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A teenage girl obsessed with imagination and fantasy angrily wishes for her baby brother to be spirited away by goblins – only to discover goblins have done exactly as she asks. To rescue her brother she must make her way through an elaborate maze filled with bizarre creatures, and she must do it within thirteen hours if she wants to ever see her brother again.
Labyrinth is one of the most popular children’s films of all time. Since its release in 1986 it has become part of a select group of perennial favourites with audiences, re-discovered by one generation after another for its bold visual imagery, popular songs, and enchanting characters. The film itself marks a unique collision of talents between writers (including former Monty Python performer Terry Jones), director (Muppet creator Jim Henson), producer (Star Wars creator George Lucas) and stars (including iconic musician and actor David Bowie). The film tells a broadly familiar story, but it tells it in a comparatively unique and wonderful fashion.
Despite the broad range of talent assembled to produce Labyrinth, it remains first and foremost Jim Henson’s film.
Jim Henson was a giant of American popular culture. He started his career as a puppeteer for children’s television and over a period of 30 years had transformed his creations – which he whimsically named Muppets – into an international phenomenon. They formed the basis for the hugely successful educational series Sesame Street, featured prominently in the first season on Saturday Night Live, and featured in their own enormously successful variety series The Muppet Show.
While entertaining children formed the bulk of Henson’s career, his attention was always pressed on new concepts and new ideas. Sometimes these ideas were technical – particularly in terms of new methods of presenting puppet characters in film and television – and sometimes these ideas were creative. Certainly by 1980 Henson was chafing against the expectations of producing endless Muppet productions – by this stage his characters had graduated to their own feature film, The Muppet Movie (1979). While he was contractually obliged to produce and direct a second Muppet film, his heart lay in a much more elaborate and ambitious project titled The Dark Crystal.
The Dark Crystal was a feature film set entirely within a fantasy world. The film used complex and ground-breaking puppetry techniques to develop a world with no human actors in it – literally the first time such a feature had been produced. Henson co-directed the film with his long-time performing partner Frank Oz, and collaborated closely with artist and production designer Brian Froud.
When The Dark Crystal was released in cinemas in 1982 it was not as warmly received by audiences and critics as Henson had expected. He found people telling him that it was too cold and bleak, and difficult to watch. The film was a mild commercial success, and certainly its prestige grew immensely over the following years, but for Henson it felt like a small disappointment. While his Muppet productions continued – he handed directing duties of 1984’s The Muppets Take Manhattan to Frank Oz – Henson was focused on directing a follow-up to The Dark Crystal that could be brighter, funnier and more engaging. It was to be, in effect, everything he had been told The Dark Crystal was not.
‘Brian Froud and I started considering Labyrinth as The Dark Crystal opened,’ said Henson, ‘because we decided not to think about another film until Crystal did open. We wanted to do a lighter weight picture, with more of a sense of comedy since Dark Crystal got kind of heavy – heavier than we had intended.’[i]
Henson’s first thoughts were of some kind of epic mythological tale, possibly inspired by the Mahabharata or some similar text. It was Brian Froud who suggested something based around goblins instead: Froud had already devoted much of his career to illustrations of goblins, fairies and other European folkloric characters, and was not particularly interested in designing anything based on Indian mythology. Froud’s first illustration for the project was of a baby surrounded by goblins, and from there he and Henson came up with the idea that the baby had been kidnapped by the goblins. When Henson asked for a setting, it was Froud again who suggested some kind of giant maze. Both men felt there could be some metaphorical purpose to the maze, and with those two elements in place their next project was established.
To produce his new fantasy picture, Henson approached one of the Hollywood figures whom he had most admired in recent years: George Lucas.
Henson had first met Lucas when the latter required a puppet made for his 1980 sequel The Empire Strikes Back. Originally Lucas had wanted Henson himself to perform the role of the diminutive Jedi master Yoda, but at Henson’s own recommendation Frank Oz was hired instead. Lucas’ own producer Gary Kurtz went on to produce The Dark Crystal for Henson and Oz, and Lucas even gave unofficial feedback to Henson on a rough cut of Crystal prior to its release in 1982.
‘One of the main reasons I wanted George involved in Labyrinth,’ said Henson, ‘is because I think he balances me. I’m stronger than he is, on character and personality, while he’s very strong on plot and structure – far more than I am.’[ii]
George Lucas said: ‘One of the reasons I got involved was that this picture doesn’t talk down to kids. I’ve been involved in one way or another in every story made in this genre for the last five years – E.T., Return to Oz, Dragonslayer and my own films. One contribution I could make to Labyrinth was to keep the script focused. It’s a real trick to keep a script focused, to keep it from going for the amusing incident. Jim is receptive to ideas. I like to throw out a lot of ideas and not have anybody be threatened or get his feelings hurt.’[iii]
A conversation with fellow fantasy artist Alan Lee led Brian Froud to realise that his and Henson’s original setting – an entirely fantasy world with no link to reality whatsoever – was going to bring their project uncomfortably close to Legend, another fantasy film being directed by Ridley Scott at the time. To avoid accidentally treading in the same territory, they developed the idea of a young woman named Sarah travelling from our real world into a fantasy environment – copying, in essence, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
In a small coincidence, Labyrinth and Legend would ultimately share the same cinematographer: the respected English director of photography Alex Thompson, who had previously shot John Boorman’s Excalibur. Thompson said: ‘Jim Henson used to say, “Look, tell me if you did this on Legend and we won’t do it! I lit the film brighter because the sets were brighter.’[iv]
While promoting The Dark Crystal in Japan in March 1983, Henson started to jot down ideas and sketches in a notebook – the traditional manner in which he developed new projects. There was no story developed, simply random concepts and ideas of things that the film’s young protagonist might encounter in their travels. At this stage Henson was mulling over three possible titles: The Labyrinth, The Maze and The Labyrinth Twist.
His first outline focused on a king and a court jester attempting to make their way through the labyrinth, which was filled with all manner of elaborate and ornate traps. He eventually settled on a female protagonist: the sister of the kidnapped baby on a quest to rescue him.
Once he had a rough handle on the sorts of visual imagery he wanted to present, Henson hired Canadian poet Dennis Lee to develop a storyline. By December Lee had completed what was described as a ‘poetic novella’. Henson kept himself busy in the meantime, performing in and producing The Muppets Take Manhattan for Tri-Star Pictures, overseeing the final development of his new HBO series Fraggle Rock, and even toying with another TV project titled Starboppers that ultimately went unrealised.
With a storyline being developed Henson went about finding a screenwriter to translate Lee’s finished novella into a filmable script. His daughter Lisa, then working at Warner Bros, had recently read Terry Jones’ children’s novel Erik the Viking. She thought its humorous tone was perfect for what her father had described in his Labyrinth project. Jim Henson was already familiar with Jones’ work, having been an avid viewer of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and immediately called John Cleese – with whom he had already worked on both The Muppet Show and The Great Muppet Caper – to sound out if Jones would be likely to be interested. Cleese reportedly told him hiring Jones would be ‘a really marvellous idea’.[v]
Unbeknownst to Henson at the time, Terry Jones had started thinking about launching his own film adaptation of Erik the Viking. A day after a missed call from Henson’s office, Jones called the office himself to try and set up a meeting to convince Henson to collaborate on an Erik feature. Once contact had been made Henson successfully convinced Jones to put Erik the Viking aside – Jones would ultimately direct it five years later – and write Labyrinth instead.
In Terry Jones Jim Henson gained an unexpected bonus. In addition to being a successful comedic writer and performer, Jones was also an Oxford University graduate majoring in English Literature and History. This background heavily informed Jones’ take on the material, ultimately giving Labyrinth a rich, medieval detail behind the humorous characters and colourful set pieces.
Jones commenced work on a Labyrinth screenplay in January 1984. He found Dennis Lee’s novella to be rather difficult with which to work, and instead relied heavily on Brian Froud’s illustrations. ‘I sat at my desk,’ he explained, ‘with Brian’s drawings stacked on one side of the desk and writing away, sort of to see what would happen. And every time I came to a new scene and I needed another something to happen, I looked through Brian’s drawings and found a character who was speaking to me already and suddenly, there was the scene. It was wonderful.’[vi]
The film was initially conceived as a period piece, with both Sarah and her brother coming from 19th century England. This setting was changed to contemporary America in order to boost the film’s commercial appeal.
Jones soon found that his own ideas did not match well with what Henson already had in mind. ‘In my version,’ said Jones, ‘she goes into the labyrinth, and eventually finds out there is no solution. She keeps thinking she’s solved it, and then it keeps cheating on her. The idea in the end is that she finds out there is no solution, you’ve got to enjoy it. When she gets to the centre, she finds out that the character who seemed all-powerful to begin with isn’t all-powerful. In fact, he’s someone who uses the labyrinth – which is basically the world – to keep people from getting to his heart. She gets there and annihilates him in the end. So, it’s about the world, and about people who are more interested in manipulating the world than actually baring themselves at all, having any kind of emotional honesty. Jim couldn’t understand the story at all.’[vii]
Henson knew there were elements in Jones’ draft that he liked, but he also knew there were parts that he did not like. Working out how to tease out his desired screenplay would take another twenty-four drafts and several additional writers. It was during the writing process that George Lucas was most active as executive producer, providing feedback on each draft as it was completed and offering suggestions on how to better pull the structure of the screenplay together.
The second screenwriter hired was Laura Phillips, one of the writers on Fraggle Rock. While she reworked Terry Jones’ draft Jim Henson kept busy supervising the release of Muppet Babies, an animated spin-off from The Muppets Take Manhattan and the first animated TV series based on the Muppet characters.
One of the changes made as the screenplay developed was how the film’s villain was presented. Jareth, the self-appointed goblin king, was originally planned as a puppet character. In an effort to give the film more of the human element that The Dark Crystal lacked, Jareth was re-imagined as a role for a human actor to play.
‘The Goblin King was originally planned to be another creature,’ said Henson, ‘until it occurred to us to make it an actor. While we were considering various and sundry actors, we thought to make Jareth a music person, someone who could change the film’s whole musical style.’[viii]
Composer Trevor Jones, who had provided the orchestral score for The Dark Crystal, recalled discussing the idea with Henson: ‘Jim and I were sat in an airport… I don’t remember which airport it was because we visited so many cities in so little time… and Jim asked me, and I remember this clearly, “what are we going to do next?”, and I said “what do you mean?”, and he answered “for a film, what are we going to do next?” and more or less I told him that “now that we’ve done this big orchestral score for Dark Crystal, why don’t we go for a rock idiom, why don’t we use a totally contemporary approach to fantasy?” He stared and replied “what do you mean?”, and I told him we’ll use drums and guitars to give the film a very contemporary feel and the one thing that would made the film totally different from Dark Crystal would be the use of real actors… then Jim thought for a moment and told me “if we use this rock idiom who could we use to give a real sense to it?”… So we began thinking on all the big rock stars Mick Jagger, Sting… All the rock stars who could act…’[ix]
Henson had been considering approaching actors such as Simon MacCorkindale or Kevin Kline. With the idea forming of having a singing Jareth with a rock star persona, he immediately gravitated towards using Sting, the former lead singer of The Police who had recently launched his own solo career.
It was Henson’s sons John and Brian who intervened, pushing their father to approach David Bowie instead. Their argument was simple: Sting might have been popular at the time, but Bowie would remain popular forever. David Bowie already performed in several feature films, including Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and David Hemmings’ Just a Gigolo (1979), and had also performed the title role of The Elephant Man on Broadway. Bowie also possessed a mercurial quality that Sting lacked: he regularly changed his style and image, giving Henson a broader latitude in developing Jareth for the screen.
‘He first brought me the concept on the 1983 tour that I did in America,’ said Bowie, ‘and asked me if I’d consider doing the part. And he showed me Brian Froud’s artwork, and he showed me a copy of The Dark Crystal, which I found a fascinating piece of work. And I could see the potentiality of making that kind of movie, with humans, with songs, with a more of a lighter comedy script.’[x]
Henson met Bowie in New York on 18 June 1984. While negotiations and creative discussions continued over the ensuing months it was not until February 1985 that they met again in person. Henson travelled to Bowie’s home in Switzerland to finalise their agreement before Bowie was officially signed on to play Jareth.
Bowie’s casting led to a rewrite of the screenplay, since at its then-current draft Jareth did not appear too frequently during the film. With the addition of a popular star, as well as several musical numbers, this approach needed to be revised. Bowie wrote all of the songs for the film – five in all – with Trevor Jones composing the score afterwards, broadly based on Bowie’s melodies.
Bowie said of his character: ‘One feels that he’s rather reluctantly inherited the position of being Goblin King, as though he would really like to be – I don’t know – down in Soho or something. But he’s not. His thing in life is to be Goblin King, and he runs the whole place as well as he can. And he’s kind of spoiled. He gets everything his own way. He’s a big kid.’[xi]
Like many actors Bowie found working with puppets slightly disorientating. ‘I had some initial problems working with Hoggle and the rest because, for one thing, what they say doesn’t come from their mouths, but from the side of the set or from behind you or wherever because that’s the way it’s done.’[xii]
Puppet builder Tim Rose recalled: ‘When Bowie came on set, he had with him who we called the bulldog, his personal minder. She came around to all of us and told us “Mr Bowie is sitting in his chair and he doesn’t wish to be disturbed. When Mr Bowie is smoking a cigarette, that means Mr Bowie is having personal time to himself and doesn’t wish to be disturbed”. So to the Muppet people, it was like “Oh, Mr Bowie is having a hard time coming out of his shell. Well we’ll show him”. So we completely ignored everything she said to us, and within a week and a half, he was having so much fun with us, that he told her to go home and that she wasn’t really needed around here.’[xiii]
On 5 July 1984 20 actresses auditioned for the role of Sarah, of whom only one – the 18 year-old Helena Bonham Carter – was short-listed. From July to January 1985 additional auditions were held on a monthly basis. An extraordinary list of young actresses read for Henson, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Mary Stuart Masterson, Laura Dern, Lili Taylor, Laura Sam Giacomo, Marisa Tomei and Mia Sara. A select few – notably Jane Krakowski, Ally Sheedy and Maddie Corman – were short-listed alongside Helena Bonham Carter. Henson, however, remained unconvinced and continued searching.
While Jim Henson was negotiating with David Bowie and auditioning actresses, he was also negotiating with Australian magnate Robert Holmes à Court. In 1982 the business tycoon had led a takeover of Associated Communications Corporation (ACC) from Lord Lew Grade, giving his company ownership of not only The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper but also all 120 episodes of The Muppet Show.
After weeks of negotiation Jim Henson re-purchased the Muppet productions from Holmes à Court for US$6.5 million dollars. The deal included all rights to license or produce merchandise as well – something that was becoming increasingly lucrative. After securing the rights to his earlier works Henson took a vacation to Edinburgh, where he spent a weekend poring over the various drafts of Labyrinth in attempt to pull them together.
On 24 September 1984 Henson met with George Lucas, Fraggle Rock producer Larry Mirkin, and Laura Phillips to discuss her latest draft of the Labyrinth screenplay. The aim of the meeting was to take the elements that worked best in Phillips’ draft, incorporate them with the pre-existing Terry Jones draft, and to find a stronger through-line for Sarah’s character development.
Jones did not entirely agree with Lucas and Henson’s insistence that Sarah’s emotional journey be so carefully structured. ‘I don’t think we need to lay Sarah’s character on the line too much,’ he wrote in a note to Henson. ‘The function of the late-for-baby-sitting episode is to establish her thoughtlessness and refusal to grow up and accept responsibility, but we’ve got a live actress playing the part and she can convey a lot of this in her manner and by the way she talks and walks.’[xiv]
The existing screenplay draft had Jareth masquerading as the writer of the play Sarah reads in the park at the beginning of the film, and then stealing her brother away against her wishes. One key change in the rewrite was to make Sarah complicit in her brother’s disappearance: she actively asks for him to be taken away, and then must recover him as a result. It was a smart change, giving her a more personal stake in the story and forcing a maturation of her character as the film progressed.
In October 1984 Jim Henson’s Creature Shop team started to undertake test shoots with rough mock-ups of the film’s various puppet characters in order to determine appropriate scales for each of them. Jim Henson participated in the tests personally, juggling the shoot with promotional duties for the recently launched Fraggle Rock TV series, shooting scenes for the new season of Sesame Street in New York, and lecturing at the Academic of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles.
By Christmas the special effects team desperately needed to start working on props and set elements in order to meet their April deadline, yet a final approved screenplay had not arrived. On the orders of producer Eric Rattray (Dragonslayer) the team started work based on the most recent draft they had available.
The final screenplay, expected in December, did not arrive in January either. In February 1985 Henson hired yet another writer, comedian Elaine May, to take a pass at the screenplay and tighten up its dialogue. This draft, which was approved by Henson just four days before the film started shooting, was the final version.
The screenplay had one final hurdle before it could be committed to production. The author and artist Maurice Sendak had been told of the film’s storyline, which he felt tracked perilously close to that of his 1981 book Outside Over There, in which a young girl is forced to rescue her baby sister from goblins. Furthermore Sendak had been told that the film was to include a group of violent, raucous monsters named ‘Wild Things’, which he felt infringed on his rights to his popular picture book Where the Wild Things Are.
The Wild Things were rapidly renamed Fireys, and retained in the final film. As for the storyline, Henson felt his work stood on its own and continued despite Sendak’s protestations. Despite this – or possibly because of it – Sendak received a ‘thanks to’ credit in the final film, and a copy of Where the Wild Things Are prominently appears in scenes set in Sarah’s bedroom.
‘Jim was hurt,’ said executive producer David Lazer. ‘If things had been reversed, he would say, “Oh, go use it.” But he didn’t consciously steal anything.’[xv]
The audition process for casting Sarah had initially targeted 18 year-old actresses who could play younger ages, since that approach would avoid the time restrictions that came with using a minor. When that approach failed to deliver an actress who met with Henson’s satisfaction, the director started considering younger performers. ‘And roughly at that point,’ said Henson, ‘Jennifer Connelly came in, and she was great. It was one of those moments you hope happen when you’re casting – she just came in and seemed exactly right.’[xvi]
The 14 year-old Connelly had first worked as a child model when she was 10. At her mother’s suggestion she started auditioning for acting roles as well, and was soon cast in the role of Deborah Gelly in Sergio Leone’s sprawling film drama Once Upon a Time in America. She subsequently starred in Dario Argento’s 1985 horror film Phenomena.
Connelly was offered the part within a week of auditioning in early February 1985, and as soon as she accepted it Henson paid for her and her mother to relocate to London in advance of the shoot.
Connelly and Henson enjoyed a close working relationship during the Labyrinth shoot. ‘I really trusted him and everything he was doing,’ said Connelly. ‘As a person, he’s very gentle; he’ll never raise his voice. He’s very under control, calm and easy going. I don’t think anyone could really dislike him.’[xvii]
‘I found I could talk very straight to her,’ said Henson, ‘I didn’t have to tip-toe around her feelings or anything like that.’[xviii]
Labyrinth commenced principal photography at London’s Elstree Studios on 15 April 1985, following several weeks of puppetry rehearsals. David Bowie was not available for filming until June, and so the first six weeks of shooting concentrated on Sarah’s adventures through the labyrinth.
The US$25 million dollar production occupied all nine soundstages at Elstree, with the film’s various puppets and animatronic characters filling the Creature Workshop over in Hampstead Heath. ‘It was a big movie,’ recalled producer Martin Baker, ‘I mean Jim didn’t do anything unless it was complicated and unwieldy.’[xix]
One element contributing heavily to the complexity of the Labyrinth shoot was the huge number of puppeteers, technicians and production staff required to hide either just below the action or out of shot. Most puppet characters required at least two puppeteers to operate, and they required small TV monitors to see their performances as they went – and that meant a complicated maze of screens, cameras and cables littered around the set. These technical requirements restricted cinematographer Alex Thompson to mostly static camera angles with little opportunity for tracking shots or pans. Shift the camera two inches off-shot, and it would likely reveal a cable, monitor or technician.
During the shoot Henson remained active in other productions: he would typically shoot Labyrinth from Monday to Friday, take a plane to New York on the Friday night, spend the Saturday supervising other projects – notably the Little Muppet Monsters and Fraggle Rock TV series – and then take a second plane back to London on the Sunday. Likely due to his busy schedule, Labyrinth was the first Henson production in which he did not perform any of the characters himself.
There’s a clever misdirection in the opening moments of Labyrinth. We cut from the credits to a scene of a young woman in a medieval gown delivering a defiant speech, except it’s suddenly apparent that it’s not what it appears to be. We’re simply watching Sarah, a contemporary American teenager, reciting lines of dialogue from a book titled The Labyrinth. We had been promised a fantasy film by the advertising, and appear to get it – only to have it yanked out from under our feet. The scene is also rather clever in how it foreshadows the film’s climax. What Sarah reads out here she says again when confronting Jareth.
Sarah realises she is running late, and sprints across town to get home. Her father and stepmother are going out, and she is supposed to be babysitting her infant brother. She is, understandably, in trouble. Sarah, also not surprisingly, despises her stepmother: she is a girl obsessed with fairy tale and fantasy, and an evil stepmother fits that narrative perfectly. Upset at being chastised, Sarah storms off to her room.
Sarah’s stepmother and father were played by Shelley Thompson and Christopher Malcolm. Asides from Sarah, Jareth and baby Toby, they are the only humans seen in the film. Thompson was primarily a theatre actress, although she later found fame playing Barbara Lahey in the popular Canadian comedy series Trailer Park Boys. Christopher Malcolm had played a variety of small roles in film and television. Like Thompson, his most famous role came some years later when he played the recurring character Justin in the BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous.
A closer examination of the contents of Sarah’s bedroom is illuminating. It contains a marble maze, copies of The Wizard of Oz and Where the Wild Things Are, hand-made stuffed toys resembling the various puppet characters of the film, a demonic-looking figurine resembling Jareth, a music box with a princess on top dressed identically to Sarah in the film’s ballroom sequence, and a prominent print of an M.C. Escher drawing of randomly positioned stairs and doorways. In essence: everything that Sarah encounters in her journey through the labyrinth is already present before her journey begins.
Briefly seen in this scene is a photograph of Sarah’s biological mother, apparently an actress, arm in arm with what we can assume is her new partner. Critically, the partner in the photograph is played by David Bowie.
So what are we to make of this? All of the elements of Sarah’s imminent fantasy adventure are already in her life. The characters she will meet are her own soft toys, she’s already been reading a version of her adventure in a book titled The Labyrinth, and the villainous goblin king looks identical to her mother’s new boyfriend.
The immediate assumption is that everything about to happen in the film is imagined, with Sarah dreaming the entire experience. While that explains the bulk of the film it doesn’t explain the final scene, in which Sarah – freed from the labyrinth and back in her room – successfully begs its various inhabitants to stay with her. That scene basically reduces the possible iterations of the film down to three: first, that Sarah is still dreaming when the film concludes, which is the easiest explanation but is somewhat unsatisfying; second, that she’s simply imagining them with her, which seems equally unsatisfying; third, that Jareth is real, has been observing her for some time, and creates the labyrinth and its inhabitants purely to seduce and impress her.
Sadly I suspect the real answer is a fourth option: that Henson, with a strong sense of whimsy, simply threw in the goblins in her bedroom for a happy yet nonsensical ending. That third reading is a potent one, however. There is a very slight but disturbing sexual frisson between Sarah and Jareth throughout the film. It’s too evident not to be deliberate, and it adds an unexpected edge to the film’s bright, colourful frivolity. Jareth forces Sarah to explore his labyrinth because he wants, perversely, to please her. He looks like her mother’s boyfriend because he wants to appear familiar to her. She spends her life absorbed in fantasy stories, medieval costumes and fairy tale creatures, and so he serves up exactly that with which she has already surrounded herself. At his entrance in human form he doesn’t even introduce himself: it’s up to Sarah to identify him: ‘You’re him, aren’t you? You’re the goblin king.’
Jareth is obsessed with Sarah. He watches her in the guise of a white owl at the film’s beginning, and he watches her in the same guise at its end. In between he gives her everything he thinks she wants. This is my preferred reading of the film: Sarah is real. Jareth is real. Everything she encounters after her brother is taken he has created for her.
Sarah’s baby brother was played by Brian Froud’s own infant son Toby. ‘Brian Froud was expecting a child at the time that we needed a baby,’ said Henson. ‘It was funny because Brian had done an early illustration of the baby surrounded by goblins long before his wife got pregnant. The child arrived looking just like the illustration! It was uncanny’.[xx] The screenplay initially named the baby Freddie, but it was easier on set to simply use Toby’s own name.
Almost 30 years later, Toby Froud said: ‘I have vivid memories of goblins’ faces and strange creatures and chaos around me that could just be from growing up in the house I lived in, or from seeing the film as many times as I have, or it could be remembering the puppets that were in front of me. I’m not sure.’[xxi] As an adult Toby Froud became an artist and filmmaker, collaborating with Lisa Henson on the short feature Lessons Learned – a puppet-based fantasy film that owes an enormous debt to their respective fathers’ works.
Jareth makes his entrance as soon as Sarah discovers Toby has been taken, fluttering through the window in the form of an owl before transforming into a strange new romantic figure in deliberately tight pants, ruffled shirts and leather jackets. In terms of design Jareth cuts an impressive figure: part rock star, part kabuki performer, part 18th century aesthete. He essentially starts attempting to seduce her from the first sentence. He gives her what she wants – her brother taken away – and the moment she changes her mind he gives the opportunity to get him back. He effortlessly juggles a glass orb in front of her to impress her, while offering her all manner of dreams and trinkets.
The professional juggler Michael Moschen manipulated the glass orb that Jareth presents to Sarah. In order to make it appear that it was Jareth who was rolling it from hand to hand, Moschen was forced to hide behind David Bowie and manipulate the orb without looking.
Jareth gives Sarah thirteen hours in which to solve his labyrinth before her brother is lost forever. The thirteen-hour deadline, complete with accompanying clock, is a neat touch. We are so used to thinking of hours in units of twelve that it instinctively feels unnatural – George Orwell uses the same technique at the start of his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The first person she meets on her journey is Hoggle, a cowardly dwarf who is urinating in a pond and killing fairies with a spray can of poison. It positions him as a particularly cruel character – until Sarah gets bitten by one of the fairies.
At the time Hoggle was the most complex character of his type ever created for a film. Five performers were required to bring Hoggle to life: four puppeteers and a physical performer, Shari Weiser, inside. Weiser would perform the character’s physical movements while the puppeteers used 18 radio-controlled motors inside the head to manipulate the face. The lead puppeteer on the character was Henson’s own son Brian. Since completing college, Brian Henson had worked as a puppeteer on several film projects unrelated to his father, including Return to Oz, The Santa Claus Movie and Little Shop of Horrors. Labyrinth marked his return to the family business. ‘Although I was working with my father,’ he recalled, ‘I considered myself independent of the company at that point.’[xxii]
In addition to leading the puppetry on Hoggle, Brian Henson also provided his voice.
Once inside the labyrinth, Sarah experiences a series of surreal, episodic encounters beginning with a seemingly endless corridor that doesn’t seem to have an end or any doors or side passages.
The long corridor was a single length of set with a forced-perspective backdrop attached at one end. To create the illusion of Sarah running along the passage for some distance, 12 separate set dressings were produced that could be dropped into the scene: a piece of crumbling masonry in one, a fallen tree in another, and so on. The set was redressed constantly between shots so that once edited together, the illusion of a much longer passage would be complete.
Sarah is helped out of the corridor by a blue-haired worm wearing a scarf. The puppet was performed by Karen Prell and voiced by Timothy Bateson. Prell had worked as a Henson puppeteer since the final season of The Muppet Show, and remains most famous for performing the role of Red Fraggle in Fraggle Rock. Timothy Bateson is an English character actor who had performed in all manner of films and television programs – most notably Grange Hill, where he played the school teacher Mr Thomson.
While Sarah begins her journey through the labyrinth, Jareth observes her progress from his goblin court.
Jareth’s court was one of the film’s busiest and most complex sets, with more than 50 puppeteers cramped under the set floor and behind its walls operating 48 separate puppet characters. So many goblins were required to fill the set convincingly that additional puppeteers were brought onto the project on a week’s notice.
Being surrounded by so many screaming, frantic goblin puppets was somewhat traumatic for Toby Froud. To calm him and enable the scene to be completed, David Bowie performed most of his close-ups with Toby on his lap and a hand-puppet of the British children’s TV character Sooty on his hand just out of shot.
It’s in the goblin king’s court that David Bowie performs the first of four songs within the film narrative. A fifth song, “Underground”, accompanies the film’s opening and closing titles, in two different arrangements. Here he sings “Magic Dance”, an upbeat, largely nonsensical number with lyrics that reference The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, a 1947 comedy in which a teenage Shirley Temple forms a crush on the much older Cary Grant.
Sarah comes across two doors, guarded by strange two-headed guards. They present her with a traditional ‘knights and knaves’ logic puzzle: one door leads to the next part of the labyrinth and the other to ‘certain death’, she can only ask one guard one question before making her choice, and one guard always tells the truth while the other always lies.
The guards were performed by Steve Whitmire, Kevin Clash, Anthony Asbury and Dave Goelz, and voiced by Anthony Jackson, Douglas Blackwell, David Shaughnessy and Timothy Bateson. Steve Whitmire had been working for Henson since The Muppet Show, where he performed Rizzo the Rat and other minor characters. He would subsequently replace Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog after his death.
Clash was a recent hire by Henson Associates, and was originally hired to perform on Sesame Street; at the time of shooting Labyrinth he had recently taken over from Richard Hunt in playing a relatively obscure Muppet named Elmo. Over the ensuing decades his performance would make Elmo one of the most widely-known and beloved Muppet characters of all time.
Dave Goelz remains one of the most famous Muppet performers of all time, chiefly for his long-running performance as Gonzo the Great in The Muppet Show and subsequent films and TV specials.
Sarah appears to have passed the test, but immediately falls through a trapdoor and into a pit. She is caught by a mass of talking hands. The shaft of hands was an idea originally developed by Terry Jones, who imagined single hands ‘talking’ by simple puppet motions between the fingers and the thumb. Jim Henson imagined something much more elaborate, with multiple hands combining to form numerous cartoon-like faces. It’s an unexpectedly simple technique for a film packed with elaborate mechanical and animatronic characters, and yet it remains one of the most striking and effective elements.
The helping hands were fitted into a 40-foot high set, with 24 core performers and an additional 75 extras slotting their hands through specially-made holes in the walls. When it was clear that there were not enough hands to convincingly fill the scene, another 150 prosthetic hands were quickly cast in rubber and added to the background.
‘And Jenny,’ recalled Henson, ‘because she had to fall down through the middle of the shaft, was sitting in a harness on a pole-arm, floating her, out in the middle of space, which is not a comfortable place to be. When you’re on top of that stage, you look like you’re way up in the air, with nothing underneath you. And she was such a good sport – and if anything, she enjoyed heights.’[xxiii]
‘It was difficult,’ recalled Alex Thompson, ‘and I don’t know that we overcame all of the problems really. I could only light the set from one end of the tube, so obviously, the closer she is to the opening, the brighter she appears, and the darker she becomes down at the bottom, which is only natural. In cinematic terms, I had to make it appear that she got dark and darker as she fell, while still allowing for enough light that you could see her at the bottom of the shaft.’[xxiv]
From the shaft Sarah falls into the oubliette: another Terry Jones addition, based on the medieval dungeon where prisoners could be dropped inside and effectively forgotten – or at least ignored. She is rescued by Hoggle, and escorted by him through a maze of underground passages. When Sarah and Hoggle reach the surface, it’s in the presence of a wizened old man with a talking hat – referred to in the screenplay as “the Wise Man”. The Wise Man was performed by Frank Oz, although the character’s voice was provided by respected English actor Michael Hordern.
From here Sarah enters the second main section of the labyrinth: while the first was comprised mainly of stone and brick walls, this second section is a combination of hedge maze and forest. To achieve the dense wooden look Henson wanted, the production team shipped in 120 truckloads of tree branches and almost 400 kilograms of dried leaves.
Sarah rescues a giant beast-like creature named Ludo from goblins that are torturing him. Ludo was performed by two artists: Rob Mills and Ron Mueck. They each took turns performing inside the massive suit. Even when constructed with deliberately light-weight materials, the costume still weighed 35 kilograms. It also heated up very quickly under the studio lights. Ultimately both Mills and Mueck had to be partially removed from the costume between takes to avoid getting over-heated.
Sarah is soon separated from Ludo in the forest, and stumbles upon the Fireys; originally named the ‘wild things’ until Maurice Sendak objected. They are raucous red-furred creatures capable of pulling off their own heads and playing with them – something they suggest doing to Sarah’s head as well.
The Fireys sequence was one of the most technically challenging of the film. ‘We shot them against a black background,’ said Henson, ‘and then shot a second pass with the camera on the set so we had to have a motion control system which allowed the camera to repeat the move. There are more opticals (visual effects shots) in that segment of the film than anywhere else.’[xxv]
The Fireys were performed by a team led by Steve Whitmire. The Fireys’ voices were supplied by a separate group of singers, including Danny John-Jules and Charles Augins – both to later appear in the BBC television series Red Dwarf (John-Jules as the Cat, Augins as the holographic computer Queeg). “Chilly Down”, the musical number that the Fireys perform here, was the one song in the film written by Bowie that he did not also perform. It was the first song that Bowie wrote and recorded for the film, undertaken while he finalised his song Absolute Beginners in London.
On to the next stage of the labyrinth: the Bog of Eternal Stench.
Special effects supervisor George Gibbs said: ‘We made it from 30,000 gallons of water, mixed with a ton of celacol, which is a non-toxic powder and thickening agent that’s often used as the basis of wallpaper paste. We also threw in some brown and blue dyes, plus industrial liquid paraffin and lots of tiny glass beads. The result was a nice gluggy, flexible sludge. And then we fixed things so that lots of little bubbly effects gurgled odiously. It all looked disgusting!’[xxvi]
While escaping the bog, Sarah is reunited with Ludo, and also meets the fourth and final member of her key companions: Sir Didymus, a terrier dressed and a chivalrous knight, who rides a sheepdog named Ambrosius. Didymus was performed by Dave Goelz and David Barclay, and voiced by David Shaughnessy. Ambrosius is notably the same sheepdog as Sarah’s real-world pet Merlin. The two names are almost certainly in reference to 12th century writer Geoffrey of Monmuth, who in writing Arthurian stories gave the wizard Merlin’s full name as Merlin Ambrosius.
Sarah and her friends escape the bog, but Hoggle – fearful of further recriminations by King Jareth – offers Sarah a poisoned peach. She bites from the peach, and falls into a dream-like state. There she dreams of an elaborate masked ball, where she dances with Jareth.
The ballroom sequence was choreographed by actress and dancer Cheryl Gates, who also choreographed much of the puppet movements through the film. ‘It was probably the most free time for me,’ she said, ‘in terms of just exploring my own ideas and working with people and trying to come up with a style for that sequence.’[xxvii] Following the completion of Labyrinth, Gates concentrated more on her acting career. The following year she was cast, under the stage name Gates McFadden, as Dr Beverly Crusher on the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The ballroom sequence was Jennifer Connelly’s favourite part of the film. ‘I wore a beautiful silver ball gown,’ she said, ‘which was a refreshing change from the blue jeans I wore in almost every other scene. It was really a gorgeous set, with masses of huge chandeliers and thousands of flickering candles, hundreds of silken cushions and curtains, and masses of people in strange masks and ornate dresses. There was the thrill of dancing with David Bowie to one of the songs he composed especially for the film.’[xxviii] That song is “As the World Falls Down”, a rather Bryan Ferry-esque ballad that contrasts against the more energetic songs elsewhere in the film.
Jim Henson was famously enamoured with the idea of masked balls, and had recently started holding an annual ball for staff at Henson Associates. During the first ball in 1984 he attended dressed in costumes and prop elements that had been in construction for Labyrinth.
Sarah wakes from the dream in a seemingly endless junkyard, but has lost her memory. A strange junk-collecting goblin tries to placate her, and shows her to her bedroom. Sarah recalls her mission to save her brother and breaks out of the room, declaring all of her childhood toys and fantasy object to be ‘just junk’. It seems a significant moment in Sarah’s development, moving on from childhood obsessions to focus on her responsibility towards Toby.
Props master Barry Wilkinson recalled: ‘We had this huge stage filled with supposedly rubbish and these little people are rummaging all through it, and what have you, and of course you can’t use real rubbish – it’s all got to be manufactured.’[xxix]
The Junk Lady was performed by Karen Prell and voiced by Denise Bryer. Prell operated the puppet from inside, with her hand manipulating the Junk Lady’s face and the top half of her body hidden inside the enormous backpack of trinkets. Denise Bryer was an English voice actress, whose credits included the English language dub of the puppet series X-Bomber (under the title Star Fleet) as well as the Gerry Anderson series Terrahawks, where she voiced the villainous Zelda.
Early drafts of Labyrinth had the Junk Lady actually be Jareth in disguise. Later drafts imagined her as a more malevolent figure, actively attempting to smother the amnesiac Sarah beneath piles of garbage. The final draft softened the character, making her more of a pathetic and doddery figure.
Sarah escapes from the junk yard, reunites with Ludo and Sir Didymus, and approaches the goblin city: the final stage of the labyrinth before reaching Jareth’s castle.
The gates to the goblin city are defended by an enormous mechanical soldier referred to by the crew as Humungous. It represented an enormous technical challenge. At 15 feet it was the largest puppet in the film by a considerable margin, and when it first appears it is separated into two halves – each set into a massive door that then link together when the doors are closed. Work on Humungous commenced in December 1984 and it was only completed for shooting in early June 1985. The scale and power of the puppet led to it being constructed using servo-hydraulics and operated via a computer program.
Hoggle returns to rescue Sarah from Humungous, redeeming himself after his betrayal and securing his position as her friend.
The goblin city was the film’s largest set, and required the longest painted backdrop in the history of Elstree Studios. A large cast of little people were hired to play various goblins running through the streets behind rubber masks. These actors included Kenny Baker (best known for operating the R2-D2 prop in Star Wars), Warwick Davis (Return of the Jedi and Willow), Malcolm Dixon (Time Bandits) and Jack Purvis (Brazil).
Ludo defeats the goblin army by calling on assistance from rocks: hundreds of rocks from small stones up to enormous boulders roll into the city, crushing or scaring away the goblin soldiers. 100 prop rocks were constructed with polyurethane, with 20 fitted with remote control mechanisms that allowed them to roll and turn on command.
Sarah leaves her friends behind at the entrance to Jareth’s castle, and confronts the goblin king on her own. Inside she finds a warped, elaborate maze of platforms and staircases that resembles the M.C. Escher artistic print Relativity.
The film’s climax is a brilliant combination of set design, music and visual effects. Some of the effects used to create it were relatively complex, including split-screen visuals, cross-faded footage and model work. Others, such as the bouncing of Jareth’s orb into the baby Toby’s hands, was simply achieved by letting Toby Froud drop the orb and then replay the footage in reverse.
Due to the complex nature of the set and the numerous incorporated matte paintings Alex Thompson found it difficult to light the scene well enough to give it sufficient contrast. He ultimately installed small lamps just out of shot in each of the set’s various arches and doorways, creating just enough lighting to give the scene a dynamic, three-dimensional look.
While Sarah scrambles up stairways and through doorways in an attempt to reach Toby, Jareth mournfully sings “Within You”, the fifth and final song of the film. To be honest it’s barely a song: Bowie’s lyrics are brief, and the melody jolts unexpectedly from 3/4 time to 4/4, 6/4 and back again. It creates a disturbing effect, as if the entire world of labyrinth has started to fall off-kilter.
When Sarah finally confronts Jareth face to face, his obsession with her is displayed front-and-centre: ‘Everything that you wanted I have done,’ he says. ‘You asked that the child be taken. I took him. You cowered before me. I was frightening. I have reordered time. I have turned the world upside-down, and I have done it all for you!’
Sarah defeats Jareth by reciting the climax of the book she was reading in the film’s first scene, culminating it telling him ‘you have no power over me’. She appears to be doing two things at the same time. On the other hand she is closing off the narrative in the way that it’s written in her book. With her role complete the world of the labyrinth vanishes, and she and Toby are returned to their respective bedrooms. On the other hand she is actively rejecting not merely Jareth’s unsettling romantic advances but the fantasy narrative altogether. She has learned responsibility and maturity, and rejects Jareth as a means of putting away childish things.
The Laura Phillips draft of the film was more direct, with Jareth proposing to Sarah that she become his queen and Sarah refusing his advances in disgust. Jareth then transforms into his true self: ‘an undersized, ineffective, snivelling little goblin’. She leaves with her brother, and the fantastical elements of the story end there.
The finished film keeps the fantasy elements going. With Toby safely asleep in his cot, Sarah returns to her room where she sees visions of her labyrinth friends in a mirror. They offer to return if she ever needs them, to which he exclaims that she needs them all the time. The film ends with her partying in her room with Hoggle, Ludo and a crowd of goblins.
The ultimate message of the film is fairly direct: that there is a time to grow up, but there is also worth in holding onto one’s fantasies as well. Keeping one eye on the real world and the another immersed in whimsy and fantasy is pretty much a description for Jim Henson’s own life.
As far as the narrative goes, however, there’s still the owl. It watches Sarah and the goblins through her bedroom window before flying off into the night. This is where any reading of the film as a dream or a purely internal fantasy on Sarah’s part begins to fall apart. She doesn’t see the owl; she is clearly unaware of its presence, just as she wasn’t aware of it in the film’s very first scene. It seems, therefore, to be a completely separate element of the story, uninfluenced by Sarah’s own imagination. It suggests that whatever Jareth actually is he is still watching her, and continues magically giving Sarah whatever she desires. She wanted her brother gone; Jareth provided. She wanted to rescue her brother; Jareth acquiesced. Now she doesn’t want Jareth at all, but does want his goblin creations. So that’s exactly what he provides. It’s a creepy, slightly uncomfortable ending, and makes one wonder how much further into Sarah’s life this supernatural, shape-shifting stalker will continue to pursue her.
This sense of discomfort is part of what I think makes Labyrinth as effective a film as it is. It’s not a simple children’s fantasy, filled with twee characters and whimsical invention. There’s a definitely undercurrent of sexuality running between Sarah and Jareth that’s instinctively inappropriate. It’s subtle, which means that the film largely gets away with it, but it’s also just prominent enough to give the story a nuance and depth.
Principal photography of Labyrinth concluded on 6 September 1985, although Henson undertook a few minor reshoots in December involving the Hoggle puppet.
With production complete, Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop went about shutting down shop again until their services were needed. Henson personally intervened: he worried that a permanent animatronics and puppetry team could undertake research in between projects, as well as supply materials and services to other film and television productions. The team had already worked on their first non-Henson project a year earlier, providing puppets for Gavin Millar’s film Dreamchild. Under the supervision of producer Duncan Kenworthy, a ten-person team were held on retainer and started developing puppets and visual effects fulltime.
Over the years the Creature Shop has worked on numerous productions including those for the Henson Company – including The Storyteller, Dinosaurs and The Witches – and other producers, production companies and studios – including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Babe, Lost in Space and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
George Lucas returned to Labyrinth once editing was underway, giving Henson feedback as the production was slowly cut together. In November both Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie travelled to New York to undertake additional dialogue recording (ADR). While post-production went on Henson continued to split his focus on other projects, including performing in Fraggle Rock, producing a Muppet 30th anniversary TV special and overseeing the development of a children’s production titled The Tale of the Bunny Picnic.
The final element of the film to be completed was its opening titles, which featured a then-startlingly realistic computer-generated owl. The striking images were created by Digital Productions, who had previously produced the visual effects scenes for The Last Starfighter (1984). The owl was the first time a living creature had been generated with 3D computer graphics for a feature film.
During production Henson had noted he had other feature projects in development. ‘I have a couple of films vaguely in mind,’ he said, ‘two wildly different ideas. I don’t know which one I’m going to do.’[xxx]
Those films never eventuated. Despite some positive test screenings and a generally happy reaction from Tri-Star Pictures, Labyrinth was a critical and commercial failure.
Of the American critics, Gene Siskel was the most negative – in fact his review was openly hostile. ‘It has been said many times before in this space,’ he wrote, ‘that the sight of a baby in peril is one of sleaziest gimmicks a film can employ to gain our attention, but Henson does it.’ Siskel described Labyrinth as both ‘really quite awful’ and ‘an enormous waste of talent and money’.[xxxi]
Over at the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert was more polite but still unenthused. ‘Great energy and creativity went into the construction, production and direction of this movie,’ he wrote, ‘but it doesn’t have a story that does justice to the production.’[xxxii] It is noted without comment that Ebert’s review misidentifies Hoggle as Toby.
In the New York Times Nina Darnton praised the puppets but criticised Jennifer Connelly’s performance, writing that ‘she lacks conviction and seems to be reading rehearsed lines that are recited without belief in her goal or real need to accomplish it.’[xxxiii]
Whether due to the negative reviews or competing films, the movie-going audience did not flock to see Labyrinth. It opened on 27 June 1986 in eighth place, stacked behind the likes of The Karate Kid Part II, Ruthless People, Top Gun and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In its entire USA domestic run the film grossed less than US$13 million dollars. Box office was similarly poor internationally, with the exception of Japan where it became an unexpected smash hit.
The commercial failure of Labyrinth affected Jim Henson very deeply. Speaking shortly after Henson’s death, his widow Jane recalled that ‘Labyrinth was a real blow. He couldn’t understand it. He talked to Brian and said, “What did we do wrong?”’[xxxiv]
‘The film wasn’t received terribly well to start with,’ said Brian. ‘And I think that was the closest I’ve seen him to turning in on himself and getting quite depressed. It was a rather bad time, and he went to the south of France for a few days to wallow in it. He told me he was writing.’[xxxv]
What Jim Henson was writing were two handwritten letters to his family, to be delivered to them by his attorneys in the event of his death. They received them after his unexpected death in 1990 due to streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.
Long-time collaborator Frank Oz vehemently defended the film. ‘Take a look at Labyrinth and forget the story for a moment.’ he said. ‘The images you get are abso-fucking-lutely amazing. Absolutely amazing. That’s Jim’s production design and that’s what his love was. It was just staggering the work he did.’[xxxvi]
Over the years Labyrinth’s reputation has grown as successive generations of children have been won over by its unique charms. 21 years after Gene Siskel’s savage review in the Chicago Tribune, the very same newspaper reviewed the film again, this time claiming ‘it’s a real masterpiece of puppetry and special effects, an absolutely gorgeous children’s fantasy movie.’[xxxvii]
Jim Henson only directed three feature films in his entire career: The Great Muppet Caper, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. Following Labyrinth’s release he focused on other television projects, notably The Storyteller and The Jim Henson Hour, as well as producing or advising on a range of films such as Nicolas Roeg’s The Witches or Steve Barron’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
At the time of his death he was negotiating to sell off his entire Muppet franchise to the Walt Disney Company, so that he could concentrate on new filmmaking projects. It was a tragedy that he died when he did – not just for his friends and family, but for all of the wonderful and imaginative fantasy films that he never managed to make, and that audiences never managed to see.
[i] Pirani, Adam, “Into the Labyrinth with Jim Henson”, Starlog, August 1986.
[ii] Dennis Freeland, “Jim Henson: awaiting Labyrinth”, Starlog, June 1986.
[iii] Aljean Harmetz, “Star Wars and Muppet wizards team up for Labyrinth”, New York Times, 15 September 1985.
[iv] Ron Magid, “Labyrinth and Legend, big screen fairy tales”, American Cinematographer, August 1986.
[v] Brain Jay Jones, Jim Henson: The Biography, Ballantine Books, New York, 2013.
[vi] Quoted in Des Saunders, dir. Inside the Labyrinth: The Making of Labyrinth, Labyrinth Enterprises, 1986.
[vii] Kim “Howard” Johnson, Life Before and After Monty Python, St Martin’s Press, New York, 1993.
[viii] Pirani, Adam, “Into the Labyrinth with Jim Henson”, Starlog, August 1986.
[ix] Sergio Benitez, “Two days with Trevor Jones on the phone”, BSO Spirit, 30 June 2004.
[x] Quoted in Des Saunders, dir. Inside the Labyrinth: The Making of Labyrinth, Labyrinth Enterprises, 1986.
[xi] Quoted in Des Saunders, dir. Inside the Labyrinth: The Making of Labyrinth, Labyrinth Enterprises, 1986.
[xii] Quoted in “Bowie talks about his newest film, Labyrinth”, Movieline, 12 June 1986.
[xiii] Quoted in “The man who built Howard the Duck”, Empire, May 2015.
[xiv] Quoted in “Jennifer Connelly auditions for Labr”, Jim’s Red Book, The Jim Henson Company. (http://www.henson.com/jimsredbook/2011/01/1291985/)
[xv] Brain Jay Jones, Jim Henson: The Biography, Ballantine Books, New York, 2013.
[xvi] Pirani, Adam, “Into the Labyrinth with Jim Henson”, Starlog, August 1986.
[xvii] Daniel Dickholtz, “Labyrinth’s lost young lady lost”, Starlog, June 1986.
[xviii] Brain Jay Jones, Jim Henson: The Biography, Ballantine Books, New York, 2013.
[xix] Quoted in Building Invisible Walls: The Making of Labyrinth, The Elstree Project (http://theelstreeproject.org/)
[xx] Dan Scapperotti, “Labyrinth”, Cinemafantastique, October 1986.
[xxi] Aaron Scott, “Toby, the baby from Labyrinth, grows up to be a goblin king – in Portland”, Portland Monthly, 19 June 2014.
[xxii] Kenneth Plume, “Interview with Brian Henson”, IGN, 9 August 2000.
[xxiii] Pirani, Adam, “Into the Labyrinth with Jim Henson”, Starlog, August 1986.
[xxiv] Ron Magid, “Labyrinth and Legend, big screen fairy tales”, American Cinematographer, August 1986.
[xxv] Dan Scapperotti, “Labyrinth”, Cinemafantastique, October 1986.
[xxvi] Quoted in Labyrinth production notes, Labyrinth Enterprises, 1986.
[xxvii] Quoted in Des Saunders, dir. Inside the Labyrinth: The Making of Labyrinth, Labyrinth Enterprises, 1986.
[xxviii] Quoted in Labyrinth production notes, Labyrinth Enterprises, 1986.
[xxix] Quoted in Building Invisible Walls: The Making of Labyrinth, The Elstree Project (http://theelstreeproject.org/)
[xxx] Pirani, Adam, “Into the Labyrinth with Jim Henson”, Starlog, August 1986.
[xxxi] Gene Siskel, “Jim Henson’s wizardry lost in Labyrinth”, Chicago Tribune, 30 June 1986.
[xxxii] Roger Ebert, “Labyrinth”, Chicago Sun-Times, 27 June 1986.
[xxxiii] Nina Darnton, “Screen: Jim Henson’s Labyrinth”, New York Times, 27 June 1986.
[xxxiv] Susan Schindehette, “Legacy of a gentle genius”, People, 18 June 1990.
[xxxv] Stephanie Harrigan, “It’s not easy being blue”, Life, July 1990.
[xxxvi] Brain Jay Jones, Jim Henson: The Biography, Ballantine Books, New York, 2013.
[xxxvii] Michael Wilmington, “Labyrinth”, Chicago Tribune, 15 June 2007.
4 thoughts on ““Everything I’ve done, I’ve done for you” | Labyrinth (1986)”
What a gorgeous essay! Thank you so much for sharing this with us, your personal love for the film shines brightly in your writing.
Thanks, great article about a great production story ! really thanks
This is incredible! Thank you so much for the hours you spent putting all of this together. This is amazing.. a lot of this makes sense! You know… “Labyrinth” could easily have been a manga or anime. Even the designs of the characters remind me of it… I thought that was really neat that some of these concepts were developed while Jim Henson was in Japan