If you caught ‘The Dark Crystal’ as a kid, Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s 1982 puppet epic is probably still lodged deep in your subconscious. Like a freakier older sibling to ‘Labyrinth’, it follows two hobbit-like Gelflings across the mythical world of Thra, dodging the Skeksis (evil, reptilian, childhood-trauma-inducing) with some help from the ancient Mystics (wise, gentle, stooped like your grandpa after too much Christmas dinner). It was a bit mad, a little scary and kinda unforgettable.
For everyone else, it’s catch-up time. A new prequel series hits Netflix this month, boasting the same puppeteering genius and a voice cast that features Awkwafina, Taron Egerton, Mark Hamill and Eddie Izzard. As a handy primer, the BFI Southbank is hosting a free exhibition. ‘We always like to show people how things are made,’ says Lisa Henson, executive producer (and daughter of Jim). ‘The puppets are beautiful to look at up close.’
The exhibition will feature plenty of them and a recreated set, ‘Stone-in-the-Wood’, illustrated above with some nifty concept art. According to Henson, it’s a homecoming too. ‘The movie was made in England and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop was based in Hampstead, then Camden,’ she says. ‘We really only wanted to make the series here. The sets are full of great British film craftsmanship.’ Pop along and see Thra for yourself.