I was raised on the innovative form of animation given to us by the marvelous Jim Henson. From Kermit the Frog to the goblins in the Labyrinth, this creative genius managed to invent creatures and worlds of such depth, wonder, and jocularity that they will be delighting audiences of all ages for years to come! Sadly, Henson is no longer with us although the Jim Henson Company continues to delight and amaze, and while the creator himself will be sorely missed, his creations remain to comfort us.
Dark Crystal is a brilliant and daring piece of Hensons work that is often overlooked. Development for this film began in 1977 although shooting did not start until 1981, and it wasnt released until 1982. Henson was so taken with the illustrations of Brian Froud, that he asked Froud to create an elaborate visual world in which he could bring a unique tale to life. This was to be the first fully animatronic feature film and who better to further the world of Puppetmation than Jim Henson?
Long ago the Dark Crystal was damaged through the arrogance and greed of the Urskeks and an age of peace came to an end. Now control is divided between the evil, power-hungry Skekis and the peaceful, wise Mystics. Jen and Kira are the last of the Gelfling race which was destroyed or driven out long ago due to a now nearly forgotten prophecy. Only a Gelfling can heal the crystal and bring an end to this era of chaos. The Skekis, of course, have no desire to loose their positions of power and will stop at nothing to eliminate any possibility of the Prophecy succeeding...
The range of visual treats in this film is limitless. I have been enjoying this film for ~gulp~ 20 years now, and I still find new aspects to delight me! The verdant world that surrounds the characters, the delicate grace of the Gelflings, the gentleness of the large, homely, four-armed Mystics, the down-to-earth appeal of the placid Podlings, the shriveled horror of the Skekis, the gruff kindness of the witch Ogma, and the sterile intimidation presented in the Garthim servants all contrast greatly. Yet somehow they compliment each other perfectly and complete each other in ways one cannot explain. Very much like the real world! Although this was made to entertain children, this classic tale of Good vs. Evil is quite a lush, vivid, spellbinding treat for film buffs of any age!
I was lucky enough to catch the Jim Henson exhibit at our local Childrens Museum one summer and I was even more entranced than the troop of Brownie Girl Scouts that we took there. Of course, I probably paid a lot more attention to the storyboards that they had on display at the exhibit than the girls did, but a great time was had by all. It was quite a thrill to see the actual puppets used in the making of this film. The beetle-like Garthim were nearly as strange and intimidating in person Without anyone animating them, as they had been in Dark Crystal. I was also quite surprised at how Large the Mystics are! They must weigh a ton, and I marveled anew at the skill of the many puppeteers who helped to make this lovely film.
Fraggle Rock, Sesame Street, Mopatops Shop, The Muppet Show, the Muppet movies, Labyrinth, Star Wars the list of creations with which Henson has touched the lives of children and adults around the world is truly impressive when viewed as a whole.
I will never forget the sheer wonder that filled me at having the opportunity to sing a room full of Girl Scouts and Scout Leaders to sleep while I perched on the edge of Big Birds nest, yet of all the displays we viewed in that long evening it was the creations of Dark Crystal that I came back to most often. It was a marvel just to be able to stand before them and let their unique beauty fill my eyes. If you have somehow missed this masterful Henson creation, I sincerely invite you to explore this exceptional world of wonder.
Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: None of the Above
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12
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