Pop Culture | Movies | 80s

13 Magical Facts About Jim Henson's 'Labyrinth'

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Henson Associates / Lucasfilm

While we think of Labyrinth as a classic '80s movie, it was actually a flop when it first came out.

Jim Henson's dark and bizarre fantasy adventure (and his last feature film) only gained a cult following when it was released on VHS. We watched it over and over again as kids, but there are some small details you probably missed.

1. It took six people to work the Hoggle puppet

Lucasfilm

Actress Shari Weiser was inside the Hoggle suit, while four puppeteers worked the outside of the costume. Brian Henson, director Jim Henson's son, provided Hoggle's voice, and also controlled the 18 motors that operated his face.

2. The Pit of Hands scene was really dangerous to film

Jennifer Connelly had to dangle in a harness 40 feet above the ground to get the shot, with more than 100 puppeteers in latex gloves acting as the hands. The actress was in danger of losing a finger if she reached back to touch the harness hinges.

Lucasfilm

The scene's weird visuals also inspired David Bowie's song "Underground."

3. Jareth's crystal tricks were all real

But David Bowie didn't perform them. Choreographer Michael Moschen stood behind Bowie and reached his arms into frame. That means Moschen did all those tricks completely blind. Henson called his performance the "closest thing to real magic" he had ever seen.

4. A lawsuit almost shut down the movie

Maurice Sendak, the author of Where the Wild Things Are, noticed a few similarities between Labyrinth and his book Outside Over There. Henson even planned to feature creatures called "Wild Things" in Labyrinth. Sendak threatened to sue, but eventually changed his mind.

The movie's credits say that "Jim Henson acknowledges his debt to the works of Maurice Sendak," but supposedly Sendak never got over the ordeal.

5. There are a few clues hiding in Sarah's room

Notice the Hoggle doll and photo of Bowie.Lucasfilm

At the start of the movie, Sarah's room has a figurine or doll of pretty much every character she meets later in the movie. There's even a photo of David Bowie hiding in the scrapbook of her mother's acting career.

6. The Magic Dance was one big special effect

Really think about all the work that went into this scene. There are 48 puppets, 52 puppeteers, eight actors in goblin costumes, and David Bowie all singing and dancing to the same tune.

Bowie also re-recorded the baby noises for the song, because he thought the actual baby's noises didn't sound right.

7. Jareth was originally meant to be a puppet - or Michael Jackson

Jareth was originally meant to be a puppet, but then Henson settled on the idea of casting a famous musician. Michael Jackson, Prince, Sting, and Mick Jagger were all seriously considered for the part. In the end, Henson's kids were big Bowie fans, and they pushed their dad to pick him.

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