Jim Henson, most widely known as the creator of The Muppets, is responsible for the making of many movies and tv shows held close to people’s hearts. The American puppeteer and filmmaker are responsible for the following shows and movies; The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Labyrinth, and my personal favorite Dark Crystal (a franchise I will touch on later).
It’s likely that, like me, the mere mention of The Muppets is enough to give you that warm feeling of nostalgia, no matter your age. His shows and characters have been winning people’s hearts since 1955 in the show Sam and Friends, wherein Kermit the Frog was a regular guest and so- the first established Muppet. Since then shows and movies have been coming out consistently featuring our felted-friends, the latest being ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ in 2014, meaning that even the younger generations will have a connection to these characters.
Whilst not the first person to broadcast puppetry on tv, it could be argued that Jim Henson was a key individual in the art of puppetry growing in popularity, The Muppets cementing themselves as iconic characters to most people. This meant other creators saw his popularity and followed in his footsteps allowing for projects such as Neverending Story and the British children’s show Rainbow to use puppetry when portraying characters.
There is something spectacularly unique in Jim’s work, with extra care being put into the lovability of his characters; with big googly eyes, wide smiles, and a different personality for each. The most beloved of all is arguably Kermit, the bright green frog normally acting as the rational one of The Muppets had Jim lending his talents for the frog’s adorable and famous voice up until his death. I think the reason why this franchise is so beloved is because of the pure enthusiasm and heart the puppeteer had for his work and his characters, he set out to make the show believable and human, and to me he did just that.
This is Jim Henson singing ‘RaiConnection’ as Kermit the Frog for the Muppe movie (a video that never fails to make me cry), later that year this song was rightfully nominated for a golden globe for best original song.
Now for the part of this article I have been waiting for, let’s discuss Dark Crystal. If you, like me, are a fan of the fantasy genre, this movie (and series) is for you. If you like dark tonal themes and a story centered around overthrowing corrupt -and disgusting looking- leaders, this franchise is definitely for you. Both Jim Henson and Frank Oz worked on this movie, it being an outlier in their work as a dark and disturbing piece; the essence draining scene being particularly hard to watch and the dinner scene being disgusting and capable of making anyone uncomfortable.
In this hidden gem of a movie we follow Jen, raised by the gentle mystics and the last of his kind (or so he’s told). He embarks on a journey through the wastelands of Thra where his species used to live, to find the crystal shard and return it to the Dark Crystal- bringing balance to the universe once again. The Skeksis, on the other hand, are trying to prevent this from happening, for if they can keep him from his goal before the three suns align they will reign forever. Throughout this movie there are various bits of lore scattered here and there, but looking into the original source material, being books by J. M. Lee you’ll see that this movie barely skims the surface.
In the Netflix adaptation, Age of Resistance, we go back to when the Gelfling are a thriving species under the Skeksis, who are serving as their overlords, by the end of season one we see more and more gelfling turn on the corrupt leaders.
In this series we get to see a bigger picture of Thra, back when it was full of life and magic. We are introduced to the seven clans of Thra; Stonewall (where Rian comes from), Vapra (the clan of the three sisters, namely Brea), Drenchen, Sifa, Dousan, Spriton and, my personal favourite, grottan where Deet comes from. The grottan live underground and are rarely seen by other clans, leading to them being prejudiced against, being called dirty and having their (adorable) eyes made fun of.
The story is based around the rebellion against the evil Skeksis and we see all of the efforts the Gelfling take to prevent the downfall of their land, something bittersweet to those who have watched the movie as we know right from the start that they fail. Throughout the series, every character you get invested in, every death we see- they don’t matter because we know that the Skeksis live on to rule and wipe them out eventually. Despite this bleak outlook on it, I really enjoyed the first season; they brought the world to life, with different cultures in the clans, interesting main characters, a colourful world and staying true to the source material with the dark and disturbing themes of the movie. If you hated the Skeksis before, be prepared to throw whatever is closest to you at the screen as they joke about murder and talk about being better than the Gelfling whilst abusing their power.
Unfortunately, and much to my despair, the second season was cancelled by Netflix. They haven’t provided a specific answer as to why but some speculate it could be due to the expensive nature of puppetry and possibly because of Covid-19 (it seems to be ruining everything this year). To give you a ray of hope though, reader, people have been trying hard to prove that Age of Resistance deserves a second season and that enough people would watch it to cover the cost of the expensive puppet work. There are many people, more than I expected, who are up in arms about the cancellation, including the cast and most notably the CEO of the Henson Company, Lisa Henson.
In fact, here: (https://www.change.org/p/netflix-show-netflix-that-people-would-watch-the-dark-crystal-age-of-resistance-season-2) is a petition you can sign to try and prove just that, if you could sign and share this, maybe the series that was made with such love and care could continue- even if it’s not on Netflix, in which case it will be their loss.