The Dark Crystal

GNC

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#61
But the big movies studio pushing for streaming by trying too kill off physical media and people just want things in an instant and they don't care about having good picture and sound but go and buy 4K TVs and streaming will never be as good a blue ray/4K uhd disk and then there's this crap https://www.slashfilm.com/digital-movies-purchases/
Yeah, but there's no sign of the collectors' market shrinking at the moment, and specialist labels in the US and UK are doing a sterling job of keeping many titles circulated. Let's face it, Netflix doesn't have anything very much pre-21st Century, and there are still plenty of people who do want that, so it's either go with Amazon Prime or discs (or watch the movie channels on TV). At least with discs you will be able to watch the film or TV show whenever you want. The main problem is that there's only so many films that are released, and good stuff will fall through the cracks.
 

Ogdred Weary

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#62
I love The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth an issue that TDC has which Labyrinth circumvented is that you get major uncanny valley vibes with the Gelflings. They are sufficiently "human" looking to appear dead eyed and mannequin-esque, there's no issue with the Skeksies, Mystics, Poddlings and other weird creatures. Looking at those photos in the above article, we are going to get a load of dead eyed Gelflings.

I hope this is shit and bombs, we cannot have nice things.
 

AlchoPwn

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#63
I love The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth an issue that TDC has which Labyrinth circumvented is that you get major uncanny valley vibes with the Gelflings. They are sufficiently "human" looking to appear dead eyed and mannequin-esque, there's no issue with the Skeksies, Mystics, Poddlings and other weird creatures. Looking at those photos in the above article, we are going to get a load of dead eyed Gelflings. I hope this is shit and bombs, we cannot have nice things.
So you're saying that Gelflings live in Uncanny Valley with androids? :lolling:
 

GNC

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#66
Looks disappointingly CGI for a puppet show. Also Age of Resistance is a terrible subtitle, like something discarded for a Star Wars PlayStation game.
 

GNC

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#73
Having read up on this, they say they used puppetry more or less throughout, they just used the CGI to remove the puppeteers. But that's a bit like cheating, one of the charms of the original is its handmade look, not Pipkins or The Sooty Show exactly, but something in that vein. Also, I doubt they're using matte paintings for the backgrounds. Sometimes the little flaws are what make it special and captivating.
 

AlchoPwn

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#78
I am not exactly holding my breath in anticipation of this one. Having watched the Dark Crystal as a teenager, I found myself supporting the Skekses, as the dead eyed Gelflings with their hackneyed morality hit no chord of moral sympathy in me. I seriously think I enjoyed Fraggle Rock more; I loved the sysiphean lives of the doozers.
 

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#79
I am not exactly holding my breath in anticipation of this one. Having watched the Dark Crystal as a teenager, I found myself supporting the Skekses, as the dead eyed Gelflings with their hackneyed morality hit no chord of moral sympathy in me. I seriously think I enjoyed Fraggle Rock more; I loved the sysiphean lives of the doozers.
Had you watched the Dark Crystal prior to adolesence?

Agree about the doozers being great. I take them to be a parody of humanity, whose stubborn and repetitive efforts are thwarted by the whims of callous gods.
 

Ogdred Weary

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#80
A significant problem with The Dark Crystal is the uncanny valley effect of the Gelflings, as alchopwn pointed out, they are human looking enough to have this effect. It's a good job this new series has loads of them.

NB I love the film, just pointing out a flaw. This series is a bad idea in general, I fear.
 

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#81
Anyone seen Age of Resistance, then? Looks great, beautifully constructed puppets (though the Gelflings still hit the uncanny valley), but the plot is the same old fantasy epic clichés. Plus ten episodes is a bit much, a proper feature film might have been better. Still, you have to admire them for getting something this wacky funded again.
 

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#82
Anyone seen Age of Resistance, then? Looks great, beautifully constructed puppets (though the Gelflings still hit the uncanny valley), but the plot is the same old fantasy epic clichés. Plus ten episodes is a bit much, a proper feature film might have been better. Still, you have to admire them for getting something this wacky funded again.

Loved it. Genuinely.

Actually went down to the BFI last week to see Brian Froud talking about making it.

Initially I balked at a 10 episode series, but all in all I think it actually justifies that as a narrative.

It builds parts of a pre-history of the world from a safe distance before the original movie, whilst absolutely feeling in-keeping with its aesthetic. And it does that by the incredible undertaking of avoiding cheaper CGI renditions and building an proper puppet production. Costuming, props, sets all built for real. The kind of thing which these days only Netflix money can buy. :)

Yes, CGI is used for backgrounds, and for removing traces of puppeteers, sticks, strings and the like. It gets used for touching up things - making puppets blink in shots where it wouldn't be possible for the puppeteer to do that easily whilst doing so many other things. But the whole thing feels very natural. It rarely feels like it breaks a sense of immersion.

I've always maintained that while CGI can do a great many things well the one area they will always fail in is producing a true sense of *weight* of an object on-screen. The way a creature or hovering craft hangs or sways, for example. And what effect that motion has on a landscape around it. CG can make it look like it's there, but it always looks like a cheap superimposing of an image.

As a child of the late 70s and early 80s I was genuinely psyched to see a show like this being made today. And also to see some kind of continuance in that type of fantasy which Henson and Froud built so well through the original Dark Crystal, through Labyrinth and The Storyteller. Since Henson's death there's been too little of that (Farscape being a notable exception, but even then it rarely used something on this scale of creatures).

I'm not going to say it's perfect (and it really does seem like a first Act in a larger story) but this could so easily have been something truly terrible. And it's such a genuine surprise that it's been done so delightfully faithfully instead.
 
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CuriousIdent

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#83
Having read up on this, they say they used puppetry more or less throughout, they just used the CGI to remove the puppeteers. But that's a bit like cheating, one of the charms of the original is its handmade look, not Pipkins or The Sooty Show exactly, but something in that vein. Also, I doubt they're using matte paintings for the backgrounds. Sometimes the little flaws are what make it special and captivating.

Where puppeteers have been removed is largely for balancing complicated sequences and moving larger creatures.

When you have a guy in Skeksis costume jumping branch to branch through woodland terrain this can be done relatively naturally. Because the Skeksis costume is mounted onto the shoulders of a real person. But to do similar with a Podling or Gelfling requires a little cheating. I don't personally feel that it is distracting. It's done very well. It doesn't ever really feel like you are being conned, because the motion of the puppet on screen is still grounded in reality.

Likewise Lore (as the largest puppet in the show) is basically Japanese Bunraku puppetry, performed by multiple performers to move the whole creature. Only while there performers would normally wear blacks to separate themselves from audience view; here they wore green to be edited out via green screen.

Yes, it's cheating. But in an authentic way.

This was something which Brian Froud referred to at the BFI last week. Interestingly, they did initially try puppet Skeksis with CGI Gelflings (some footage of which I believe is in the Netflix making of documentary) but it just looked *wrong*. :) CG has been used sparingly, but Froud pointed out that even in the more complicated scenes which used CG the animators went to the lengths of creating virtual puppeteers to move the characters in the CG engine they were using. They felt that it was essential that even if they had to cheat something dramatically it was imperative that it still moved as if attached to a person leading it.

It's quite the undertaking. But I do feel that it still feels authentic.

Froud did also say that having known and worked with Henson for many years he disagrees when people say that Jim would have objected to CGI. He feels that Henson was the kind of person who always embraced new technology, and finding ways to get the most out of what it could do. He feels that what they have produced is both authentic to The Dark Crystal and that Henson would have approved of the modern tweaks they have made.

I'm inclined to agree.
 

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#84
Loved it. Genuinely.

Actually went down to the BFI last week to see Brian Froud talking about making it.

Initially I balked at a 10 episode series, but all in all I think it actually justifies that as a narrative.

It builds parts of a pre-history of the world from a safe distance before the original movie, whilst absolutely feeling in-keeping with its aesthetic. And it does that by the incredible undertaking of avoiding cheaper CGI renditions and building an proper puppet production. Costuming, props, sets all built for real. The kind of thing which these days only Netflix money can buy. :)

Yes, CGI is used for backgrounds, and for removing traces of puppeteers, sticks, strings and the like. It gets used for touching up things making puppets blink in shots where it wouldn't be possible for the puppeteer to do that easily whilst doing so many other things. But the whole thing feels very natural. I rarely feels like it breaks a sense of immersion.

I've always maintained that while CGI can do a great many things well the one area they will always fail in is producing a true sense of *weight* of an object on-screen. The way a creature or hovering craft hangs or sways, for example. And what effect that motion has on a landscape around it. CG can make it look like it's there, but it always looks like a cheap superimposing of an image.

As a child of the late 70s and early 80s I was genuinely psyched to see a show like this being made today. And also to see some kind of continuance in that type of fantasy which Henson and Froud built so well through the original Dark Crystal, through Labyrinth and The Storyteller. Since Henson's death there's been too little of that (Farscape being a notable exception, but even then it rarely used something on this scale of creatures).

I'm not going to say it's perfect (and it really does seem like a first Act in a larger story) but this could so easily have been something truly terrible. And it's such a genuine surprise that it's been done so delightfully faithfully instead.
I've been saving this.

I have a five-day holiday coming up and hope to get the opportunity to watch it. Your summary has me feeling more excited than I first did.

Will report back.
 

GNC

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#85
Thanks for the info, @CuriousIdent ! I did enjoy it up to a point, but the thing is I've never been convinced that The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth were classics, so I was not quite as sold on the idea. Technically, they're marvels, though.

The Gelflings have that "uncanny valley" look about them too, maybe a different design would have been better, too late to change now, obviously (the underground race looked the best in the prequel). But the fact that a puppet show can be made with tons of money in the 21st century is very pleasing, even if it doesn't start a trend.
 

CuriousIdent

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#89
Thanks for the info, @CuriousIdent ! I did enjoy it up to a point, but the thing is I've never been convinced that The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth were classics, so I was not quite as sold on the idea. Technically, they're marvels, though.
They are, yes. As to whether you'd feel they were classics is always going to be down to personal preference, but from a technical standpoint they will always be such an impressive undertaking.


The Gelflings have that "uncanny valley" look about them too, maybe a different design would have been better, too late to change now, obviously (the underground race looked the best in the prequel)
I think that's valid. But it was also very much valid of the original movie also. Somewhat glassy eyes (aiming for a realistic feel) controlled from within a very small space for the puppeteer to move them as much as they would have liked. It doubtless did limit expression slightly.

The puppets used for Age of Resistance are *slightly* better in this regard, and CG tweaking allows for correcting what the puppeteer was unable to do at a key moment. Mind you, I do feel that redesigning them radically would have been wrong. This series was always very much designed and intended to be a partner product to the movie. Radical changes would have jarred with that. The two need to feel like they are in plausible tandem with each other.

If you watch the documentary The Crystal Calls on Netflix (it's available as the feature on the list after the final episode) you will see some of the test footage for the CGI Gelflings they created. That really does clash with aesthetic, in my opinion. I'm glad they didn't opt for it in the end.

But even with the slightly better animated faces CG can offer I don't think that it entirely removes the uncanny valley element. I'm not sure that you can. We're talking about creatures which are kind of a cross between a tiny elf and a fairy. They are supposed to be to some degree a little ethereal. A little distant :)


But the fact that a puppet show can be made with tons of money in the 21st century is very pleasing, even if it doesn't start a trend.
Absolutely. Something which was only really possible with Netflix money in this day and age. A huge undertaking.

That said I would like to see more shows making use of puppets alongside human performers. As a guy who's spent such a large amount of his life involved with theatre I guess that plays a part in it, but I love the stagecraft of puppetry alongside live performers. CG never quite connects with the performer as well as having something in the room with them. :)

The Henson Creature Shop in Camden closed its doors in the 90s (it's been converted into flats now) but the US branches are still very much alive and well.
 

CuriousIdent

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#90
The only immediate to hand image I've been able to find online of the CGI gelfling is this image below:

cgi gelfling.png


Which isn't great, because you can't really see the face clearly. I'll have to see if I can screencap something off Netflix at some point.

But yeah, I would recommend people watched The Crystal Calls if they're interested (after watching the series, for spoiler reasons).

It simply wouldn't have worked, in my opinion. I think the real strength in Age of Resistance is that it was done so faithfully to the original. For obvious reasons you can't get Jim Henson back, but to have Brian and Wendy Froud overseeing it makes a huge difference, and carries on as near as possible to the Henson ethos and traditions of old.

Joined now by Toby Froud, also. Who we should remember is a skilled designer and sculptor in his own right, and not just the guy who was the baby in Labyrinth! At the BFI talk there was much discussion of a 'Froudian shorthand' between the family, and a very genuine belief that as Brian continues to try to retire the family business is in safe hands with Toby. :)

I very much hope that Netflix commissions more, and that some kind of Creature Shop mini revival might happen for a new generation. Speaking with friends whose kids have watched the series there was a genuine awe in them that 'this is all puppets'. Because it's something they've never seen before in their lifetime. It's that rare now.
 
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