Jim Henson’s Labyrinth – The 25th Anniversary Podcast with ACH Smith and Sam Downie
In April 2014, Archaia | Boom Studios! will republish the novelisation to the Jim Henson cult labyrinth movie which starred David Bowie. Listen to the exclusive podcast interview with author ACH Smith, presented and produced by Sam Downie for The Jim Henson Company, and read the story on how this interview came about.
In late 2013, I was contacted via email by an editor at Archaia / Boom-Studios publishers in Los Angeles, who are working with The Jim Henson Company on reprinting the novelisations of the Jim Henson cult movies “Labyrinth” and “The Dark Crystal” with new material.
Archaia/Boom Studios! had been asked to contact me via Karen Falk, an historian who serves as the head archivist for The Jim Henson Company. They both didn’t know about this exclusive audio interview I did with the novelist to these books, ACH Smith. During late 2013, ACH Smith exchanged my contact details with both Archaia/Boom Studios! and Karen Falk, and we began talking about how I came to do this interview.
Sam Downie’s story on interviewing ACH Smith:
It was in July/August 2011, when I was on a visit to see friends in San Francisco, that I stumbled across the SF Sketch Comedy Festival, where I noticed that there was a screening of Labyrinth along with a cast Q&A. I had always loved this movie, so a chance to see/meet some of the cast and hear their stories from the making of the movie, as well as watching the film in this 1920’s era movie cinema was going to be a fantastic opportunity. So I bought a ticket, and attended the screening.
Whilst there, I saw that someone had a book copy of the novelisation in their hands, and low n behold the author of the novel was ACH Smith, a playwright and novel writer who I’ve known since childhood in Bristol, England. This put a smile on my face, as I now had a re-connection with the movie again.
A few days later in SF, The Henson Alternative (HA!) company was at the Curran Theatre near by where I was staying. They were putting on a show called “Stuffed and Unstrung”, basically a rude version of The Muppets (not for kids), a stage show based on improvisation with puppets, and suggestions of situations and characters/character names given by the audience. It’s a mad-world of puppets being rude (who would have known!), brought to life by a cast of fantastic trained puppeteers / comedians. For the list of the current cast, see HERE. Luckily for this show my seat was in the stalls, and I loved every moment of it.
Once back in Bristol, England I contacted ACH Smith, via his website at www.achsmith.co.uk . I asked if we can meet, telling him about my story of attending the screening in San Francisco, and we set about scheduling in a meeting / interview session for a afternoon, over tea. He agreed. So I visited his home, and he took me in to the very office/room that the novelisations of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal were written.
ACH Smith showed me the original copy of the book, that was sitting on his bookshelf (along with other Henson related books). Then I set up my digital audio recorder, and pushed the red record button. I didn’t write down any questions for this interview, I knew the subject, and the person I was interviewing.
We spent over two hours talking about the process of going from movie screenplay, to writing a novelisation, fleshing out the story and perhaps adding in scenes that were considered for the movie, but didn’t make it into the films final edit. We talked about storytelling, the bringing to life the characters of Hoggle, Sarah and the Goblin King Jareth. We also talked about the visits he made to the Jim Henson offices in New York, as well as the film sets near London, where he worked closely with Jim Henson via story edits for the book.
ACH Smith says this about writing the novelisation of Labyrinth:
Before writing Labyrinth I spent a day with Terry Jones, the scriptwriter, at his home in Peckham. He showed me a scene that had been dropped from the movie, for technical reasons. It was beautiful, and I restored it in the book. Henson did not object. When my final manuscripts had been approved, they went to the Henson office in New York for copy-editing – ‘translation into American,’ the editor called it. I spent many hours on transatlantic calls with her, working through The Dark Crystal. When it came to Labyrinth, a few years later, I suggested that it would save money (and be more fun for me) if they flew me to New York for the editing, and they did. I sat with the editor and a word-processor for a fortnight. We spent 90 minutes trying to translate Snakes and Ladders into a game that American kids would know about, and finally gave up. ‘They’ll just have to figure it out for themselves,’ she sighed.
After the interview, it took me a while to edit the audio, and mix in original music clips from The Dark Crystal, as well as some of the full songs performed by David Bowie from Labyrinth.
I sent the final edit to ACH Smith. He liked it. So I uploaded it to my website, and sent him a link to it so he could put it on his own website. I also contacted the PR Manager at The Jim Henson Company in Los Angeles, and told them about the interview, and to take a listen, and perhaps tweet a link to it. They liked it too!
Now you know this part of the story, have a listen to the interview, in it’s full glory, right here.
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST
Podcast Audio Duration: 54:27
This podcast was produced to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Jim Henson movie, LABYRINTH – which stared David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly, with a massive host of creatures (and puppeters) from the Jim Henson Creature Shop.
The podcast was edited, produced and presented by SAM DOWNIE from DSOUNDZ MEDIA llc, and was recorded in Bristol, SW England, in October 2011. The podcast features music clips from The Dark Crystal, and music / songs from Labyrinth performed by David Bowie.
Labyrinth – 25th Anniversary – The Jim Henson Company – Interview with Novelist ACH Smith by Sam Downie | Dsoundz Media & The Jim Henson Company is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
In November 2013 on a visit back to San Francisco and Los Angeles, I met with the editor assistant from Boom Studios! and Archaia for a coffee in a cafe in Hollywood, in LA and we discussed what they were planning with the reprints of Labyrinth, and in how extracts from my interview with the author (ACH Smith) will be published in the novelisations.
The same week – I received an invitation from the PR Manager at The Jim Henson Company, to visit the Jim Henson Studio Lot, whilst I was in Los Angeles. As I’ve always been a Jim Henson and The Muppets fan, I wouldn’t let this opportunity pass me by, so.. I got to spend an hour or so at the company studio lot !
A fantastic and fascinating tour that included sitting in the Screening Movie Theatre once owned by Actor Charlie Chaplin (more information on Charlie Chaplin’s studio here via The Jim Henson Company), which fascinated and inspired me. Heck! I also got to put my feet into Charlie Chaplin’s own shoes (his imprints are in the concrete floor around the studio lot), I even snuck into one of the studios, oh such an experience.
Of course, by the end of my short visit, I came away smiling, from the Henson Studio lot.
On January 21st 2014, the American newspaper USA TODAY, posted a ‘First Look’ at some of the illustrations from the new reprint of ‘Labyrinth’. The original link to this news story from USA Today is HERE.
A new generation is discovering Jim Henson’s fantasy films of the 1980s, and Boom! Studios is doing their part to help spread — and continue — that legacy. The reprint of the ‘Labyrinth’ novelization in April 2014 is one of many projects leading to a full Jim Henson lineup of comics and graphic novels, to be published throughout the coming year.
In April, the comic-book publisher’s graphic-novel imprint Archaia releases a hardcover reprinting of the original 1986 Labyrinth novelization by A.C.H. Smith with never-before-seen goblin sketches by illustrator Brian Froud and several pages from Henson’s own journal.
In addition, Archaia’s planning similar reprints of the novelizations for Henson’s 1982 film The Dark Crystal and the 1988 TV series The Storyteller plus new material that ultimately will lead to a Henson-centric line of comics.
“We want to create graphic novels that people will be reading 20 years from now and building on that part of the legacy,” says Stephen Christy, Boom! vice president of development.
“How can we use these original ideas as stepping-stones to create new stories that will grow and blossom on their own?”
Christy wanted to present the novelizations in a context that showed how much effort Henson himself put into making them extensions of the movie.
For example, when Henson was making The Dark Crystal, he was also running his Jim Henson Company, chipping in on the hit HBO series Fraggle Rock, contributing to Sesame Street and still working on The Muppets, according to Christy.
Still, Henson took the time to personally read Smith’s novelization manuscript and give him 20 pages of notes instead of handing off the responsibility to an assistant. (The Archaia Dark Crystal novelization will include those notes as well as other extras.)
It elevated the books from being your standard film tie-in tome — a sign of the times — “to something Jim had a really, really personal hand in,” Christy says. He saw this as a way to expand the world of what he was trying to create in the movie, and give more depth and more color and more tone than what he could do on screen.”
As for the Labyrinth book, it has 16 pages of Froud artwork that was newly discovered in the Henson Company archives from when he was working in the Henson Creature Shop. In addition, head archivist Karen Falk had Henson’s journal from when he was hatching the story of the movie, which took a young girl (Jennifer Connelly) to a magical land to save her younger brother from the Goblin King (David Bowie).
Christy thinks the first handwritten page of that journal is especially cool: While on a transatlantic flight, Henson wrote down the words “The Labyrinth” and then drew an actual labyrinth.
“You see how much came to Jim crystal clear. He writes down the name of Hoggle, the people he’s going to collaborate with, different things Sarah will encounter in the labyrinth,” Christy says.
“As you’re reading, you’re watching him conceptualize the movie.”
And Christy’s found more things in the Henson archives that the late puppeteer and creator wasn’t able to produce in his lifetime. There will be more projects along the lines of Tales of Sand, the award-winning graphic-novel adaptation of a feature-length screenplay by Henson and co-writer Jerry Juhl.
Archaia is also planning on releasing a special hardcover edition of that original Tale of Sand screenplay with new artwork by Ramón Pérez and never-before-seen sequences that were cut from the script for the graphic novel.
One goal for Boom! is to not overwhelm with new content yet, though it is is coming, Christy promises. In the works is new material from the Storyteller, Dark Crystal and Fraggle Rock franchises, plus the relaunch on Free Comic Book Day in May of a series based on the sci-fi show Farscape.
Fans have also been clamoring for Labyrinth comics for years, Christy says, “and we’ve finally figured out how we’re going to do it. It’s going to be the most ambitious project that Archaia and Boom! have ever undertaken in terms of the scope of it.
“It’s such a completely different exploration of Labyrinth but still so true to what Jim did.”