Old School Americana & Nostalgia


Jim Henson’s Kids Reveal Why 80s Classics Like ‘Labyrinth’ Wouldn’t Get Made Today

Jim Henson’s Kids Reveal Why 80s Classics Like ‘Labyrinth’ Wouldn’t Get Made Today

Jim Henson created many new worlds through the power of puppetry. His list of hit movies includes The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth from the 1980s. Fans of those movies would love to see a new batch come out of the Henson creative world. Don’t expect that to happen anytime soon, though.

Why not? Let’s let Lisa Henson, Jim’s daughter, offer some insight while talking with Polygon. “Technique-wise, these movies would be very hard to get made [today], because there’s so much pressure to do things with CG,” Henson, who is a producer and CEO of The Jim Henson Company, said.

Besides Lisa, Brian Henson, Lisa’s brother and chairman of The Jim Henson Company, talked with the outlet. The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth are now back out through iTunes, Amazon, and YouTube. The movies either can be viewed or purchased separately. They are also available in bundle form. That’s where the movie, extra features, and commentary tracks will be available.

Jim Henson Films Find New Home In Streaming

Lisa Henson notes how much people are changing their viewing habits around movies. Shout! Studios is working with Henson in a partnership to get these movies out there. Moviegoers not only eat up the movie itself, but they also seem to enjoy the extra features offered, too.

“We never want these movies not to be available, or not to be explored in the full depth of getting to see the behind the scenes,” Lisa Henson said in the interview. “The more you know about these movies, the more you appreciate them. […]

“For years we have had those box sets or those Blu-ray releases that have so many ways to interact with the movie,” she said. “You — you watch the movie, then you watch the extras and you see the interviews, and you see how things are done, and you go back and watch the movie again. And if you don’t have the supplemental materials, you might be missing a whole layer to it.”

In 1981, The Dark Crystal brought together prop makers, puppeteers, artists, and designers. They all worked together to build Thra, a world revealed in the movie. In addition, all the characters and creatures came out of this creative group. A pretty amazing feat from one of the creators of Sesame Street, Jim Henson.

Later on, this collective called itself “Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.” This group, after finishing The Dark Crystal, moved along to work on Labyrinth, starring David Bowie. But they didn’t close up shop after this movie was finished.

The group found itself right at work again on more projects and special effects were about to go through a seismic shift.

‘CG’ Use Was Not New To Puppet Master

“In the height of the animatronics era, and visual effects known as animatronics, which was the late ’80s and ’90s — almost all those techniques were pioneered in The Dark Crystal,” Lisa Henson said. “I remember actually being in a meeting where they were trying to figure out what titles to put in the credits for people that did that kind of work for The Dark Crystal, and they found a union category of animatronics and they were like, Oh, all right, well, we’ll just call it animatronics. I was actually in that room [laughs]. The whole idea of feature film animatronics — before that, animatronics was what happened at Disney World.”

While Henson fans and those who love The Muppets like the old-school way of puppeteering, The Jim Henson Company has been on the front lines advocating for digital puppetry. This would replace handheld puppet work, yet Lisa Henson says The Jim Henson Company has been involved in these high-level discussions.

“From the time of Tron, [my father] started working with John Whitney on CG animation,” Lisa Henson said. “So he was very pro-CG animation. So when the fans think, Well, he wouldn’t have done CG, they are not correct. But what drives our CG — whether it’s a full animated show, or if it’s just an effect — we always have the puppeteer in there.

“[…] The puppeteer is bringing the CG character to life, that was something my father created,” she said. “That first CG puppeteered character appeared on The Jim Henson Hour and then also in Muppet Vision 3D, which was in the parks. He was already manipulating CG using a puppeteer controller.”