The Dark Crystal

This was originally created for a special 30th anniversary screening of Dark Crystal. Special guests included Gary Kurtz and Terry Ackland-Snow.

There wasn’t any CGI or 3D trickery available to film-makers back in 1982, when Muppets creator Jim Henson made his elaborate fantasy epic The Dark Crystal. From the elfin Gelflings who undertake a quest to restore balance to their world to the large, grotesque, lizard-like Skeksis who are trying to stop them, everything in the film was created using the unsurpassable puppetry and animatronics that Henson gave to the world.

Like the Muppets, The Dark Crystal was essentially a British production. Both were funded by the media mogul Lew Grade, who recognised Henson’s creative genius and the potential of the rich, imaginative story he had been working towards for many years. However, the film’s producer was the great American film-maker Gary Kurtz, who worked with George Lucas on Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, among many other pictures. In another brilliant coup for Wayne Imms’s The Space, Kurtz was in attendance at this 30th anniversary screening, and took part in a question and answer session afterwards with art director Terry Ackland-Snow.

Much as it was great to see Henson’s wonderfully dark vision realised on the big screen once more, it was Kurtz’s stories of how the film came to be realised at all, together with the pithy remarks of Ackland-Snow, that made this event really special. Illustrated by fascinating anecdotes, both men reflected on how the quite extraordinary labour involved in the sophisticated puppetry of The Dark Crystal would make such a film inconceivable in the 21st century, where problems they overcame with painstaking effort can now be quickly addressed in the digital domain. – By Tim Norman