Saturday, August 8, 2015

Creatures of the Dark Crystal

Jim Henson's "The Dark Crystal" is a landmark in the history of creature design.   When it was released in 1982 it marked the first time in history that filmmakers created an entire world from the ground up.  Never before, and rarely since, have artists and designers had an opportunity to build not only alien cultures, but an entire ecology.

Hundreds of people helped bring the world of the Dark Crystal to life, but it was Brian Froud who provided the over-arching vision.   He produced thousands of designs for the film, from plant life and insects to the incredibly detailed costumes and artifacts of the world's intelligent races.  That artwork, and the creative process behind its creation, would form the basis of The World of the Dark Crystal, a massive coffee table book collecting his designs.

I fell in love with the book the first time I flipped through it at WaldenBooks.  The sheer depth of thought that went into the film was mind blowing.  It was a revelation to see how the orbital mechanics of an alien star system influenced everything, from the spiraling iconography of the Skeksis and Mystics to the anatomy of the world's creatures.  It was the first example of fictional worldbuilding I ever encountered, and to this day it stands as one of the best.

Over thirty years later the film is still inspiring fans.  Last year the Henson Company sponsored a creature design contest, with a trip to a special commemorative screening of the film as the grand prize.  The entries are pretty amazing.  I'm not a fan of "cute" creature depictions, but even the ones that veer into that territory show real craftsmanship.   Follow the link to take a look at over a dozen entries, each with it's own gallery.

1 comment:

CoastConFan said...

Froud’s works are indeed inspiring and I hope that a new generation of fans discover his ideas. I hope your post will inspire some folks to rent The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth or get some of his great art books. A great favorite of mine is Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book. When you Jim Henson and Brian Froud joined forces, you get quite a product. BTW Froud’s wife Wendy has done some great work in her own right – she created Yoda for Star Wars as well as worked on Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.

Thanks for bringing this diminutive creature to light because sometimes in life; it’s the small things that are best.