Labyrinth

Labyrinth is a 1986 British/American fantasy film directed by Jim Henson, produced by George Lucas, and designed by Brian Froud. Henson collaborated on the screenwriting with children’s author Dennis Lee and Monty Python alumnus Terry Jones.

The film stars David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King, and Jennifer Connelly as Sarah Williams. The plot revolves around Sarah’s quest to rescue her little brother, Toby, from Jareth while trapped in an enormous otherworldly maze. Most of the other significant roles are played by puppets or by a combination of puppetry and human performance. It was shot on location in New York and at Elstree Studios and Hampstead Heath in the UK. It was the last feature film directed by Henson before his death in 1990.

Trivia:

Monty Python member Terry Jones wrote one early version of the script. Little of his material was retained beyond the point where Sarah eats the poisoned peach. The original script ended with Sarah punching and kicking Jareth, then watching him shrink down until he’s becomes a small and “snivelling” goblin. Also, Toby’s name was Freddie in the early drafts of the story. The baby’s name was changed because the infant Toby Froud would only react to his own name.


The full costume for Hoggle was lost for some time. It turns out that it was lost on an airplane and later bought from the airline by ‘The Unclaimed Baggage Center’, a store in Scottsboro Alabama. It is now on display in their museum.

 


The sources of the characters can be seen in Sarah’s bedroom at the beginning of the movie. She has a stuffed animal that looks like Sir Didymus on her dresser, a doll that looks like Ludo on the shelves next to her door, a Firey doll on a shelves next to her bed, bookends with with Goblins reminiscent of Hoggle on her dresser, and figurine of Jareth on the right hand side of her desk. After you see the Hoggle bookend, there is a scrapbook shown. It shows newspaper clippings of Sarah’s famous actress mom with another man, David Bowie. In addition, the dress that she wears in the ballroom scene can also been seen adorning the miniature doll in her music box, and a wooden maze game on her dresser next to her books is reminiscent of the hedge section of the Labyrinth. There is also a small painting on her wall that depicts a contraption much like the one operated by the “Cleaners” that Sarah and Hoggle had to escape from.

 


To help the puppeteer inside him to see, there was a miniature video camera in Ludo’s right horn that fed to a small television monitor mounted inside the puppet’s stomach.

 


The various things that Jareth does with the crystal balls (rolling them around his arms and in his hands and so forth) are not camera tricks or any other kind of special effect. They are actually done by choreographer Michael Moschen, who is an accomplished juggler. Moschen was actually crouched behind Bowie with his arm(s) replacing Bowie’s. Unlike a typical Muppet performance, however, he had no video screen to view his performance. In other words, his manipulations were performed completely blind.

 


The split sculpture was an invention of Jim Henson and Debbie the Roboteer for Labyrinth. It looks simply like a series of rocks until the camera pans to the correct angle, then it resembles Jareth’s face. Developed over several grueling evenings with hot, noisy robots and Plastina Romana at the Robotorium, Inc on Mott Street in NYC during the early-1980s.

 


During the “Escher room” scene there is a sequence when Jareth’s crystal ball seems to bounce up the stairs and into Toby’s hand. This was accomplished by having Toby drop the ball down the stairs, and then reversing the shot.

 


David Bowie did the voice (gurgling) for the baby in the song “Magic Dance”.

 


In the DVD version, there are hidden faces in seven scenes. In general, they resemble the head that Jareth leans against before giving Hoggle the peach (David Bowie’s actual face at that time). The faces can be found: Upper right corner of the [stone] maze, just after the worm shakes its head and says “If she’d have kept on going down that way…” To the right of the screen, after the rung under Hoggle breaks, as he watches it fall. Upper left corner of the hedge maze, as Hoggle is muttering “Get through the labyrinth, get through the labyrinth, one thing’s for sure… ” Lower right corner of the wall bordering the Bog of Eternal Stench, just after the ledge breaks under Sarah and Hoggle for the first time. During the wide shot of the hedge maze in the middle left on the stony floor just after the hat says, “It’s so stimulating being your hat.” In the forest as Sir Didymus says “We should reach the castle well before day.”

 


Director Trademark: [Jim Henson] During the Goblin Battle scene, while Sarah and the gang opens the door to the Goblin Castle, you can see milk bottles near the door.

 


The upside-down room in the Goblin City is directly inspired by a drawing by M.C. Escher (entitled “Relativity”) – which can been seen in Sarah’s room at the beginning of the film.

 


According to the Goblin Companion (a book that gives a description of every goblin in the Labyrinth – written by Brian Froud and Terry Jones) the Junk Lady who carries everything on her back is named Agnas.

 


Sarah’s dog “Merlin” is also used for Sir Didymus’ mount “Ambrosius”. In Lady Mary Stewart’s stories of King Arthur, Merlin is known as “Merlin Ambrosius”

 


In one version of the script, the junk lady was actually a puppet being manipulated by Jareth, and the junkyard was actually a town complete with a bar that Hoggle visits before they find Sarah.

 


The owl in the title sequence is computer generated – the first attempt at a photo-realistic CGI animal character in a feature film.

 


The baby who plays Toby is Toby Froud, son of Brian Froud who was the conceptual designer for both this movie and The Dark Crystal (1982), another Jim Henson production.

 


In the scene where Toby is seated on Jareth’s lap, the baby has a fixed and hypnotized look off-camera as Jareth murmurs evilly into his ear. In fact, Toby screamed so much during the many takes of this scene, that something had to be done to keep him quiet. Fortunately, a crew member had a glove-puppet Sooty. For the duration of Jareth’s speech, David Bowie had the Sooty puppet on one hand (out of shot) gently wiggling to distract Toby. The child was entranced, hence the hypnotic stare, and the perfect silence.

 


After solving the problem of the guards who lie or tell the truth, Sarah falls into an oubliette, which Hoggle describes: “It’s a place where you put people…to forget about ‘em!” Oubliettes were a type of dungeon where the only entry was through an opening high in the ceiling. To leave an oubliette was practically impossible without external assistance. The word “oubliette” comes from the French word “oublier’ meaning ‘to forget”. The basic premise was that an oubliette was a dungeon for prisoners that the captor(s) wished to forget. Prisoners were often left to starve to death in an oubliette.

 


Just after the Junk Lady places “dear old Flopsy” behind Sarah she slips a book titled The Wizard Of Oz behind Flopsy.

 


Two official music videos promoting this title and marrying it to the career of pop artiste David Bowie (who played Jareth the Goblin King) were released. “As the World Falls Down” features scenes from the film itself, not just the ballroom scene, and includes specially filmed scenes of Hoggle together with Bowie. “Underground”, which can be heard as the final credits roll, features many of the films characters again in specially filmed scenes with Bowie.

 

Filed under: Fantasy

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