Last year I discovered Back to the Future: The Ultimate visual History, a book which surprised even me, and I thought I knew everything about those movies. Certainly I must know everything about my all time favorite movie, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, but once again the new 30th anniversary coffee table book Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History told me new stories from the history of my favorite film.
My favorite part of these books is the script development, learning all the other forms the story could have taken. All of the decisions were right but there were some interesting alternate angles. Labyrinth began as a medieval fantasy which would’ve removed some of the magic of a modern girl being in the fantasy realm. Terry Jones’ contributions were interesting but more intensely focused on a theme of growing up and hard adult realities. There are hints of that theme still there but I imagine Henson was the type to champion never completely “growing up.” Jareth’s role also got larger once they realized they could get a rock star and he should be a main character.
Each character from Labyrinth warrants his or her own chapter due to the unique techniques employed to bring them to life. No two puppets were the same. They created individual designs based on what the character would have to do.
Auhors Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann find quotes from Henson and Bowie during the production of Labyrinth. They interviewed Jennifer Connelly for the book but also compared her comments then and now, plus new interviews with all of the puppeteers, including future Elmo creator Kevin Clash.
The photos are beautiful. As much as I’ve seen behind the scenes stills from Labyrinth, the glossy detail of puppeteering technique in progress makes these shots worth framing.
Aesthetically, I would say there are too many loose pages attached to pages in the book. The reader has no choice but to gently remove these attachments to read the book. Since they’re all duplicates anyway, they would be better as an appendix. It is wonderful to read Jim Henson’s own words as he communicates to his staff, even mentioning some projects that never got completed. I’m just saying reproductions of those in the back of the book would be just as good since they’re not scene specific.
But that’s the critic in me feeling pressure to give a balanced evaluation of Labyrinth: The Complete Visual History. I loved reading about the development and production of Labyrinth and looking at all the pictures of Jim Henson and David Bowie at work.