Tag Archives: jim henson

“It’s Only Forever, It’s Not Long at All”: Celebrate Labyrinth’s 30th Anniversary

23 Sep

Labyrinth was a favorite of mine as a child and continues to be one for me today.  I have a poster of the French version of the film, and a stuffed toy blue worm living in my basement.  Since the film just celebrated its 30th Anniversary in September now is the perfect time to re-watch it or check out one of these Labyrinth related items.

Labyrinth

labyrinth

Image via FreeDVDCover.com

In the magical movie Labyrinth, Sarah wishes away her demanding baby brother, Toby, and then must rescue him from the Goblin King.  Jim Henson’s remarkable puppets are amazing and the effects were cutting edge for the time period, however, the film was actually a flop when it premiered before achieving the beloved cult status it holds today.  It is available on DVD and BluRay from BCCLS libraries.  Be sure to check out the making of featurettes for fun behind the scene tidbits.

Jim Henson’s Fantasy Film Collection

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If you can’t get enough of Henson Studio’s work checkout this DVD collection which includes Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, and Mirror Mask. You can read more about Mirror Mask in a previous post about the works of Neil Gaiman.  For those wanting a special Dark Crystal experience you can check out our special movie/music synchronization event with the music of Blue Oyster Cult at Maxwell’s on October 22.

In Their Own Words: Jim Henson

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In this PBS biography you can learn about Jim Henson’s career from his start in puppetry through the creation of Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock and of course Labyrinth.

Faeries, written and illustrated by Brian Froud and Alan Lee

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Much of the look and creatures of Labyrinth were inspired by master fairy artist Brian Froud’s work.  In this bewitching book fairies, elves, and other creatures of legend come alive.  Brian wasn’t the only Froud involved with the film–his son Toby Froud played the baby Toby, and his wife Wendy Froud also was involved with the puppets design (she is best known for creating Yoda for The Empire Strikes Back).

David Bowie’s The Platinum Collection

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One of my favorite parts of the film was David Bowie’s brilliant performance as the Goblin King, Jareth. Each of his songs was a beautiful soundscape for the film, but best of all may have been “Underground”, included in this collection along with other Bowie hits.  Fans of Bowie or the movie probably recognized the lyrics from it in our blog post title.

The Age of Bowie, by Paul Morley

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Want more Bowie? Check out this recently released biography that looks at some of the highlights of Bowie’s life and career.

Outside Over There, by Maurice Sendak

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Although not a direct adaptation, Maurice Sendak’s Outside Over There seems to have been an influence on Labyrinth’s story.  In the picture book a girl must rescue her little sister who is stolen by goblins who plan to make her a goblin bride.  If you watch the end of the film there is note about inspiration of Sendak’s work on Jim Henson.  Plus those with keen eyes might catch a copy of Outside Over There on Sarah’s bookshelf in her bedroom.

Jim Henson’s Return to Labyrinth, written by Jake T. Forbes and illustrated by Chris Lie with cover art by Kouyu Shurei

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In this Manga style graphic novel, a teenage Toby has his own adventures with the Goblin King.  Although not completely capturing the magic of the original, it is still fun to continue the adventures of the classic film.

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth The Novelization, by A.C.H. Smith

labyrinth

Image via Hoopla Digital

For those looking to read a more true to screen version of Labyrinth, the movie has been adapted by author and playwright A.C.H. Smith as Jim Henson’s Labyrinth The Novelization.  It can be downloaded on Hoopla.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

I Am … Suggesting That You Check Out These Two Documentaries

4 Nov

Recently I watched two documentaries that included “I Am” in the titles. These simple titles belied the complex subjects of the films.

I Am Chris Farley

i-am-chris-farley

“See that building?” [Points] “That’s where Chris Farley died.”

“Oh.”

That was a conversation between me and the Go Airport Express shuttle driver/de facto tour guide en route to O’Hare on a cold, winter’s morning in Chicago. OK, calling that a conversation might be a stretch. I had been up since 4:30 AM and was neither awake nor caffeinated enough for small talk.

But sadly it is true that Chris Farley left this world too soon in 1997. The documentary I Am Chris Farley starts with his siblings discussing growing up with Chris. Next is his rise as a comedian at Chicago’s famed Second City Theatre, his joining Saturday Night Live in New York City, and making name for himself in Hollywood with movies like Black Sheep and Tommy Boy.

There are lots of fun facts in this film. One of Chris’s most famous characters, Motivational Speaker Matt Foley whose catchphrase was “You’ll be livin’ in a VAN, down by the RIVER!”, was named after Chris’s college rugby teammate. The real Matt Foley is now a priest and makes an appearance in the film. My favorite Chris Farley sketch is his awkward interview with Paul McCartney, because who wouldn’t be absolutely starstruck in Sir Paul’s presence?

What is most profound about the documentary is that through the interviews with Chris’s family, friends, and SNL castmates (such as David Spade, Mike Meyers, Chris Rock, and Jon Lovitz) you can see how deeply loved he was by those around him.

If you loved Chris Farley, too, then this documentary is a must-watch.

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

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Like most kids growing up in the 1980s, Jim Henson’s creations entertained me. Although Fraggle Rock was my favorite of the Henson canon back then, I found this documentary, I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, about the man who plays Big Bird, fascinating.

Sidebar: Is there anyone else out there who, as a kid, thought Big Bird was a girl? I did when I was young, for some reason, until learning that Big Bird is a boy. But I did know this fact well before seeing the film!

Caroll developed an interest in puppeteering as a child, creating and performing with his own puppets. Jim Henson and Caroll started collaborating when Caroll joined Sesame Street in 1969. He has been playing Big Bird since then, among other characters like Oscar the Grouch. Jim and Caroll had a close relationship, and Caroll recounted in the film his grief after Jim died suddenly in 1990.

I learned after watching this documentary that Big Bird was scheduled to join the ill-fated Challenger mission in 1986. Since it would have been difficult to operate the Big Bird puppet without gravity, Caroll’s spot was ultimately given to teacher Christa McAuliffe.

Anyone that grew up watching Sesame Street will enjoy this film. You will also learn that Caroll Spinney is an accomplished artist and musician, in addition to his talents as a puppeteer. He has certainly brought many children around the world joy as Big Bird.

I like to end my blog posts with connections between the materials I suggest. Does anyone remember when Big Bird appeared on Saturday Night Live in 2012 after Mitt Romney mentioned him in the presidential debate? Click here for the video.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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