subtle CG.
posted by brundlefly at 10:28 AM on February 5, 2010


MetaFilter: like someone condensed all of Mark Hamill's whining from Star Wars and put it into one puppet
posted by brundlefly at 10:28 AM on February 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Play the Apple II Dark Crystal Hi Res* Adventure in your browser, by Gelfling hand, or else by none!

*for values of Hi Res current in 1984 - and don't forget to rock with your CAPS LOCK
posted by Sparx at 10:55 AM on February 5, 2010


For every ninth birthday, I have had a Dark Crystal watching party, each in a different media.

I saw the Dark Crystal in theaters for my ninth birthday, on VHS for my 18th, and on DVD for my 27th. I was really, really hoping to see the sequel for my 36th, next year, but it looks like I may have to go with the Blu-Ray version instead. But, there better be a sequel in the next 9 years.

Or a musical.
posted by blahblahblah at 10:57 AM on February 5, 2010


all girls have wings
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:27 AM on February 5, 2010


This 'Sweded' version of The Labyrinth is one of my favorite things ever, originally in the filmmaking frenzy contest. Seems like the right place to put it.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:36 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would have been three when Dark Crystal came out, so unless it was re-released in the 80's I suppose my first viewing of it was on VHS. Regardless, I loved it. We taped it off of HBO or something at one point, and we still have that copy somewhere in the basement. While I remember many parts of the movie, there are parts that just stuck out in my mind. The long-legged rabbit creatures, the Skeksis and yes, the "MmmmMMMMmmmm...!" The scene that for some reason haunted me as a child was the scene in Aughra's observator when the Garthim come crashing through and our gelflin hero flees with the building in flames behind him. I was also bothered by the crystal bats for some reason. There was something also about how Aughra saving Fizzgig with the pitch fork like thing. On top of all of these, the music resonated with me.

Incidentally, the Skeksis sort of have a re-birth in Farscape as Halosians. (Farscape offering another example of what puppetry can still accomplish in our CG age.)

Lastly, Labyrinth was one of those spectacular childhood favorites. The only scenes I didn't really care for were the ones involving the baby. Enough with the babe, I don't care about its power!
posted by Atreides at 11:49 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


jabberjaw -

Totally with you on the Jennifer Connelley thing.
I had no idea what a Target was, but I sure as hell wanted to work there!
posted by madajb at 11:52 AM on February 5, 2010


I STILL can't watch the Dark Crystal. It scares the crap out of me. That sound the Skeksis make goes right through my head like a waking nightmare. But even the Gelflings freak me out-they just look and move like jittery little melted people and I can barely look at them. Maybe it's an uncanny valley thing, but I'm just seriously creeped out on such a basic level that I'm not exaggerating when I say I am unable to watch it. Which is weird, because I love Labyrinth, and the only thing in it that gives me the same reaction is the Fieries-I have to leave the room when they come in. Although maybe I was so distracted by David Bowie's pants that I didn't have a chance to develop labryrinth muppet fear.
Maybe it's just bird-looking muppets? Pointy-faced muppets? I don't know. There's just some kind of wrongness there that makes me need to hide in a closet.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 12:17 PM on February 5, 2010


...distracted by David Bowie's pants...

In all fairness, Bowie's pants have been distracting people of all genders and sexual orientations for decades now. The man is indeed a powerful and sorcerous goblin king.
posted by quin at 12:22 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I read the Genndy Tartakovsky/Scott Stewart draft of the script from 2006, before it was rewritten by Craig Pearce. It's a lot of fun. It introduces a race of creatures called firelings who live in the hollowed interior of the planet. The star in the center of the planet keeps them alive (and aflame!) but the star is going out. They need a shard of the Dark Crystal to relight the star. Aughra is in a lot of the script; she hasn't changed at all. Jen and Kira, rulers of the land now, are asleep during most of the story, stuck in a dreamworld. The Dark Crystal is broken midway through, splitting the Urskeks back into Mystics and Skekses, which is sorta fantastic. It's all pretty great, although I was disappointed that so much of the story was set underground and in confined spaces, which eliminates some of the grandeur and scope and scale of the first film. The script did a phenomenal job at getting bleak, a tone I don't think enough modern kids movies capture (Pixar, I'm looking at you). All-in, the script gave me high hopes.
posted by incessant at 12:33 PM on February 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Okay, so I forwarded PhoBWanKenobi's comment to my aforementioned sister, and this is the email I got in response:

"I told you, his package should have gotten second billing in that movie. I swear it looked me right in the eye."
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:44 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


For all of you Neverending Story types, did you know that it's based on a book by Michael Ende, a German author? That has a whole other second half not used in the movie?

The book is pretty awesome, read that instead of watching the movie again.

And he also wrote another book called Momo that's equally weird/awesome.
posted by emjaybee at 12:49 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't believe nobody's linked Areaology yet.
posted by asperity at 12:57 PM on February 5, 2010


Perhaps it's just me, but I see a direct link between Dark Crystal and Avatar. Henson and Froud went over the top in giving us an alien world in which we could take very little for granted. That attention to scenic detail was beyond what most other science fiction/fantasy directors were doing at the time. Heck, Lucas even punted by using familiar creepy-crawlies on the Dagobah set. Avatar shares that attention to scenic and biological detail.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:11 PM on February 5, 2010


Making-of footage of Dark Crystal is fun to watch because Froud and Henson appear to have a creative and intellectual love-fest of a collaboration going on. It's really kind of sweet and unusual compared to similar works.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:30 PM on February 5, 2010


Atreides:

The Skeksis are basically alive and well in World of Warcraft, too, with the Arakkoa, whose capitol city is called 'Skettis'. They even kind of make the noise and have that creepy, twitchy stance. I could unfortunately not find suitable video/audio.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 1:56 PM on February 5, 2010


Oh my god I meant 'capital'. I'm sorry, MeFi.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 1:57 PM on February 5, 2010


It's too late for "Sorry". Get into this chair and stare into this pinkish light. Your life force energy will keep the rest of us young for years to come.
posted by quin at 2:03 PM on February 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Speaking of Bowie's Magical Package, this video cracked me up mightily.
posted by Biblio at 2:43 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Enough with the babe, I don't care about its power!

What power?
posted by nosila at 3:15 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Power of the voodoo!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:26 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Who do?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:53 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


You do
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:11 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


What?
posted by KathrynT at 6:16 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Remind me of the babe!
posted by aetg at 7:10 PM on February 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I very much second the original book for Never-ending story fans. It doesn't have the awesome title song, but there is so much that got cut from the movie which is rich and wonderful in the book -- plus the second half which was so poorly adapted in the sequel.

And no one should diss Bowie for anything in Labyrinth. Magic Dance made it all perfect. Though not as weird and wonderful as the Dark Crystal. I, too, am baffled as to how a sequel would work. And I also think that such imaginative world creation is wasted on the 2 hour feature format. If they were going to go back to that world, it would be better as a 10 hour miniseries or similar.
posted by jb at 9:15 PM on February 5, 2010


nosila thru aetg: you are my new heroes.
posted by ikahime at 11:18 PM on February 5, 2010


brundlefly, I just saw Where the Wild Things Are last night (it was... okay. Would have been a stunning short film) and the CG of the faces was unnoticeable. At the end, just the expression of Carol made me cry, and I caught myself wondering how they could get a puppet face to deliver such perfect emotion. Really, that good.

Since that was done by the Hensons, I imagine they could do something pretty special with puppetry and cg if there was a sequel.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:52 PM on February 5, 2010


Odd. This past week at work, we've been discussing our favorite films from childhood. I mentioned both Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, as well as the fact that I once dated a guy because he had a Pomeranian named Fizzgigg. I admit it: I'm easy. My tastes, however, have matured. Now I'm looking for Cary Grant.
posted by Vavuzi at 12:50 AM on February 6, 2010


Amazon has all three on Blu-Ray, packaged together, one low price!!

Win!!!
posted by pearlybob at 7:22 AM on February 6, 2010


I very much second the original book for Never-ending story fans. It doesn't have the awesome title song, but there is so much that got cut from the movie which is rich and wonderful in the book

Not the least of which is that it is a book about the wonder of reading books, is done is two colors of type to distinguish between the two layers of reality present in the book, and my favorite trick of all... each chapter begins with the next consecutive letter of the alphabet. Even better -- the English translation of the German text pulls off that same excellent literary trick.

It's a really great book. One of the few novels I've read in two languages, and I recommend it highly in any language.
posted by hippybear at 12:19 PM on February 6, 2010


SKEKSIS GONNA WHIP THAT ASS THIS TIME, GELFLINGS!
posted by Askr at 3:28 PM on February 6, 2010


SKEKSIS GONNA WHIP THAT ASS THIS TIME, GELFLINGS!

Of course not. You're a boy.
posted by Sparx at 11:49 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


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