The ethereal beauty that is essential to “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” doesn’t exist without the Froud family.
Brian Froud’s now internationally known style weaves together nature and fantasy creating an extraordinary world that could very well exist right outside someone’s door. It channels a kind of practical magic that’s waiting for us all just on the other side of tree or hiding under a rock.
Putting together the elaborate puppet quest that became the 1982 cult classic “The Dark Crystal” took five years of collaboration with the brain trust of co-directors Jim Henson and Frank Oz. So what did he feel when Netflix proposed a series prequel in less than half the time they had to create the original? In a word, terror!
“The original film ‘Dark Crystal’ was five years of my life,” Brian Froud told Variety. “And here we were doing ten episodes, which is several movies all in one, and done in an incredibly short time. We just had to knuckle down and start. First of all it was terror and then it was just a lot of hard work.”
But this time around Brian would have an extra set of hands besides his wife Wendy Midener (who also worked on creature design on the original) – their son, Toby.
“As a kid growing up in the family house, we certainly had a few props and pieces around from the ‘Dark Crystal,’ we had a crystal shard,” Toby Froud explained. “My parents have one of the old mystic coats hanging on the wall. It’s beautiful. And that’s something that I literally grew up next to my whole life. I walked past it every day. The quality and nature of that is stunning.”
The creature-creating duo (official titles design and creature supervisors) were then tasked with resurrecting the world of Thra and populating it with over 100 creatures including gelflings (over seven clans), skeksis, mystics, landstriders and a whole lot more.
“I think we built at least between six and ten different gelfling for each clan, and that’s just for functioning puppets,” Toby explained. “And then we did other background [puppets] that duplicated different elements for each clan. Not including the heroe [puppets]. There were about 8 hero puppets we [constructed] for gelflings alone.”
Plus, each new addition to the fantasy world had to be as weightless as possible. “Everything has to be light, because they’re puppets, we’re not building costumes for humans.” Toby explained. “We had to choose very light fabrics, or as light as possible, and make them feel heavy, ad make them look as if they have weight and drape and shape and form and flow, at scale as they move around throughout the series.”
After that, the puppets and costumes needed to look aged, weathered and (most importantly) contain the depth and an organic quality that is intrinsic to “Dark Crystal.”
“It should feel in many ways familiar,” said Brian. “But in reality they come from this imaginative world of Thra, everything you’re looking at is not a piece of wool or lycra it’s not from our world, it is all a lie. I always imagined that all the shapes and forms and fabrics have inherited their own life. There are creatures inside the costumes actually knitting it as it’s moving around. There’s all sorts of extraordinary life going on. So it was very important that all our crafts people worked on this to create literally a living world. Nothing is symmetrical, everything is the shape and form that comes from nature and trees everything has a flow to it.”
Watch our discussion with Brian and Toby Froud, and learn how they brought the Emperor to life for “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.”
Interview/Story by Meredith Woerner.