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
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.