Film: The Dark Crystal (1982)
Directed by: Frank Oz and Jim Henson
Written by: Jim Henson (story) and David Odell (screenplay)
Puppeteers: Jim Henson as Jen
Kathryn Mullen as Kira
Frank Oz as Aughra and Chamberlain
Dave Goelz as Fizzgig
Former memories: One of the benefits of being involved with Natsukashi is the rediscovery of a film that lingered in memory as a child very distinctly, but becomes something else entirely when seen through the eyes of an adult. The Dark Crystalwas such an experience, a movie that was best recalled as a source of fear when I was a child (those creepy Skeksis still give me the wiggins).
As a young boy, I was terrified of the beaked Skeksis, the Garthim, creatures existing somewhere on the evolutionary ladder between a beetle and a crab, and the horrible fates of the Podlings as their life essence is drained for the use of the warped Skeksis civilization. These are the perceptions of a child, one who has grown accustomed to fears, now, but was rattled by these images when first exposed to them.
New memories: As a grown-up, what I found upon a return to the world of The Dark Crystal was something I not only didn’t remember clearly, but was amazed by: the beauty of this film. In a world dominated by CG imagery, The Dark Crystal is a deep and satisfyingly real movie experience, and I was reminded of how a movie could create such an authentic experience while wrapping itself in imagery that is decidedly authentic while remaining imaginative and unique.
Within the film, there are hints of Eastern philosophy, mythology that is worthy of dissection by the Joseph Campbell crowd and a hero that is as naive as he is brave. Speaking with one of the creators of this film has been one of several highlights of recent years, and getting a glimpse of David Barclay’s work not only gave me an appreciation for the film’s tricks, it made it all the more magical for the twinkle in the artist’s eye that can still be heard clearly.
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Our featured guest: Puppeteer Dave Barclay
Dave has had the kind of career that most sci-fi/fantasy geeks dream would sever an appendage for. Learning a craft of on-screen puppetry under the caring eye of Jim Henson, starting your career by bringing Yoda to life. Working with Roger Rabbit, Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, as well as the much-anticipated Spike Jonze adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, Dave’s work reads like a laundry list of movie lovers’ desert island features.
Dave is living the dream, quite literally, as it was his desire as a young child to pull the strings as a puppeteer. The Dark Crystal was one of his earliest gigs (after assisting in a couple of small films called The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) and, as the first Brit to do so, he perfected his craft in the house that Muppets built, the Jim Henson Company.
Today, he continues to stretch the limits of his craft, working with both the digital technology as well as the time-honored art he grew up with.
We were quite honored to have Dave join us and we know that a lot of Natsukashi listeners will enjoy his recollections of time spent on such influential films.