In 1982, Jim Henson and The Henson Company brought movie-goers on an adventure that would transport them far away from “The Muppet Show” and “Sesame Street”, and drop them on the world of Thra, an apocalyptic land of monsters and magic, where the key to ultimate power and eternal life was found in a mysterious crystal. A masterful display of puppetry, coupled with an innovative turn at storytelling, Jim Henson gave us “The Dark Crystal.”
The series features a laundry list of Hollywood’s heavy hitters, including the voice talents of Taron Egerton, Mark Hamill, Helena Bonham Carter, Natalie Dormer, Harvey Fierstein, Lena Headey, Jason Isaacs, Eddie Izzard, Theo James, Keegan-Michael Key, Simon Pegg, Andy Samberg, Anya Taylor-Joy, Alicia Vikander, Sigourney Weaver, Benedict Wong and Awkwafina, just to name a few.
Convention.Life caught up with director Louis Leterrier, actor Taron Egerton, and CEO of The Henson Company, Lisa Henson, to discuss the upcoming Netflix release of Jim Henson’s “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” series.
ON DISCUSSING WHY IT’S TAKEN SO LONG TO COME FORWARD WITH A PROJECT THAT WOULD REVISIT THE WORLD THAT JIM HENSON CREATED IN THE ORIGINAL FILM:
LISA HENSON: We, at The Henson Company, have been developing sequels, prequels, graphic novels, all sorts of content around “The Dark Crystal”, because we believe the world that was in the original movie was so convincing. We felt it had a past, present and future, and we could explore it. Some projects are reboots. This is not a reboot. This is a prequel, and it’s meant to lead seamlessly into the film, so we’re very conscious of anything that was established in the film, in that we would have to be able to get there eventually in our storytelling.
LOUIS LETERRIER: It’s been 37-years since the movie came out. The Henson Company people have made stories, back stories, future stories. The movie is just the center of a very long story. So we had all that stuff to take in, digest, make our own story, but also respect that canon, break from that canon, just have fun with it, make it our own. The show itself, there are a lot of fans, a lot of you guys know the original movie. But there are more people that don’t know “The Dark Crystal.” And that’s who we need to bring into our story. Eventually, when you get to 10 hours, you can watch, as a dessert, the final movie. But it starts in the beginning: The “why.” What happens to these people, and what tips the wall over. That’s really what this show is about.
WHEN ADDRESSING THE AMOUNT OF WORK INVOLVED, FROM CHARACTER DESIGN TO VOICE ACTING, TO GET A PROJECT AS UNIQUE AS THIS OFF THE GROUND:
LISA HENSON: All the characters we designed, they were built even before we cast puppeteers into them, and then last, really, we cast the voices. The design of these characters drive everything, because we have to create every cast member of this show. So, the characters were built in Burbank at the creature shop, and we continued building costumes and some more supporting characters in London once we moved there.
LOUIS LETERRIER: Everything is done by hand. We’re not talking months. We’re talking years. Prepping, looking at the design, deciding on something. We committed to a design years in advance. We do this. We perfect this stuff. We see sculpts. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Most times, it works. We do hair. We do this. We do this. And it eventually becomes your lead actor. And there’s not a single shot where I don’t have a puppet in my frame. It takes a long, long time. Casting comes afterward, but that’s the same thing. You have to aim perfectly ever time. It’s very, very scary, but its one of those things where we were lucky to feel the edge of this razor for years, and just be like, “Now were done. Now were finished.”
LOUIS LETERRIER: It’s a dream of a cast. All these people signed on, and it’s really thanks to Jim Henson and the power of the original movie.
TARON EGERTON: I watched the film originally, I think, probably when I was six or seven. My dad showed it to me. I just thought it was completely enchanting, and fairly quite scary, but in that kind of very exciting way. And so, around eighteen months ago, when I got a call about this, I really thought it was so exciting to be involved with something that I was so enamored with as a kid. It’s very, very faithful and evocative of the original movie.
LISA HENSON: We could never forget the incredibly hard work of the puppeteers. We had twelve main puppeteers on the show who did all the main characters, and it is extreme physicality. It’s such hard work, but for a puppeteer to be able to be on “The Dark Crystal” is a crowning achievement.
TARON EGERTON: From an acting perspective, it’s really quite incredible, watching them do their thing, and the individual personas and characters they bring to their craft. It really is 80% of the performance.
WHEN DISCUSSING THE ADVENT OF TECHNOLOGY AND CG IN THE PRODUCTION OF THE SERIES:
LOUIS LETERRIER: In the 80’s, every movie that came out was important. There were a lot of movies that thematically, visually, but also in terms of film making, were important. They were bringing cinema forward and taking it in a direction it had never gone before. “The Dark Crystal” was one of these movies. When I was lucky enough to meet with Lisa Henson, and begged her to do something with “The Dark Crystal”, I said, “Let’s reintroduce the audience to the wonderful world that Jim Henson and Frank Oz had created.” Now, technology has evolved. CG is the norm now. There is a wonderful artistry of the puppetry that I wanted to keep in the center and really put on a pedestal in this show, but we enhanced everything. Not everything, but the world is bigger thanks to CG. Everything you see is real, but just enhanced here and there. We shot real locations, but then we put three suns in the sky. Changed the mountains, changed the color of the rivers and everything. The puppets, some of them, couldn’t blink, so we helped them blink. But there is no “Everything is CG.” There is more puppeteering. There’s more captured on camera than any movie I’ve ever done.
AND WHEN ADDRESSING THE SPIRIT OF THE ORIGINAL CARRYING OVER INTO THE SERIES:
TARON EGERTON: I think the original movie, for anyone who is a fan of it, fell in love with it. I do think melancholy is an intrinsic part of it. That’s part of the charm of it and the love of it. And so given the fact that Louie and Lisa and the whole team have sat about making the story very much in the spirit of the original, there is an element of melancholy to it, and I think that’s part of its charm.
LISA HENSON: We think this is a really hopeful and inspiring story about heroes who, when faced with a really scary and mysterious threat, pull together and fight as a team. We do have amazing villains. They’re delicious villains. They’re very horrible and very scary. But they’re also funny.
TARON EGERTON: It’s a fantasy show. It’s a family show. It’s about being lost in wonder and adventure.
LOUIS LETERRIER: It is as fun as it is dramatic. It is as small and human as it is heroic and big. It’s about beings coming together, fighting for what they feel is right, and this was important for our writers, and this was important for us. It’s a family show. You will watch it with your kids. These kids will get to grow up and make decisions for this world. Better teach them the right things early on and show them the right things. I think The Henson Company has done that for a long, long time.
ON THEIR PARTNERSHIP WITH NETFLIX:
LISA HENSON: This particular, big, streaming show couldn’t happen until now, but I think Netflix staked a big claim. It just was a really brave move for Netflix to green-light the show because I had been talking about making either a sequel movie or an animated show that was a prequel show. Instead, Netflix green-lit this premium television series that looks just like the movie, which is of a completely different scope than we ever dreamed of doing. We were just in heaven when they told us they were interested in doing that. So I think it’s timely, and I think it could be potentially generational, but this is also a step beyond just nostalgic rebooting.
LOUIS LETERRIER: We could not have done it in a better way, and we did it thankfully with Netflix
“The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” premieres on August 30, 2019 on Netflix.