'Dark Crystal' Exhibit At Center For Puppetry Arts Showcases Iconic Cult Film

Jan 31, 2020

The Center for Puppetry Arts in downtown Atlanta is hosting a special exhibit dedicated to Jim Henson’s cult classic film The Dark Crystal through June of this year.

The exhibit features props, puppets, and notes from the film – as well as an in-depth walkthrough of the history of its production and the fan culture it inspired. While the film wasn’t necessarily a blockbuster hit during its time, it went on to build a cult following that would lead to the creation of books, comics, conventions, fan communities, and eventually a Netflix prequel series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, that premiered last year.

Interview Highlights:

On why it was so important to curate an exhibit around The Dark Crystal:

Credit Nolan Helmly / Sarah Rose / GPB News

We had done a special exhibit a couple of years prior on Labyrinth, which was wildly successful. It unfortunately happened to hit right at the time when David Bowie passed away, so it sort of served as a catharsis for people to come here and see the exhibit and say goodbye. And as that happened, we were thinking about how The Dark Crystal really led into Labyrinth and how important it was. And even if people didn't care for Dark Crystal, a lot of people loved Labyrinth and also Star Wars, which was another film that was greatly impacted by the creation of the Dark Crystal. I think it's a really important story to tell.

What Malool hopes visitors to the museum will take away from the exhibit:

Credit Nolan Helmly / Sarah Rose / GPB News

I was 2 when the movie came out in 1982. I've always kind of shied away from anything that seemed scary. And when I would see it on TV growing up, I would think, “What is that?” I hadn't seen the film the way that I needed to see it until I was an adult. And once I started doing the research for this exhibit, once I learned more about the Dark Crystal and how it fit into the overall work of Jim Henson, I really started to develop a wonderful appreciation for it. So I hope that when people come to this exhibit, if they're like me and they maybe didn't quite get the Dark Crystal, they'll see it and maybe have a new appreciation for the film, and they'll maybe watch the new Netflix series that just came out.

How the film had a lasting impact on the future of filmmaking:

Credit Nolan Helmly / Sarah Rose / GPB News

What's really interesting about the Dark Crystal that came out 1982, they started the idea really started germinating in 1976. So, it was this really long process of putting this together. And as that process happened, they developed what would later become the Jim Henson Creature Shop, which still exists today. They developed these techniques with something called foam latex, which was used later in a lot of films in that era: Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A lot of those people went on to work on other iconic films.

On Jim Henson’s thoughts about the film:

Credit Nolan Helmly / Sarah Rose / GPB News

He has said in documentaries that this was one of the projects he was most proud of. And I think it was because he wanted to do things that were different. He always wanted to be challenged as an artist. And this was something that was in his heart. But he really wanted to do was create this entirely different world. And he did it very successfully. And even if the film wasn't necessarily received as the best film ever, right when it first came out — over time, it really found an audience. So he really did create something that was really important. And I think that's why he was so proud of it.