Jim Hen­son’s Labyrinth: The Ul­ti­mate Vis­ual His­tory

Amaz­ing art Lose your­self in this col­lec­tion of con­cept art and be­hind-the-scenes ma­te­rial from the cult fan­tasy film, which brought Brian Froud’s char­ac­ter de­signs to life

ImagineFX - - Reviews -

Com­bin­ing the cre­ative might of pup­peteer and di­rec­tor Jim Hen­son, il­lus­tra­tor Brian Froud and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Ge­orge Lu­cas, it’s no sur­prise that Labyrinth con­tin­ues to fas­ci­nate view­ers since its re­lease in 1986. With 2016 mark­ing the film’s 30th an­niver­sary, there’s no bet­ter time to ex­plore the mak­ing of this land­mark piece of cinema.

Open­ing with a fore­word writ­ten by the in­fant star of the film, Toby Froud, and an in­tro­duc­tion from pup­pet co­or­di­na­tor Brian Hen­son, it im­me­di­ately be­comes ap­par­ent that Jim Hen­son’s Labyrinth: The Ul­ti­mate Vis­ual His­tory has a wider scope than the av­er­age art book. For­tu­nately, the ex­clu­sive in­ter­views with the cast and crew never get in the way of the book’s many pho­tos, sketches and paint­ings.

Split into four sec­tions – In­spi­ra­tion, Char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, Re­al­iza­tion and Sum­ma­tion – the book takes a chrono­log­i­cal look at the mak­ing of the film. Dot­ted through each sec­tion are repli­cas of il­lus­trated fly­ers, in­vi­ta­tions, script ex­tracts and pages from Jim Hen­son’s notebook, which push the idea of a vis­ual his­tory in pleas­antly un­ex­pected di­rec­tions.

While th­ese in­serts give the reader a broader ap­pre­ci­a­tion of how the film was made, they’re un­for­tu­nately pre­sented in a way that makes the book cum­ber­some to read. The reader can raise the fac­sim­ile sheets to read the text un­der­neath, but it’s un­clear whether they were de­signed to be re­moved or kept in place. If an in­sert pops off by ac­ci­dent, the ad­he­sive residue makes the pages stick to­gether.

De­spite th­ese is­sues, there’s still a wealth of stun­ning im­agery to en­joy. From con­cept art of Ludo, to sketches of the Fireys, the main char­ac­ters and crea­tures each get a look-in, com­plete with anec­dotes from the peo­ple who brought them to life. Sto­ry­boards, pho­to­graphs and full-colour paint­ings from scenes through­out the film round off the col­lec­tion.

It’s dif­fi­cult to say whether Labyrinth: The Vis­ual His­tory is an art book or a broader mak­ing-of book. Per­haps, given the na­ture of the film, with its pop­u­la­tion of pup­pets and sur­real spe­cial ef­fects, the art is al­ways go­ing to spill over into the sto­ry­telling. Yet no mat­ter how you cat­e­gorise it, Jim Hen­son’s Labyrinth: The Vis­ual His­tory is an in­sight­ful treat for both fans of the film and gen­eral fan­tasy artists.

Pho­to­graphs taken on the set of Labyrinth re­veal the re­al­ity be­hind the fan­tas­ti­cal lo­cale.

Stand­ing over Hog­gle is Jim Hen­son’s son Brian, who re­mote-con­trolled the dwarf’s face move­ments.

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