The Dark Crystal is a 1982 puppet animated dark fantasy adventure film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. 37 years later on August 30th, we will finally get the prequel to the beloved fantasy film! Henson’s daughter Lisa – who serves as CEO of The Jim Henson Company – and director Jim Leterrier have teamed up to put together a 10-part Netflix series, which explores the fall of the “Gelfling” community, through some masterful modern puppeteering.
In the original 1982 film, we were told a story from another planet in the distant past about a Gelfling named Jen who was raised by the noble race called the Mystics. Told that he is the last surviving member of his race, he sets out to try to find a shard of the dark crystal, a powerful gem that once provided balance to the universe. After the crystal was broken, the evil Skeksis used sinister means to gain control. Jen believes that he can repair the dark crystal and bring peace back to the world, if he can only find the remaining shard.
For the prequel, which will be using classic puppetry with cutting edge visual effects, the story will explore the world of Thra created for the original film and will follow three Gelflings – Rian, Brea and Deet – who inspire a rebellion against the Skeksis when they discover a horrifying secret behind their power that threatens their world.
While at San Diego Comic Con, we attended the “Netflix Presents: The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” press conference with the director Louis Leterrier, executive producer Lisa Henson, and one of the main actors, Taron Egerton who plays Rian, a Gelfling crystal castle guard of the Stonewood Clan.
Henson was very excited to answer one of our questions. We just had to ask if any of the original props or character puppets will be used in the prequel. She answered:
The puppets are incredibly fragile and most of them are in the Museum of the Moving Image in NY and the Center of Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. And we had a few that were not yet restored that were in our creature shop. And in the process of building new characters, our shop started by copying the old ones because it got them going and they took off from there in building the new characters. So it was actually really interesting being able to access the old characters. I’ve been wanting to make either a sequel or prequel to this for a long time. That when we closed our creature shop in London, which is where everything was stored, even though they were inclined to get rid of certain ephemera of a work shop of things that didn’t have to be kept, I wanted to keep everything with The Dark Crystal because I knew were were going to do something with it some day. And as another tie to the past, it was important that we had Brian Froud who was the original designer. He came back and he designed every character, every costume. And we have his family, Wendy, and Toby Froud (the baby from the movie Labyrinth), so we have the Froud D.N.A. from the original film. That is our design team for the show.
We learned a lot of things from the press conference. Below are a few points of interest.
- Egerton, who is also staring as Elton John in the Rocketman movie coming out, has a history of singing and music. He confirmed that we can expect to hear him singing “a little bit” in this series.
- Henson ensured a poetic ending and says she hopes for viewers to feel inspired about these heroes, who when faced with a scary and mysterious threat with the Skeksis threatening their very life essence, who we don’t expect to have this gumption.
- Henson developed all sorts of content around The Dark Crystal because she believes the world in the original was so convincing. This project is not a reboot and its meant to lead seamlessly into the film and they are very conscious of everything in the film in creation of this prequel.
- Leterrier says the movie is just the center of a very long story with all the back stories created through the different mediums. This story, this show, is about the why, what happens to these people, and what tips the world over.
- Leterrier wants to re-introduce the characters and world in the same way as the original. Even by using some of the same original creators. The world is bigger thanks to CGI, but everything is shot like the original with puppets. The goal was “how do we shoot it for real” and not rely on CGI. About 85-90% is shot real.
- Egerton re-introduced himself by watching with the original film but feels that the real work happens in the moment with the director by being receptive and reactive and you figure it out with the others through the creative process. It was a very physical role and demanded a lot of energy because it’s a real action adventure.
- Leterrier says it’s one of those rare projects where everything has to be created and even the puppeteers bring so much to the characters. We have to make a lot of tweaks along the way but its thanks to actors like Egerton to put the stamp on how believable this character is.
- Henson talking about streaming and today’s technology, said it was brave for Netflix to green light the show because they talked about either a sequel movie or an animated show that was a prequel which would have been of a certain scope. But Netflix choose this direction which looks just like the original movie which was a different scope than we ever dreamed of doing. So we were in Heaven when we heard this. This is a step beyond nostalgic rebooting.
- Egerton spent a lot of time on set to really see the process and be totally involved to better his character perspective and also because he finds the craft fascinating.
- Leterrier says there is no improvisation in the acting due to it being shot first, it’s very hard for the actors to do.
- Henson says we have some exceptionally scary scenes and amazing villains but they are delicious villains who are also funny. At least four of the Skeksis are comedians. Because we wanted to make sure we get the heightened deliciousness out of the villains.
- Henson said there were 12 main puppeteers who did all the main characters which is extreme in its physicality of a job. In the supporting roles she says they pretty much had every working puppeteer in England working on the show on one point or another.
- Henson said all the character design and puppets were built first in Burbank, CA in the Creature Shop and continued to be built in London once they moved there. The design drives everything. Then the voices were cast last. She says it’s amazing to see the amount of hand craft on screen, everything was hand done. People hand punching hair into the creatures, etc. A maker spectacular!
- Leterrier revealed there are 10 episodes and the 11th episode is a documentary.
We are very much looking forward to seeing this series! Especially with knowing some of the other voice actors are Mark Hamill, Keegan-Michael Key, Benedict Wong, Simon Pegg, Helena Bonham Carter, and Eddie Izzard to only name a few. Check out the trailers below for a visual look and let us know what you think of the original movie and the prequel in the comments!
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – Trailer
Behind the Scenes Sneak Peek