These Magical Facts About The Dark Crystal Will Help Restore Balance

The Dark Crystal was revolutionary when it came out in 1982. The scope of the puppetry and animatronics used was groundbreaking but sadly weren’t enough to make the movie a hit. As the years passed and the dark fantasy aged, its fanbase grew and it became a classic. In 2019, a prequel series came out further exploring the world Jim Henson created. This is everything you need to know about The Dark Crystal to help restore balance and bring peace to the world of Thra.

The Dark Crystal Has A Connection To The Muppets

jim henson posing with kermit the frog
Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Archive Photos/Getty Images

The Dark Crystal was created by Jim Henson and designed by his creature shop. Prior to creating and producing the movie Henson made a name for himself as the creator of The Muppets. At some point in his career, he turned towards darker fare, leading him to direct Labyrinth and then create The Dark Crystal.

Frank Oz, the actor most famous playing Yoda in Star Wars, stepped behind the camera to direct the film with Henson. It was Oz’s directorial credit, and one he followed up by directing The Muppets Take Manhattan.

Henson First Created Puppets For Saturday Night Live

the land of gorch was created by jim henson
NBC
NBC

Seven years before The Dark Crystal came out, Jim Henson was just getting his start in the industry. One of his first big breaks was working for Saturday Night Live, where he created the “Land of Gorch” sketches using his puppet magic.

The sketches, which have mostly been forgotten today, aired throughout the first season of Saturday Night Live. One year later The Muppet Show premiered on ABC and aired 120 episodes during an iconic five-season run.

Character Names Changed During Production

a still image from the dark crystal
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

As with any movie, a lot changed with The Dark Crystal from script to screen. One of the biggest changes was the names of characters and the lands they came from. In the script, the bad guy was named Reptus, and instead of Thra, he was threatening the world of Mithra.

Moreover, the people of Mithra were known as Eunaze, not Gelfling. The Eunaze people are left to be saved by Brian, the son of Malcolm. Can you guess which characters they ended up being?

Mithra Was Too Close To Another Name To Include

characters from the dark crystal
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

While we don’t know why every name was changed, we can tell you how Mithra became Thra. The move was made to avoid any possible controversies. Mithra was considered too close to the name of an ancient Persian god – Mitra, the god of light.

The teaches of Mitra rivaled Christianity during the Roman Empire. To ensure The Dark Crystal could not be associated with this philosophy it became necessary to change the name of the world.

A New Language Was Developed For The Film

skeksis from the dark crystal
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

While developing The Dark Crystal it was decided the evil Skeksis would speak their own language. Producers of the film then hired linguists to create a unique language for the evil alien race to speak.

The effort turned out to be money misspent, however. When the film went through test screenings, audiences complained that having to read subtitles was too distracting. Once the results were in, it was decided that the language would be dropped in favor of English.

Jim Henson Funded The Release Of The Film

the dark crystal release was funded by jim henson
UNiversal Studios
UNiversal Studios

Once The Dark Crystal was finished and ready to be released, nothing happened. The movie took a while to be seen in theaters. After bankrolling the film, ITC entertainment was sold to Australia’s first billionaire, Robert Holmes à Court.

Court felt that the movie wouldn’t be a financial success and put it on the shelf. This forced Henson to buy the film from ITC Entertainment and fund the release himself. The Dark Crystal would go on to earn $40 million in the United States and another $16 million overseas.

Jim Henson Thought Puppets Were The Future

jim henson with puppets from the dark crystal
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

In the early ’80s, Jim Henson convinced himself that puppets and animatronics were going to take over the movie industry and make human actors obsolete. To further his belief, he sold The Dark Crystal to audiences as the first live-action film with no humans in it.

While there have been other live-action, human-free movies released since, puppets did not take over Hollywood. Humans have managed to stay employed in front of cameras with every advance in technology that has come to the industry.

The Larger Puppets Were A Pain To Operate

the garthim from the dark crystal
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

There were a variety of puppets used to make The Dark Crystal. Some, like the Gelflings, were small and easy to operate. Others, like the Garthim, were large and heavy and required having the operator be inside the puppet.

These combinations of puppets and costumes were so exhausting that racks were built inside them. When puppeteers needed a break, which was every few minutes, they could hang from the rack and give their bodies the desperate rest they needed.

The Skeksis Were Sinful

skeksis were designed after the seven deadly sins
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Even though there are ten Skeksis featured in The Dark Crystal, they were inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins. Henson didn’t want there to be any confusion that these aliens were were evil.

Watching the movie, it’s not clear which Skeksis represent which specific sins. They were created to have these evils became part of their personalities. For anyone who wants to really try and solve the puzzle, Henson put hints in the costuming of each individual Skeksis

The Skeksis Were An Animal Kingdom Mishmash

the design inspiration for the skeksis was a mishmash of animals
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

To create the Skeksis, The Dark Crystal’s concept artist wanted to create something audiences would never forget. His first model was based on deep-sea fish, which seems like enough for us.

For Brian Froud it wasn’t enough, though, so he added in features from predatory birds, reptiles, and dragons. Froud also dropped the deep-sea fish design, which would have made the creatures really over the top. Instead, the movie was left with something perfectly terrifying. No mistaking these monsters for heroes!

The Mystics Were The Hardest Puppets To Operate

a mystic puppet from the dark crystal
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

The Garthim might have been tough to operate, but the worst of the worst puppets to control were those of the mystics. The puppeteer was forced to be hunched over to perform while supporting the weight of the very heavy head.

Jim Henson even admitted he had trouble operating the mystics when he tried. He couldn’t stay in what was the “Mystic position” for more than ten seconds at a time. Now imagine having to do it all day long!

The Origin Of Aughra’s Name Came From A Store

a shot of aughra from the dark crystal
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

One of the most memorable characters from The Dark crystal was Aughra, the witch. When the script was written her name wasn’t Aughra, though, it was Habbetabat. Brian Froud convinced Henson to change the character’s name for capitalistic reasons.

Froud thought the name “Habbetabat” sounded too similar to “Habitat” which was the name of a store he hated. Because of this, he reportedly demanded that the character’s name be changed. That’s okay, she looks more like an Aughra than Habbetabat.

Podlings Were Inspired By Potatoes

a still of the podlings from the dark crystal
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Believe it or not, the Podlings were inspired by potatoes. The creatures who live underground in the film were designed to be close to the earth. To get the point across, Froud designed them to look like living potatoes.

Now that it has been seen, it can’t be unseen. What’s most interesting is how much care was taken into designing each group of characters based on what they represented in the film. We can only imagine what details might have been included in creatures we haven’t discussed yet.

The Dark Crystal Was Buried By The Competition

still image of et of the the movie
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

The simple fact that The Dark Crystal managed to be a minor box office success is impressive considering the competition it was against. The weekend it opened, Tootsie and E.T. the Extraterrestrial were dominating multiplexes.

Both movies were huge hits. Tootsie, which starred Dustin Hoffman, made $177 million. E.T., directed by Steven Spielberg, became one of the highest-grossing films of all-time, earning $435 million. The Dark Crystal, as a reminder, finished its own run with $40 million against an overall budget of $25 million.

Critics Were Not Fans

critics hated the dark crystal when it came out
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

When the movie was finally released in 1982 critics were not kind. The New York Times called it “watered down J.R.R. Tolkien” in one of the worst reviews. Critics universally loved the visuals of the film but didn’t feel like the story matched up.

As years passed, critics and moviegoers began to warm up the film. In 2008 it was ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten fantasy films ever made. Today, it has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 79 percent.

A Possible Sequel Never Happened

a still from the dark crystal the age of resistance
Netflix
Netflix

Before Jim Henson finished making The Dark Crystal he was beginning to plan a sequel. Along with co-writer David Odell, The Power of the Dark Crystal was developed but never written. Over the next 25 years, Odell pieced together what he could remember to be able to write a draft.

The sequel was never made, but that wasn’t the end of the story. In 2019, The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance made its debut on Netflix. The prequel series takes place years before the film and recounts the events leading up to it.

The Power Of The Dark Crystal Became A Series Of Comics

the dark crystal has several book sequels
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Although The Power of the Dark Crystal never materialized into a theatrical film, it still found a way to get made. In 2017 it was adapted and published in a 12 part comic book series.

The story arc follows a restored world of Thra years after the events of the movie as they attempt to reignite a dying sun. To save the planet two Gelflings steal a piece of the Crystal of Truth to try and reignite the star. A sequel series, Beneath the Dark Crystal, was written and published one year later.

Jim Henson Wanted To Scare Kids

the dark crystal was never supposed to be kid friendly
Netflix
Netflix

Part of the reason that Jim Henson was so passionate about making The Dark Crystal was that he wanted to scare children. According to co-director Frank Oz, Henson believed that fear was healthy and saw the movie as a way to “get back to the darkness of the original Grimms’ Fairy Tales.”

Unfortunately for Henson, lighthearted and “kid-friendly” book adaptations were published, including The Tale of the Dark Crystal and Dark Crystal Tales. Luckily for Henson, Netflix’s prequel series brought the darker tones of the movie back to the world he created.

A Dark Fate For The Podlings

a shocked podling
Netflix
Netflix

Jim Henson might have wanted to scare children with The Dark Crystal, but he had his limits. While he was helping extend the movie into a novel, he had one major disagreement with his co-author.

A.C.H. Smith was not a fan of podlings and literally planned to throw the creatures off a cliff in the novel. Henson refused to let him include the scene, calling it “gratuitous cruelty.” As we said, Henson had his limits to how far he was willing to go.

You Can Smell Like A Skeksis If You Want

the scent of the skeksis from the dark crystal
Netflix
Netflix

We’re not sure why anyone would want to smell like a Skeksis, but you can if you want. In 2013 Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab released a Skeksis perfume line, with each bottle selling for around $28.

There are four scents in total, each with their own distinctive notes. And if The Dark Crystal isn’t your thing you can buy scents designed to recreate the aroma of the Bog of Eternal Stench from Labyrinth, another classic fantasy film.