Last week I talked about my “art patheon” and as I’m still working on an illustration, I figured I’d take this opportunity to nerd-out over the work of Jim Henson and more specifically his collaborations with fantasy genre artist Brian Froud. While I think The Muppets are great, the work of Jim Henson Company really outdid itself when it went about creating largely practical effects fantasy films (because, you know, CGI didn’t exist back in the 80’s and Green Screen was the height of simulated special effects). On a side-note, if you’re unfamiliar with the term practical effects, they’re pretty much any special effect that happens while the camera’s filming instead of something that is being added in post production. While The Muppets exist in our world, Henson’s puppet films, “Labyrinth” and “The Dark Crystal”, exist in unique fantasy worlds all their own.
Brian Froud designed the majority of the fantastic inhabitants in these worlds. From goblins to skeksis to gelflings and hags with his beautiful, loose pencil or ink and watercolor sketches to his more polished finished paintings, Froud breathed life into these whimsical fantastic realms. One of the things that I love Froud’s art is that he was one of the early artists to straddle that line between making something look both cute and threatening at the same time. Equally as astonishing is the Jim Henson Company puppet making team that interpreted and hand crafted Froud’s designs into characters that though inanimate, are full of life on screen!
There were so many great, imaginative scenes throughout these films, but since I’ve seen “Labyrinth” somewhere around 50 times, I’ll focus on that film. The helping hands scene was so eerie and creative. I’m floored by the way that the puppeteers managed to find so many unique combinations to form hands and eyes in this tunnel that Sarah is suspended in and let’s face it, being held aloft by a bunch of zombie-like hands is just plain creepy. Then there was the scene with the three fragments of rock, that when viewed from a certain form a face. There’s the pungent bog of eternal stench with it’s flatulent noises. You also have the moment when the two massive doors in the goblin city clang shut and it forms a giant medieval mech guard against Sarah and her companions. And let’s not forget the M.C. Escher inspired stairwells in Sarah’s final confrontation with Jareth. Any of these things dropped into a RPG session is sure to put a nostalgic smile on the face of anyone that gets the reference.
Are there any key scenes that I missed from Labryinth? Want to share some favorite moments from The Dark Crystal? Feel free to put your thoughts down the comments below with anything Jim Henson or Brian Froud related. Until next time, stay nerdy!