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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

NEW Interview with Brian Henson: Jim Henson's 'Labyrinth' Returns To Theaters and Set To Become A Musical


32 years after its original release, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth is heading back to movie theaters for three days only.

The nationwide fan celebration is the latest collaboration between Fathom Events, The Jim Henson Company and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Released in 1986, Labyrinth was met with a mixed critical response but it has gained a massive following and is now considered a classic. Opening in only eighth place at the U.S. box office, it actually dropped out of the top ten in its second week of release. By the end of its domestic run, Labyrinth had only grossed $12.73 million - that’s just over half of its $25 million budget.

I caught up with Brian Henson, director, producer and Chairman of the Jim Henson Company, to talk about the rerelease, working with his father and David Bowie, the movie’s legacy and his future plans for Labyrinth.

Simon Thompson: What's it like seeing Labyrinth back on the big screen?

Brian Henson: I think it's fabulous. We've remastered it and it looks absolutely beautiful. My dad did two giant worldbuilding movies, one was The Dark Crystal and the other was Labyrinth. The only way to fully appreciate those worlds is to see them on the big screen.

ST: How much work did you put into cleaning this up for the rerelease?

BH: We went all the way back to the original print. Every time you remaster it, it just gets better and better. When it was remastered for Blu-ray that was just 1080i resolution. I don't know what theaters will be playing for this version, but it'll be 2K to 4K. It really looks stunning.

ST: Labyrinth wasn't particularly successful when it was first released in movie theaters but it has become hugely popular and is considered to be a classic. Did you or your father, Jim, have any idea that it would become a pop culture phenomenon?

BH: Was I aware of it at the time? Not at all. I'm not even sure that my father was thinking that. I think it was something a little bit simpler that was going on. He had done The Dark Crystal, which was very dark and dramatic, and I think that when he went to do Labyrinth, he wanted to try to bring some of the humor back that he was known for. He also wanted to bring back some of the music and make a film that was more fun and yet was still fantasy and world creation. Honestly, I think what you intend to happen is rarely what happens. Coming off The Dark Crystal, I think my dad thought he was making a film that was more commercially viable and in the end, he was kind of wrong. With The Dark Crystal, it was so original that when people saw trailers they had no idea what to expect, they were intrigued. With Labyrinth, it looked like it was a little bit closer to the tone of things like Monty Python so the audience kind of thought they knew what they were going to get. Both movies have done tremendously well in the decades since they were released.

ST: Let's talk about David Bowie coming on board. Had he and your father worked together previously?

BH: No, never. I remember when my father was talking about David Bowie, who I was a huge fan of, being involved we went and saw him in The Elephant Man in New York. I believe that was one of the first times my dad had met David and Labyrinth was the first time they worked together in any way.

ST: How excited were they about working together?

BH: This was a collaboration and those were always tricky for my dad, meeting new people and going all in with them. I just remember him being so impressed with David. I remember when David brought his demos, his first passes at the songs, and they were so beautiful. We were used to demos that would be a singer and a piano or a singer and a guitar but David had someone like the Harlem Boys Choir singing backup. He had these beautifully produced tracks and I remember my dad was very impressed and was like, "Well, there you go! There's a guy who's kind of like me." My father couldn't do something kind of halfway, he had to do it as big and as good as he could make it and David was very similar. They both had a very similar, powerful artistic drive.

ST: What happened to those demos? I’m sure I’m not the only person who’d love to hear them. Are they in a vault somewhere?

BH: I don’t know. You’d have to go to David’s estate to find those. The songs were really his part of the film, he made adjustments with my father but that was really what he was bringing to the movie and, of course, his performance as Jareth.

ST: How much of Jareth was what your father brought to the table and how much was what David brought?

BH: The character really came out of the minds of three people. It was Brian Froud who had the image of what a Goblin King human being would look like, the big codpieces, the hair and so on, those were all Brian. My father just had the idea of an adult who really never really matured, a little bit of a Peter Pan type of character who was locked in a sort of teenage sensibility. Labyrinthis both a coming of age for Sarah and a coming of age, in a way, for Jareth as he learns his lesson about what he is. He’s a little petulant and unpredictable and he’s spoiled rotten and David, the third mind, took that on board and made it his own with his interpretation of all that together.

ST: How much of what was filmed have we seen and how much ended up on the cutting room floor? Was there a lot of additional material that didn’t make the movie that we might get to see one day?

BH: I know it’s disappointing but there’s very little that’s not in the movie. These were the old days and my Dad was a really responsible guy. This was not a studio movie, it was an independent film. If you shot 20% more than you needed, you spent 20% more and we didn't have that option. In those days working in England, you wrote a script and then you shot the script and then you edited the movie and then you released it. The idea of having a movie where the first cut would be four or five hours long was just something we would never have been able to wrap our heads around. It was so complicated making Labyrinth anyway that really he just had the script, he worked off that and once he’d shot a scene then that's pretty much what ended up in the movie. There will be lines here and there that were dropped but I don't think there's even an entire scene that didn't make the final movie.

ST: As an experience, was working on Labyrinth something that is particularly memorable for you?

BH: Absolutely. It's mostly because of how I was working with my father. It took a long time to make, probably over a year, and we were very short on puppeteers in Britain. It started with my dad asking me to train up a whole new corps of puppeteers and so I had to train a couple of hundred to find 40 that we could use. The world of Labyrinth, every scene, had to be filled in the back and that was what I had to do. I had to just make sure those characters were there and had something to do and the little goblins are flying, make sure those little guys are running over there and that was a lot of work. That basically meant my dad got to concentrate on what was immediately around the camera, what was in the script and so on. It was a big film for me. I was very young, maybe 20 or something, and I had done a couple of movies with a smaller role but this was the first one where I was in a much bigger capacity as part of the production. Working with my dad, it was nice for me and it was like we were working together as two adults, two independent adults, but we were also father and son and it was fun. It was fun for him to have a trusting working relationship with me and it was very rewarding. For any son, it's really nice to feel that moment where you really move to having an adult relationship with your father. I guess Labyrinth, to a large degree, was that for me.

ST: People have been asking for a sequel for many years. Apparently, there is one in production. Is there any update on that?

BH: There isn't really an update. I can say we are still excited about it but the process moves very slowly and very carefully. We're still excited about the idea of a sequel, we are working on something but nothing that's close enough to say it's about to be in pre-production or anything like that. We are working on a theatrical adaptation of the original movie for the stage. Those are the two areas of excitement for the Labyrinth property that we have. We are working on both of those but I certainly don't have a timeline for them.

ST: Would that be a Broadway musical?

BH: Not necessarily Broadway, it could be for London's West End, but it will be a stage show, a big theatrical version. It’s very exciting.

Labyrinth will play in movie theaters nationwide on Sunday, April 29, 2018, on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, and Wednesday, May 2, 2018. For tickets and more information, visit the Fathom Events website. EXCLUSIVE: Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock #1 (Preview)


The Fraggles are back in an all new stand alone adventure illustrated in beautiful watercolor and presented in a format perfect for longtime fans to share with the next generation.

Available on May 9th, 2018

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Varese Sarabande Announces 'Jim Henson's The Storyteller' Soundtrack

Varèse Sarabande will release a limited-edition box set of music from Jim Henson's The Storyteller on April 27, 2018. The 3-CD set, which is available for pre-orders beginning April 13, features original music composed by Academy Award winning composer Rachel Portman(Emma Chocolat), available for the first time ever.

The release contains music from Jim Henson's The Storyteller and its spinoff series, Jim Henson's The Storyteller: Greek Myths, a 32-page booklet of exclusive interviews with the producers of the series and Portman herself, and a collection of behind-the-scenes photographs.

Currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, the Emmy and BAFTA TV Craft award-winning Jim Henson's The Storyteller anthology series features both human actors and creations from Jim Henson's Creature Shop in this retelling of classic folk tales, fables, and legends. The series starred John Hurt in the title role. Aided by his cynical dog (performed by Brian Henson), Hurt narrates fascinating tales that combine humor, intrigue, and magic.

The series was the brainchild of Jim Henson's eldest daughter, Lisa Henson, CEO of The Jim Henson Company. Lisa, who majored in folklore and mythology at Harvard, suggested they create an anthology series based on these stories.

Composer Rachel Portman had been writing music professionally for only a few years when brought on by director Steve Barron to work on the pilot. "Steve and I talked about each film having a special sound and a special voice, and some special instrument that would be part of it. I chose very carefully a different coloration for each story, what the main instrument was going to be—because I wasn't able to have very many instruments, and I wanted it to be orchestral," Portman described.

Brian Henson, who was also the series head puppeteer and is currently chairman of The Jim Henson Company) had nothing but praise for the music. "Rachel Portman gives it a timelessness. She makes the show important," he said. "She makes the stories important. There's a gravitas that comes with her music, but then also the light, lyrical melody. I think it's just beautiful scoring of fantasy."

"I felt I had real freedom to go as dark as I wanted, musically," explained Portman. "I didn't shy away from being really sad, or really dark, or really happy. I think that really matched the way the whole series was done, and the scripts. It always kind of ends in minor. I don't know why. They all come back to a sad chord at the end."

Jim Henson's The Storyteller is currently streaming via the STARZ app. As a special treat, Fathom Events is hosting screenings of Jim Henson's Labyrinth in select theaters April 29, May 1&2. The event will include a special theatrical screening excerpt from The Storyteller.


Disc I:
Main Title (Extended Version) (0:41)
Hans My Hedgehog (Suite A) (4:19)
Hans My Hedgehog (Suite B) (6:22)
A Story Short (Suite A) (6:50)
A Story Short (Suite B) (5:19)
Fearnot (Suite A) (5:27)
Fearnot (Suite B) (6:37)
The Luck Child (Suite A) (6:17)
The Luck Child (Suite B) (5:09)
The Heartless Giant (Suite A) (6:50)
The Heartless Giant (Suite B) (6:53)
End Title (0:34)

Disc II:
Main Title with Narration (featuring John Hurt) (0:41)
The Soldier and Death (Suite A) (5:04)
The Soldier and Death (Suite B) (7:59)
The True Bride (Suite A) (5:41)
The True Bride (Suite B) (6:18)
The Three Ravens (Suite A) (7:34)
The Three Ravens (Suite B) (7:59)
Sapsorrow (Suite A) (5:18)
Sapsorrow (Suite B) (6:03)
Main Title (Short Version) (0:37)
Unused Bumper A (0:12)
Unused Bumper B (0:10)

Disc III:
The Storyteller: Greek Myths Main Titles (UK Version) (0:39)
Theseus & The Minotaur (Suite A) (7:23)
Theseus & The Minotaur (Suite B) (9:13)
Perseus & The Gorgon (Suite A) (7:00)
Perseus & The Gorgon (Suite B) (7:21)
Daedalus & Icarus (Suite A) (6:42)
Daedalus & Icarus (Suite B) (7:18)
Orpheus & Eurydice (Suite A) (8:47)
Orpheus & Eurydice (Suite B) (6:57)
Main Titles (US Version) (0:33)

Disc III Bonus Tracks:
Theseus (Suite) (1:34)
Orpheus (Suite) (1:29)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

‘Wesley The Owl’ Book Getting Screen Adaptation By The Jim Henson Company

The Jim Henson Company has acquired the rights to Stacey O’Brien’s bestselling memoir 'Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl', with 'Dolphin Tale' co-writer Karen Janszen attached to pen the adaptation.

Wesley recounts the true story of young Caltech biologist Stacey O’Brien. In 1985, Stacey is asked by her mentor to raise Wesley, a baby barn owl with a wing injury that will prevent it from surviving in the wild. What’s intended to be an objective study of owl behavior blossoms into a unique, hilarious and incredible story of discovery, persistence and love spanning 19 years.

Described as part 'Marley & Me', part 'Fly Away Home', Wesley dives inside the one-of-a-kind relationship between “an owl and his girl” and redefines expectations of what it means to love, to survive and, ultimately, to become whole. When O’Brien develops her own life-threatening illness, the biologist who saved the life of a helpless baby bird is herself rescued from death by the insistent love and courage of this wild animal.

Henson CEO & President Lisa Henson (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) is producing with Halle Stanford & Sarah Maizes for Henson Co. Andrew Trapani (Winchester) and Mark Hantoot will also produce. Larry Hummel and Tara Kurtz will co-produce the feature/TV project, which is out to filmmakers and cast.

Friday, March 23, 2018

BOOM! & The Jim Henson Company Announce "Jim Henson's Beneath The Dark Crystal" An All-New 12 Issue Series

BOOM! Studios and The Jim Henson Company are excited to announce Jim Henson's Beneath The Dark Crystal #1, an all-new twelve issue series debuting in July 2018.

Writer Adam Smith (Jim Henson’s Labyrinth 2017 Special) and rising-star artist Alexandria Huntington unveil a new sequel to the hit film as Kensho arrives at the Crystal Castle where he was once a lowly acolyte and is asked to accept the responsibility as leader of Thra. But he will have to rectify sins of the past before he can decide if he - or anyone - is fit to rule. Meanwhile, the realm of Mithra is being rebuilt by the newly-crowned Ember Queen Thurma, whose own quest to decide the future of her land is thrown into question when another Fireling makes a claim as the true heir to the throne.

Jim Henson's Beneath The Dark Crystal #1 features a main cover by Benjamin Dewey (Autumnlands), along with variant covers by Eisner Award winners David Petersen (Mouse Guard), Ramón K. Pérez (Jane), and Dave McKean (Sandman).

"The Dark Crystal is undeniably about wonder and hope, a fantastical world to be explored and saved from evil,” said writer Adam Smith. “In Beneath the Dark Crystal, we're so excited to continue that exploration to the world beneath Thra, Mithra. The Jim Henson Company has always told undeniably human stories wrapped in magic and mysticism, and we hope that readers will not just join us, but connect in some way, to a new world of hope and wonder. The next stage of Thurma and Kensho's relationship is a very human story, just with Firelings, Gelfling, and a very powerful Light.”

"The Dark Crystal has been one of my favorite films since childhood, and has largely inspired and influenced my illustrative work,” says artist Alexandria Huntington. “I am just really excited to add to that legacy. For me, The Dark Crystal transcends “fantasy” as the genre we know today, and harkens back to something more primal. It’s more a myth than a story, and there is something intrinsically magical about that.”

Jim Henson's Beneath The Dark Crystal #1 is the latest release from BOOM! Studios’ ambitious Archaia imprint, home to graphic novels such as Mouse Guard by David Petersen; Rust by Royden Lepp; Bolivar by Sean Rubin; Jane by Aline Brosh McKenna and Ramón K. Pérez; and licensed series like Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation.

"We were overwhelmed by the incredible fan response to The Power of the Dark Crystal and honored to continue the story of Thurma and Kensho in this new series,” said Cameron Chittock, Editor, BOOM! Studios. “Adam and Alexandria are exploring the world fans love in ways never seen before, while grounding the story in questions about responsibility and the greater good that’ll resonate on a deeper level.”

Print copies of Jim Henson's Beneath The Dark Crystal #1 will be available for sale in July 2018 at local comic book shops (use to find the nearest one) or at the BOOM! Studios webstore. Digital copies can be purchased from content providers, including comiXology, iBooks, Google Play, and the BOOM! Studios app.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

From Felix & Paul Studios: A Jim Henson Initiative

A limited series based on a script co-authored by late Muppets creator Jim Henson toplines a list of announcements coming from virtual reality producers Felix & Paul Studios. Its 35-project development slate explores everything from mental illness to the afterlife.

Although Henson is best known for Muppet characters (Kermit the Frog, Missy Piggy), he had a more experimental side, seen in short film “Time Piece” (1965) and hour-long teleplay “The Cube” (1969, shown above), which explored themes such as alienation and conformity. In that spirit he undertook “Tale of Sand,” which follows a man making his way through a dreamlike desert landscape, pursued by a one-eyed assassin.

Henson and frequent collaborator Jerry Juhl began working on the script in the 1960s and they put it aside in the mid-1970s, as “The Muppet Show” took off. In 2014, it was turned into as a graphic novel by artist Ramon Perez, and now screenwriter Jacob Chase is adapting it for a VR feature.

“You are with one actor for the whole movie, and it unfolds as you are experiencing it,” says Lisa Henson, CEO of the Jim Henson Co. “It’s a great part, and I hope we can find a very magnetic movie star to be in it.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"Muppet Guys Talking" Review by Nicholas Napoli

Muppet Guys Talking feels like a conversation you never want to end, I’m glad they have many additional hours of footage, I hope we get to see it all. I sat down for over an hour and by the time the documentary ended, I felt as though I had only been watching for five minutes. For the first time, in a long time, I felt the urge to watch a Muppet related production on repeated viewings, straight away. The Muppets (2015) was good, it included Muppets, this documentary on the other hand lacked Muppets, but still kept their
spirit, I could not wait to watch it again immediately. 

This proves how valuable the team beneath The Muppets are, they are the characters, and they bring life to The Muppets. Victoria Labalme as well as everyone else involved, achieved their goal, I can’t speak for all fans, but it my case, I was moved, inspired and have an even greater appreciation for what The Muppets stand for, than I had in the past. The Muppets as a franchise are known for these lovable characters but as a team, there is a lot more to being part of The Muppets. 

Jim Henson was very selective on who he chose, as Dave Goelz explained, determined to meet the people he eventually met. I for one am very glad, he never gave up on the people who he hoped to become part of The Muppet team. Years after his death, a select few, have gathered together, in his honour, to keep his legacy alive.
In this case not necessarily a Muppet legacy, but rather what Jim Henson stood for, and what he hoped his Muppets would represent, even years after he was gone. The silliness, the fun and love, shared between this group of people is just as entertaining to watch, even without Muppets covering their hands. This was a truly enjoyable documentary, it was fu
n, entertaining, deep, informative, and a step in the right direction, these were The Muppets, except without the characters on screen. Unfortunately we don’t have Jim Henson anymore, but we still have the people he worked with, the people who learned from him. These people are the ones who continue Jim
Henson’s legacy, by treating fans of Jim’s work, just as he would. I’ve met various people from this team in the past, including Steve, Bill, Peter, Matt, Eric and Dave, they are all so kind, welcoming and Jim-like. It’s a happy, positive, comfortable vibe, when you’re around them. Jim Henson didn’t just leave a legacy of characters behind for fans to appreciate, he left a legacy of great people behind too. These people share Jim’s views and appreciate life, as Jim did, being a Muppeteer, isn’t simply about puppeteering a Muppet. 

In this documentary we learn poor Fran Brill had to wear specially tailored boots, which made her stand tall, alongside her fellow male Muppeteers, whilst performing. Bill Barretta explains the difference between performing Dr Teeth and Rowlf, specifically what he learned from Jim Henson, when performing the actual
voices of these two characters. Dave Goelz shares his insecurities through his characters and Jerry Nelson informs us, he had a bad marriage. My favourite part in the documentary comes from Jerry himself, when explaining about his audition for Jim Henson. Jerry explains, sending a recording with a voice, very similar to a voice, Jim already performed, and Jim himself told Jerry not to do that voice anymore, he did that voice. Hearing Jerry Nelson imitate Jim’s Kermit was the highlight for me, of this whole documentary. The Muppets hold a special place in the hearts of these performers, as does their relationships, this documentary details this well. As Frank Oz has explained, if you do something you love, when your career is gone, when there is no money left, you will still look back with fond memories, you had spent time doing what you loved, everything else was just a bonus. 

What I found most interesting was that these Muppeteers began as fans of Jim Henson’s work, and through their inspiration and dedication, they’ve ended up keeping his legacy alive. Bill Barretta for instance, has now taken over the role of Rowlf, Dr Teeth, The Swedish Chef and Mahna-Mahna. Working at Sesame Place, one day, whilst cleaning toilets, Bill witnessed Jim Henson walk in through the main entrance. Bill left his post and walked up to Jim and finally met the man, who had replied to his Brother Gene’s letter, all those years ago. Dave Goelz once took a day of vacation from work, to drive up to a puppet festival Frank Oz was performing at, specifically to meet him. Dave asked Frank what Grover’s nose was made out off and Frank replied “I really don’t know, we have people who do that kinda stuff”. Frank’s response did not stop Dave from asking him a second question, he asked Frank, if he were ever to reach New York, might he be able to visit Sesame Street, Frank replied “just call me when you get there”. That’s exactly what Dave Goelz did, a few months after, he finally made it to New York and after searching through the phonebook, he ended up calling Frank. That day, Dave found the answer, fans have been asking for years, can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street? Apparently you just travel to New York and then call Frank Oz. Jim Henson once asked Fran Brill to create a sweet little girl, Prairie Dawn was born. As the years went by, Fran made Prairie Dawn her own character, one that became very wilful, she even began directing people, she became part of Fran. I’ve always wanted to know more about Frank Oz’s connection to The Muppets, unfortunately for the longest time, this important member of The Muppet team, had been a mystery to me. Muppet Guys Talking finally helps me understand who Frank Oz is, and why he was Jim Henson’s greatest collaborator, thank you Frank Oz for agreeing to make this documentary, it was well worth the wait, you are a remarkable talent.