How Labyrinth’s Fandom Is Stronger Than Ever After 35 Years

How Labyrinth’s Fandom Is Stronger Than Ever After 35 Years

Following their collaboration on the film Dark Crystal, illustrator Brian Froud and puppeteer extraordinaire Jim Henson agreed to work together on a new project. Froud had a strong image in his mind of a baby surrounded by goblins, influenced by the classic folk tales wherein goblins traditionally trick children or steal them from their homes. Together, Froud and Henson imagined a tale of a girl named Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) who wishes her brother away to a fantastical realm and must journey through many hardships to retrieve him from the clutches of the sinister yet alluring Goblin King, Jareth. Monty Python alumnus Terry Jones was on screenwriting duties, George Lucas would be the executive producer, and none other than David Bowie would star as Jareth and provide a number of songs.It seemed like the perfect combination for a smash hit, yet when Labyrinth opened 35 years ago, in the summer of 1986, it proved to be a critical and commercial disappointment. With a reported budget of $25 million, Labyrinth grossed only $12.9 million during its initial domestic run. It would be the last feature film Henson ever directed, and according to his son Brian, it contributed to a downward turn in his career. It seemed that Labyrinth would disappear from the pop-culture consciousness, reduced to another '80s kids movie that failed to capture audiences' attention in the era of the blockbuster…And yet Labyrinth has endured, and three and a half decades later, the film is a beloved classic as well as a wildly influential fantasy drama that's inspired generations of fans. Thanks to many years of TV broadcasts, Blockbuster rentals, and pushy family members with good taste (many thanks to my own grandmother), Labyrinth re-emerged into the mainstream more cherished than ever. After years as a second-hand rarity, the movie became available on VHS and DVD in the late ’90s and greatly expanded its reach beyond its initial fanbase. Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie in Labyrinth.Descent into the UnderworldThe indelible fingerprints of Henson's Labyrinth can be found throughout the past three decades of pop culture, from Disney movies of the ’90s to the works of Guillermo del Toro and Neil Gaiman (especially Mirrormask for the latter) to many a romance novel. Just about every geek convention on the planet will feature at least a handful of Labyrinth cosplayers. Even Bowie returned to the world of Jareth, in a manner, with a Louis…
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