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Labyrinth (1986 film)

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Labyrinth ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Ted Coconis
Directed byJim Henson
Screenplay byTerry Jones
Jim Henson
Laura Phillips
Elaine May
George Lucas
Story by
  • Dennis Lee
  • Jim Henson
Produced byEric Rattray
  • David Bowie
  • Jennifer Connelly
CinematographyAlex Thomson
Edited byJohn Grover
Music byTrevor Jones
  • Henson Associates, Inc.
  • Lucasfilm Ltd.
Distributed by
  • Tri-Star Pictures (United States)
  • ColumbiaEMIWarner Distributors[1] (United Kingdom)
Release date
  • June 27, 1986 (1986-06-27) (US)
  • December 2, 1986 (1986-12-02) (UK)
Running time
101 minutes[2]
  • United Kingdom[3]
  • United States
Budget$25 million
Box office$12.9 million (US only)

Labyrinth is a 1986 musical fantasy film directed by Jim Henson, with George Lucas as executive producer, based upon conceptual designs by Brian Froud. It revolves around 16-year-old Sarah's (Jennifer Connelly) quest to reach the center of an enormous otherworldly maze to rescue her infant half-brother Toby, whom Sarah accidentally wished away to Jareth, the Goblin King (David Bowie). Most of the film's main characters, apart from Bowie and Connelly, are played by puppets produced by Jim Henson's Creature Shop.

The film started as a collaboration between Henson and Froud following their previous collaboration The Dark Crystal (1982). Terry Jones of Monty Python wrote the first draft of the film's script early in 1984, drawing on Froud's sketches for inspiration. Various other scriptwriters rewrote it and added to it, including Laura Phillips, Lucas, Dennis Lee, and Elaine May—although Jones received the film's sole screenwriting credit. It was shot from April to September 1985 on location in Upper Nyack, Piermont, and Haverstraw, New York, and at Elstree Studios and West Wycombe Park in the United Kingdom.

The New York Times reported that Labyrinth had a budget of $25 million. The film was a box office disappointment, grossing $12.9 million during its U.S. theatrical run. It was the last feature film Henson directed, and the poor reception contributed to a difficult period of Henson's career, according to his son Brian Henson. It was first met with a mixed critical response upon its release but over the years, it has been re-evaluated by critics and gained a large cult following. Tokyopop published the four-volume comic sequel Return to Labyrinth between 2006 and 2010. In January 2016, it was announced that a sequel was in development,[4] which screenwriter Nicole Perlman described as more of a "spin-off" in the same fictional universe.[5]


16-year-old Sarah Williams recites from a book titled The Labyrinth in the park with her dog Merlin but is unable to remember the last line while being watched by a barn owl. Realizing she is late to babysit her baby half-brother Toby, she rushes home and is confronted by her stepmother Irene, who then leaves for dinner with Sarah's father Robert. Sarah finds Toby in possession of her treasured childhood teddy bear, Lancelot. Frustrated by this and his constant crying, Sarah rashly wishes Toby be taken away by the goblins from the book. She is shocked when Toby disappears and Jareth, the Goblin King, appears. He offers Sarah her dreams in exchange for the baby, but she refuses, having instantly regretted her wish. Jareth reluctantly gives Sarah 13 hours to solve his labyrinth and find Toby before he is turned into a goblin forever. Sarah meets a dwarfish man named Hoggle, who aids her in entering the labyrinth. She has trouble finding her way at first, but meets a talking worm who inadvertently sends her in the wrong direction.

Sarah ends up in an oubliette, where she reunites with Hoggle. After they are confronted by Jareth and escape one of his traps, the two encounter a large beast named Ludo. Hoggle flees in a cowardly fashion, while Sarah befriends Ludo after freeing him from a trap, but she loses him in a forest. Hoggle encounters Jareth, who gives him an enchanted peach and instructs him to give it to Sarah, calling his loyalty into question, as he was supposed to take her back to the beginning of the labyrinth. Sarah is harassed by a group of creatures called Fierys, but Hoggle comes to her aid. Thankful, she kisses him, and they fall into a trapdoor that sends them to a flatulent swamp called the Bog of Eternal Stench, where they reunite with Ludo. The trio meet the guard of the swamp, Sir Didymus, who is an anthropomorphic fox terrier, and his sheepdog "steed" Ambrosius. After Ludo summons a trail of rocks to save Sarah from falling into the bog, Didymus joins the group. When the group gets hungry, Hoggle reluctantly gives Sarah the peach and runs away as she falls into a trance and forgets her quest. She has a dream where Jareth comes to her at a masquerade ball, proclaiming his love for her, but she rebuffs him and escapes, falling into a junkyard. After an old Junk Lady fails to brainwash her, she is rescued by Ludo and Didymus, outside the Goblin City of Jareth's castle. They are confronted by the humongous robotic gate guard, but Hoggle bravely comes to their rescue. Despite his feeling unworthy of forgiveness for his betrayal, Sarah and the others welcome him back, finally accepting him as a friend, and they enter the city together.

Jareth is alerted to the group's presence and sends his goblin army to stop them, but Ludo summons a multitude of rocks to chase the goblins away, and they enter the castle. Sarah insists she must face Jareth alone and promises to call the others if needed. In a room modelled after M. C. Escher's Relativity, she confronts Jareth while trying to retrieve Toby. She recites the lines from her book that mirror her adventure to that point, but she still cannot remember the last line. As Jareth offers Sarah her dreams, she remembers the line, "You have no power over me!" Defeated at the last second, Jareth returns Sarah and Toby home safely and turns back into the barn owl, flying away.

Realizing how important Toby is to her, Sarah gives him Lancelot and returns to her room. As her father and stepmother return home, she sees her friends in the mirror and admits even though she has grown up, she still needs them in her life every now and again. In an instant, a number of the characters from the Labyrinth appear in her room for a raucous celebration, and she reunites with all of her friends. As they celebrate, Jareth, in his owl form, watches from outside and then flies into the moonlight.


  • David Bowie as Jareth, the king of the goblins.
  • Jennifer Connelly as Sarah Williams, a 16-year-old[6] girl who searches through the labyrinth to find her baby brother.
  • Toby Froud as Toby Williams, Sarah's baby half-brother.
  • Christopher Malcolm as Robert, Sarah and Toby's father.
  • Shelley Thompson as Irene, Toby's mother and Sarah's stepmother.
  • Denise Bryer as the Junk Lady
  • Natalie Finland as the Labyrinth Fairies, a bunch of deceitful barefoot fairies that reside in the labyrinth.
  • Juggler Michael Moschen performed Jareth's elaborate crystal-ball contact juggling manipulations.[7]

Creature performers[]

Character Puppeteer Voice
Hoggle Brian Henson
Shari Weiser (in body suit)
Ludo Ron Mueck
with Rob Mills
Sir Didymus Dave Goelz

with David Barclay

David Shaughnessy
The Worm Karen Prell Timothy Bateson
The Wiseman Frank Oz Michael Hordern
The Hat Dave Goelz David Shaughnessy
The Junk Lady Karen Prell Denise Bryer
The Four Guards Steve Whitmire

Kevin Clash

Anthony Asbury

Dave Goelz

Anthony Jackson

Douglas Blackwell

David Shaughnessy

Timothy Bateson

Right Door Knocker Anthony Asbury David Healy
Left Door Knocker Dave Goelz Robert Beatty
Fiery #1 Kevin Clash
with David Barclay & Toby Philpott
Fiery #2 Karen Prell

with Ron Mueck & Ian Thom

Charles Augins
Fiery #3 Dave Goelz

with Rob Mills & Sherry Ammott

Danny John-Jules
Fiery #4 Steve Whitmire

with Cheryl Henson & Kevin Bradshaw

Fiery #5 Anthony Asbury

with Alistair Fullarton & Rollin Krewson

Richard Bodkin
Ambrosius Steve Whitmire

Kevin Clash

Percy Edwards
Goblins Don Austen, Michael Bayliss

Martin Bridle, Fiona Beynor Brown

Simon Buckley, David Bulbeck. Sue Dacre

Geoff Felix, Trevor Freeborn

Christine Glanville, David Greenaway

Brian James, Jan King, Ronnie Le Drew

Terry Lee, Christopher Leith,

Kathryn Mullen, Angie Passmore

Michael Petersen, Nigel Plaskitt

Judy Preece, Michael Quinn

Gillie Robic, David Rudman

David Showler, Robin Stevens

Ian Tregonning, Mary Turner

Robert Tygner, Mak Wilson

Francis Wright

Michael Attwell, Sean Barrett,

Timothy Bateson, Douglas Blackwell,

John Bluthal, Brian Henson,

Anthony Jackson, Peter Marinker,

Ron Mueck, Steve Nallon,

Jan Ravens, Enn Reitel,

Kerry Shale, David Shaughnessy

Goblin Corps performed by Marc Antona, Kenny Baker, Michael Henbury Ballan, Danny Blackner, Peter Burroughs, Toby Clark, Tessa Crockett, Warwick Davis, Malcolm Dixon, Anthony Georghiou, Paul Grant, Andrew Herd, Richard Jones, John Key, Mark Lisle, Peter Mandell, Jack Purvis, Katie Purvis, Nicholas Read, Linda Spriggs, Penny Stead, and Albert Wilkinson.


I think what we are trying to do with this film is kind of harken back to a lot of those classic fantasy adventures that a young girl goes into: The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and the works of Maurice Sendak. I don't mind comparisons. It's not like we are trying to out do them. We are simply related — The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland are so much a part of us. This is the fantasy world that she (the Labyrinth heroine) has grown up with. These are the stories that have fascinated her.

— Jim Henson on comparisons of Labyrinth to other works.[8]

Richard Corliss noted that the film appeared to have been influenced by The Wizard of Oz and the works of Maurice Sendak, writing, "Labyrinth lures a modern Dorothy Gale out of the drab Kansas of real life into a land where the wild things are."[9] Nina Darnton of The New York Times wrote that the plot of Labyrinth "is very similar to Outside Over There by Mr. Sendak, in which 9-year-old Ida's baby sister is stolen by the goblins".[10] This almost got the film into legal trouble, as the similarity caused Sendak's lawyers to advise Jim Henson to stop production on the film. However, the legal complaint was eventually settled, with an end credit being added that states, "Jim Henson acknowledges his debt to the works of Maurice Sendak."[11] Sendak's Outside Over There and Where the Wild Things Are are shown briefly in Sarah's room at the start of the film, along with copies of Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Grimms' Fairy Tales.

The film's concept designer Brian Froud has stated that the character of Jareth was influenced by a diverse range of literary sources. In his afterword to the 20th-anniversary edition of The Goblins of Labyrinth, Froud wrote that Jareth references "the romantic figures of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and a brooding Rochester from Jane Eyre" and The Scarlet Pimpernel. Bowie's costumes were intentionally eclectic, drawing on the image of Marlon Brando's leather jacket from The Wild One as well as that of a knight "with the worms of death eating through his armour" from Grimms' Fairy Tales.[12] In his audio commentary of Labyrinth, Froud said that Jareth also has influences from Kabuki theatre.[13]

The dialogue starting with phrase, "you remind me of the babe" that occurs between Jareth and the goblins, in the Magic Dance sequence in the film, is a direct reference to an exchange between Cary Grant and Shirley Temple in the 1947 film The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.[14]

Labyrinth's "Escher scene", which features an elaborate three-dimensional staircase set, was inspired by the art of Dutch artist M. C. Escher.[15] A print of Escher's lithograph Relativity is shown on Sarah's bedroom wall in the film.[16]


Origins and script[]

According to the film's conceptual designer Brian Froud, Labyrinth was first discussed between himself and director Jim Henson.[12] Both agreed to work on another project together, and Froud suggested that the film should feature goblins. On the same journey, Froud "pictured a baby surrounded by goblins" and this strong visual image – along with Froud's insight that goblins traditionally steal babies – provided the basis for the film's plot.[17]

Discussing the film's origins, Henson explained that he and Froud "wanted to do a lighter weight picture, with more of a sense of comedy since Dark Crystal got kind of heavy – heavier than we had intended. Now I wanted to do a film with the characters having more personality, and interacting more."[17]

Labyrinth was being seriously discussed as early as March 1983, when Henson held a meeting with Froud and children's author Dennis Lee.[18] Lee was tasked with writing a novella on which a script could be based, submitting it at the end of 1983.[19] Henson approached Terry Jones to write the film's script as "his daughter Lisa had just read Erik the Viking and suggested that he try me as screen-writer."[20] Jones was given Dennis Lee's novella to use as a basis for his script, but later told Empire that Lee had produced an unfinished "poetic novella" that he "didn't really get on with." In light of this, Jones "discarded it and sat down with Brian [Froud]'s drawings and sifted through them and found the ones that I really liked, and started creating the story from them."[21]

While Jones is credited with writing the screenplay, the shooting script was actually a collaborative effort that featured contributions from Henson, George Lucas, Laura Phillips, and Elaine May. Jones has said that the finished film differs greatly from his original vision. According to Jones, "I didn't feel that it was very much mine. I always felt it fell between two stories, Jim wanted it to be one thing and I wanted it to be about something else." Jones has said his version of the script was "about the world, and about people who are more interested in manipulating the world than actually baring themselves at all." In Jones' original script, Jareth merely seems "all powerful to begin with" and is actually using the Labyrinth to "keep people from getting to his heart."[20]

Jones has said that Bowie's involvement in the project had a significant impact on the direction taken with the film. Jones had originally intended for the audience not to see the center of the Labyrinth prior to Sarah's reaching it, as he felt that doing so robbed the film of a significant 'hook.' With the thought of Bowie starring in the film in mind, Henson decided he wanted Jareth to sing and appear throughout the film, something Jones considered to be the "wrong" decision. Despite his misgivings, Jones re-wrote the script to allow for songs to be performed throughout the film. This draft of the script "went away for about a year", during which time it was re-drafted first by Phillips and subsequently by Lucas.[17][20]

An early draft of the script attributed to Jones and Phillips is markedly different from the finished film. The early script has Jareth enter Sarah's house in the guise of Robin Zakar, the author of a play she is due to perform in. Sarah does not wish for her brother to be taken away by the goblins, and Jareth snatches him away against her will. Jareth is overtly villainous in this draft of the script, and during his final confrontation with Sarah he tells her he would "much rather have a Queen" than "a little goblin prince." The early script ends with Sarah kicking Jareth in disgust, her blows causing him to transform into a powerless, sniveling goblin. In the extensive junkyard scene, Jareth operates the Junk Lady as a puppet, whereas in the film she is autonomous. There is actually a pub or bar in the Labyrinth where the Man with Hat and Hoggle gather, and the river Lethe in Greek myth is mentioned. As well, the ballroom scene features extensive dialogue between Jareth and Sarah, whereas in the film there is none (although there is in the novelization by A. C. H. Smith), and the goings-on with the dancers in the ballroom are more overtly sexualized.[22]

The re-drafted script was sent to Bowie, who found that it lacked humor and considered withdrawing his involvement in the project as a result. To ensure Bowie's involvement, Henson asked Jones to "do a bit more" to the script in order to make it more humorous.[20][21] May met with Henson several months prior to the start of filming in April 1985, and was asked to polish the script. May's changes "humanized the characters" and pleased Henson to the extent that they were incorporated into the film's shooting script.[23][24]

At least twenty-five treatments and scripts were drafted for Labyrinth between 1983 and 1985, and the film's shooting script was only ready shortly before filming began.[23]


The protagonist of the film was, at different stages of its development, going to be a King whose baby had been put under an enchantment, a princess from a fantasy world, and a young girl from Victorian England. In order to make the film more commercial, they made the lead a teenage girl from contemporary America. Henson noted that he wished to "make the idea of taking responsibility for one's life – which is one of the neat realizations a teenager experiences – a central thought of the film."[17]

Auditions for the lead role of Sarah began in England in April 1984. Helena Bonham Carter auditioned for the role, but was passed over in favor of an American actress. Monthly auditions were held in the U.S. until January 1985, and Jane Krakowski, Yasmine Bleeth, Sarah Jessica Parker, Marisa Tomei, Laura Dern, Ally Sheedy, Maddie Corman, and Mia Sara all auditioned for the role. Of these, Krakowski, Sheedy and Corman were considered to be the top candidates. 14-year-old actress Jennifer Connelly "won Jim [Henson] over" and he cast her within a week.[23] According to Henson, Connelly was chosen as she "could act that kind of dawn-twilight time between childhood and womanhood."[25] Connelly moved to England in February 1985 in advance of the film's rehearsals, which began in March.[23] Discussing her understanding of her role with Elle, Connelly said that the film is about "a young girl growing out of her childhood, who is just now becoming aware of the responsibilities that come with growing up."[26]

The character of Jareth also underwent some significant developments during the early stages of pre-production. According to Henson he was originally meant to be another puppet creature in the same vein as his goblin subjects.[17] Deciding that the role should be filled by a live actor, Henson initially considered offering it to Simon MacCorkindale or Kevin Kline.[27] Henson eventually wanted a big, charismatic star "who could change the film's whole musical style" to play the Goblin King,[17] and sought a contemporary musician for the role, considering Sting, Prince, Mick Jagger, and Michael Jackson before choosing Bowie.[28]

"I wanted to put two characters of flesh and bone in the middle of all these artificial creatures," Henson explained, "and David Bowie embodies a certain maturity, with his sexuality, his disturbing aspect, all sorts of things that characterize the adult world".[29] Henson met David Bowie in the summer of 1983 to seek his involvement, as Bowie was in the U.S. for his Serious Moonlight Tour at the time.[30] Henson continued to pursue Bowie for the role of Jareth, and sent him each revised draft of the film's script for his comments. During a meeting that took place on June 18, 1984, Henson showed Bowie The Dark Crystal and a selection of Brian Froud's concept drawings to pique his interest in the project.[31] Bowie formally agreed to take part on February 15, 1985, several months before filming began.[17][31] Discussing why he chose to be involved in the film, Bowie explained, "I'd always wanted to be involved in the music-writing aspect of a movie that would appeal to children of all ages, as well as everyone else, and I must say that Jim gave me a completely free hand with it. The script itself was terribly amusing without being vicious or spiteful or bloody, and it had a lot more heart in it than many other special effects movies. So I was pretty hooked from the beginning."[32]

Gates McFadden was originally offered the role of Sarah's mother by Henson, and she signed up to do the choreography as well, but due to British labor laws, she was not allowed to act in the movie, and had to accept the choreography role alone. She said, "Even though that was the reason I took the job and had, for two years, been thinking that was what was going to happen. They would not allow us."[33]


The team that worked on Labyrinth was largely assembled from talent who had been involved in various other projects with the Jim Henson Company. Veteran performers Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, and Steve Whitmire operated various puppets in the film, as did Karen Prell, Ron Mueck and Rob Mills who had all worked with Henson on Fraggle Rock. Kevin Clash, a crew member on Sesame Street best known for performing the character Elmo, worked on the film. Members of Henson's family also worked on the production, including son Brian and daughter Cheryl. Newcomers working on the production included puppeteers Angie Passmore, Nigel Plaskitt and Anthony Asbury, who had previously worked on the satirical puppet show Spitting Image.

Director Jim Henson and executive producer George Lucas on set during filming.[34]

Principal photography began on April 15, 1985, at Elstree Studios.[35] Labyrinth took five months to film, and was a complicated shoot due to the various puppets and animatronic creatures involved. In the making-of documentary Inside the Labyrinth, Henson stated that although Jim Henson's Creature Shop had been building the puppets and characters required for around a year and a half prior to shooting, "everything came together in the last couple weeks." Henson noted, "even if you have the characters together, the puppeteers start working with them, they find problems or they try to figure out what they're going to do with these characters."[28]

Although each of the film's key puppets required a small team of puppeteers to operate it, the most complex puppet of the production was Hoggle. Shari Weiser was inside the costume, while Hoggle's face was radio-controlled by Brian Henson and three additional puppeteers. Speaking in the Inside the Labyrinth documentary, Brian Henson explained that Weiser "does all the body movement and her head is inside the head. However, the jaw is not connected to her jaw. Nothing that the face is doing has any connection with what she's doing with her face. The other four members of the crew are all radio crew, myself included." Speaking of the challenges involved with performing Hoggle, Brian Henson said, "five performers trying to get one character out of one puppet was a very tough thing. Basically what it takes is a lot of rehearsing and getting to know each other."[28] Similarly challenging was Ludo, the film's big, ogre-like monster, whose original build weighed over 100 pounds. Since it would've been too exhausting for one performer, Ron Mueck, to inhabit the 75-pound suit for all of his scenes, Henson decided to have Mueck and Rob Mills exchange performances inside Ludo, as they had practically the same size and body shape.

At the early stages of filming, stars Connelly and Bowie found it difficult to interact naturally with the puppets they shared most of their scenes with. Bowie said, "I had some initial problems working with Hoggle and the rest because, for one thing, what they say doesn't come from their mouths, but from the side of the set, or from behind you."[32] Connelly remarked, "it was a bit strange [working almost exclusively with puppets in the film], but I think both Dave [Bowie] and I got over that and just took it as a challenge to work with these puppets. And by the end of the film, it wasn't a challenge anymore. They were there, and they were their characters."[36]

The film required large and ambitious sets to be constructed, from the Shaft of Hands to the rambling, distorted Goblin City where the film's climactic battle takes place.[28] The Shaft of Hands sequence was filmed on a rig that was thirty feet high, with a camera mounted on a forty-foot vertical camera track. Of the many grey, scaly hands integral to the scene, 150 were live hands supplied by 75 performers, augmented by an additional 200 foam-rubber hands.[35] Connelly was strapped into a harness when shooting the scene, and would spend time between takes suspended midway up the shaft.[28]

The set of the Goblin City was built on Stage 6 at Elstree Studios near London, and required the largest panoramic back-cloth ever made. According to Production Designer Elliot Scott, the biggest challenge he faced was building the forest Sarah and her party pass through on their way to Jareth's Castle. The film's production notes state, "the entire forest required 120 truckloads of tree branches, 1,200 turfs of grass, 850 pounds of dried leaves, 133 bags of lichen, and 35 bundles of mossy old man's beard."[25]

While most filming was conducted at Elstree Studios, a small amount of location shooting was carried out in England and the U.S. The park seen at the start of the film is West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire, England. The scenes of Sarah running back home were filmed in various towns in New York State, namely Upper Nyack, Piermont and Haverstraw.[37]

Shooting wrapped on September 8, 1985.[38]


Most of the visual effects on Labyrinth were achieved in-camera, with several notable exceptions. The most prominent of these post-production effects was the computer-generated owl that appears at the opening of the film. The sequence was created by animators Larry Yaeger and Bill Kroyer,[39][40] and marked the first use of a realistic CGI animal in a film.[41] The owl head maquette had to be rescued from a skip when Omnibus, the animation company, went bankrupt in 1987.[42]

The scene where Sarah encounters the Fire Gang had to be altered in post-production as it had been filmed against black velvet cloth, to disguise the puppeteers, and a new forest background was added behind. Jim Henson was unhappy with the compositing of the finished scene, although he considered the puppetry featured in it worthy of inclusion.[29]

Henson received help editing the film from executive producer George Lucas. According to Henson, "When we hit the editing, I did the first cut, and then George was heavily involved on bringing it to the final cut. After that, I took it over again and did the next few months of post-production and audio." Henson went on to explain, "When you edit a film with somebody else you have to compromise. I always want to go one way, and George goes another way, but we each took turns trading off, giving and taking. George tends to be very action-oriented and he cuts dialogue quite tight; I tend to cut looser, and go for more lyrical pauses, which can slow the story. So, I loosen up his tightness, and he tightens my looseness."[17]


The soundtrack album features Trevor Jones' score, which is split into six tracks for the soundtrack: "Into the Labyrinth", "Sarah", "Hallucination", "The Goblin Battle", "Thirteen O'Clock" and "Home at Last".

Bowie recorded five songs for the film: "Underground", "Magic Dance", "Chilly Down", "As The World Falls Down" and "Within You". "Underground" features on the soundtrack twice, first in an edited version that was played over the film's opening sequence and secondly in full. "Underground" was released in various territories as a single, and in certain markets was also released in an instrumental version and an extended dance mix.[43] "Magic Dance" was released as a 12" single in the U.S.[44] "As The World Falls Down" was initially slated for release as a follow-up single to "Underground" at Christmas in 1986, but this plan did not materialize.[45] The only song Bowie did not perform lead vocal on is "Chilly Down", which was performed by Charles Augins, Richard Bodkin, Kevin Clash, and Danny John-Jules, the actors who voiced the 'Firey' creatures in the film.[46] A demo of " Chilly Down" under its original title "Wild Things" performed by Bowie was leaked in 2016 by Danny John-Jules shortly after Bowie's death.[47]

Steve Barron produced promotional music videos for "Underground" and "As The World Falls Down". The music video for "Underground" features Bowie as a nightclub singer who stumbles upon the world of the Labyrinth, encountering many of the creatures seen in the film. The clip for "As The World Falls Down" integrates clips from the film, using them alongside black-and-white shots of Bowie performing the song in an elegant room. Both videos were released on the 1993 VHS tape Bowie - The Video Collection and the 2002 two-disc DVD set Best of Bowie.

In 2017, Capitol Studios announced that it will be reissuing the soundtrack on a Vinyl disc, this will include all five originals songs of David Bowie along with Trevor Jones's score.[48]



The production of Labyrinth was covered in multiple high-profile magazines and newspapers, in anticipation of its release, with articles appearing in The New York Times, Time and Starlog magazine.[17][49][50] An article that appeared in The New York Times shortly after filming wrapped in September 1985 focused heavily on the film's large scale, emphasizing the size of the production and selling Labyrinth as a more "accessible" film than The Dark Crystal due to the casting of live actors in its key roles.[49] An hour-long making-of documentary that covered the filming of Labyrinth and included interviews with the key figures involved in its production was broadcast on television as Inside the Labyrinth.[51]

Labyrinth was featured in music trade papers such as Billboard due to David Bowie's soundtrack for the film.[52] Bowie was not heavily involved in promoting the film, but Jim Henson was nonetheless grateful that he produced a music video to accompany the song "Underground" from the soundtrack, saying, "I think it's the best thing he could have done for the film."[53][54] Commercial artist Steven Chorney provided the film's teaser one-sheet, while Ted Coconis produced a one-sheet poster for the film's North American release.[55]

A range of merchandise was produced to accompany the film's release, including plush toys of Sir Didymus and Ludo, a board game, computer game and multiple jigsaw puzzles. An exhibition of the film's characters and sets toured across shopping malls in various cities in the U.S, including New York City, Dallas and Chicago. Labyrinth was featured in an exhibition titled 'Jim Henson's Magic World' that was shown at the Seibu Department Store in Tokyo in August 1986.[56]

Theatrical release[]

Labyrinth opened in U.S. theaters on June 27, 1986.[10] The film received a Royal Charity premiere at the London Film Festival on December 1, 1986, with Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales in attendance.[57][58] Jim Henson, Brian Henson, Brian Froud, Jennifer Connelly, and the animatronic creature Ludo were all present to support the film.[59]

The film was rolled out in other European countries largely between December 1986 and February 1987, and premiered in France as Labyrinthe on December 2 and in West Germany as Die Reise ins Labyrinth (The Journey into the Labyrinth) on December 13. The film was released in Denmark as Labyrinten til troldkongens slot (The Labyrinth to the Troll King's Castle) on February 20, 1987, and saw its last theatrical release in Hungary under the title Fantasztikus labirintus (Fantastic Labyrinth) when it premiered there on July 7, 1988.[60]

The movie was released in Brazil on December 25, 1986 where it was named Labirinto – A Magia do Tempo (Labyrinth – The Magic of Time).

In 2012, the film was digitally remastered and re-released at The Astor Theatre in Melbourne, Australia.

Home media[]

Labyrinth was first released on VHS, Betamax, and pan and scan LaserDisc in 1987 by Embassy Home Entertainment in the US and by Channel 5 Video Distribution in the UK. New Line Home Video re-released the film on LaserDisc in Widescreen through Image Entertainment in 1994. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment re-issued the film on VHS for the last time in 1999 in the US under the name of its subsidiary company, Columbia-TriStar and in the UK the same year, with Inside the Labyrinth included as a special feature.

The film made its DVD premiere in 1999 in the US, and has since been re-released on DVD in 2003, 2007, and 2016. All DVD releases of the film feature the Inside the Labyrinth documentary as an extra. The 2003 re-release was described as a collector's edition, and featured a set of exclusive collectors cards that featured concept art by Brian Froud.[61] The 2007 release was promoted as an Anniversary Edition, and featured a commentary by Brian Froud and two newly produced making-of documentaries: "Journey Through the Labyrinth: Kingdom of Characters" and "Journey Through the Labyrinth: The Quest for Goblin City" which featured interviews with producer George Lucas, choreographer Gates McFadden of Star Trek fame (listed as Cheryl McFadden[62]) and Brian Henson.[63]

The film was released on Blu-ray in 2009, in a package that replicated the extras featured on the 2007 Anniversary Edition DVD. The Blu-ray release featured one new special feature, a picture-in-picture track that lasts the length of the film and features interviews with the crew and several minor cast members including Warwick Davis.[64]

A 30th Anniversary edition of Labyrinth was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray in 2016. An Amazon exclusive gift set version with came with packaging similar to Jareth's Escher-style stairs. New features included "The Henson Legacy" featuring Jennifer Connelly and members of the Henson family discussing Jim Henson's puppetry style and includes a visit to the Center for Puppetry Arts, which houses many of Jim Henson's puppets. Adam Savage from MythBusters hosts a Q&A with Brian Henson, David Goelz, Karen Prell, and Sheri Weiser. Jennifer Connelly, Brian Henson, and Cheryl Henson pay tribute to David Bowie in "The Goblin King".[65]

In 2021, a 35th Anniversary edition of Labyrinth was released on Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray as a set in a digibook designed to resemble Sarah's book from the film. The 2021 Blu-ray disc is the same as the 2016 release, while the 2021 4K Blu-ray disc includes new special features such as 25 minutes of deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by Brian Henson, and 55 minutes of footage from the original auditions for the role of Sarah.[66]


Box office[]

Labyrinth opened at number eight in the U.S. box office charts with $3,549,243 from 1,141 theaters, which placed it behind The Karate Kid Part II, Back to School, Legal Eagles, Ruthless People, Running Scared, Top Gun, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.[67] In its next weekend at the box office, the film dropped to number 13 in the charts, only earning $1,836,177.[68] By the end of its run in U.S cinemas the film had grossed $12,729,917,[69] just over half of its $25 million budget.[49]

In January 1987 Variety reported the film had earned $12 million in nine foreign territories: the U.K., Australia, Brazil, Central America, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, and Mexico.[70]

Critical reception[]

As he did with less success in The Dark Crystal, Mr. Henson uses the art of puppetry to create visual effects that until very recently were possible to attain only with animation. The result is really quite startling. It removes storyboard creations from the flat celluloid cartoon image and makes them three-dimensional, so that they actually come alive and interact with living people. The technique makes animation seem dull and old-fashioned by comparison.

— Nina Darnton of The New York Times on Labyrinth's technical achievements.[10]

The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics.[71] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film averages a 74% positive rating from 50 reviews; the general consensus states: "While it's arguably more interesting on a visual level, Labyrinth provides further proof of director Jim Henson's boundless imagination."[72] On Metacritic, which uses a "weighted average" of all the critics' scores, Labyrinth scores 50 out of 100 meaning “mixed or average reviews”.[73]

While acknowledging that Labyrinth was made with "infinite care and pains", Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four as he felt that the film "never really comes alive". Ebert said that as the film was set in an "arbitrary world" none of the events in it had any consequences, robbing the film of any dramatic tension.[74] Gene Siskel's review of Labyrinth for the Chicago Tribune was highly negative, and he referred to it as an "awful" film with a "pathetic story", "much too complicated plot" and a "visually ugly style". Siskel objected to the film's "violent" plot, writing, "the sight of a baby in peril is one of sleaziest gimmicks a film can employ to gain our attention, but Henson does it."[75]

Other critics were more positive. Kathryn Buxton of The Palm Beach Post found that it had "excitement and thrills enough for audiences of all ages as well as a fun and sometimes slightly naughty sense of humor".[76] In the Sun-Sentinel, Roger Hurlburt called Labyrinth "a fantasy fan's gourmet delight", writing that "though plot aspects are obviously borrowed from other fantasy stories -- Cinderella, Snow White and the fairy tale classics, events are served in unique form".[77] Bruce Bailey of The Montreal Gazette admired the film's script, stating, "Terry Jones has drawn on his dry wit and bizarre imagination and come up with a script that transforms these essentially familiar elements and plot structures into something that fairly throbs with new life." Bailey was also impressed by the film's depth, writing, "adults will have the additional advantage of appreciating the story as a coming-of-age parable."[78]

Several critics noted the film's subtext, and found it successful to varying degrees. Saw Tek Meng of the New Strait Times acknowledged, "Sarah's experiences in the labyrinth are symbolic of her transition from child to woman" but ultimately found the film "too linear" for its latent themes to come through.[79] The New York Times' Nina Darnton compared the film's tone to the writings of E. T. A. Hoffmann, stating that Hoffman's The Nutcracker "is also about the voyage to womanhood, including the hint of sexual awakening, which Sarah experiences too in the presence of a goblin king." Darton enjoyed the film and considered it to be more successful than Henson's previous collaboration with Brian Froud, The Dark Crystal.[10]

Reviewing Labyrinth for White Dwarf #85, Colin Greenland stated that "Like Time Bandits, Labyrinth is the story of a child trying to negotiate a dreamlike otherworld where logic is not all that it should be; and so it also borrows lavishly from The Princess and the Goblin, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and Where the Wild Things Are. A couple of scenes along the quest are truly eerie; others are doggedly sentimental."[80]

Connelly's portrayal of Sarah polarized critics and received strong criticism from some reviewers. Los Angeles Daily News critic Kirk Honeycutt referred to Connelly as "a bland and minimally talented young actress".[81] Writing for The Miami News, Jon Marlowe stated, "Connelly is simply the wrong person for the right job. She has a squeaky voice that begins to grate on you; when she cries, you can see the onions in her eyes."[82] Contrary to these negative views, Hal Lipper of the St. Petersburg Times praised her acting saying, "Connelly makes the entire experience seem real. She acts so naturally around the puppets that you begin to believe in their life-like qualities."[83]

Bowie's performance was variously lauded and derided. In his largely positive review of the film for Time, Richard Corliss praised him as "charismatic" referring to his character as a "Kabuki sorcerer who offers his ravishing young antagonist the gilded perks of adult servitude".[9] Bruce Bailey enjoyed Bowie's performance, writing, "the casting of Bowie can't be faulted on any count. He has just the right look for a creature who's the object of both loathing and secret desire."[78] In a largely critical review, Hal Lipper found, "Bowie forgoes acting, preferring to prance around his lair while staring solemnly into the camera. He's not exactly wooden. Plastic might be a more accurate description."[83]

Following the film's mixed reception, Henson came "the closest I've seen him to turning in on himself and getting quite depressed", his son Brian told Life magazine.[84] It was the last feature film directed by Henson before his death in 1990.

Since Henson's death, Labyrinth has been re-evaluated by several notable publications. A review from 2000 in Empire magazine called the film "a fabulous fantasy" and wrote, "David Bowie cuts a spooky enough figure in that fright wig to fit right in with this extraordinary menagerie of Goth Muppets. And Jennifer Connelly, still in the flush of youth, makes for an appealingly together kind of heroine."[85] Writing for the Chicago Tribune in 2007, Michael Wilmington described Labyrinth as "dazzling", writing that it is "a real masterpiece of puppetry and special effects, an absolutely gorgeous children's fantasy movie".[86] In 2010 Total Film ran a feature called 'Why We Love Labyrinth' which described Labyrinth as a "hyper-real, vibrant daydream, Labyrinth's main strength lies in its fairytale roots, which give the fantastical story a platform from which to launch into some deliriously outlandish scenarios".[87] In their February 2012 issue, Empire featured a four-page spread on Labyrinth as part of their Muppet Special.[21]


Labyrinth was nominated at the British Academy Film Awards for Best Special Visual Effects,[88] and received two Saturn Award nominations, for Best Fantasy Film as well as Best Costumes. Labyrinth was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.[89]

Labyrinth is ranked 72nd on Empire's “The 80 best ‘80s movies’[90] and 26th on Time Out's "The 50 best fantasy movies".[91] In 2019 The Telegraph named it as one of "The 77 best kids' films of all time".[92]


Cosplay at Fan Expo Canada 2016 in Toronto.

Despite its poor performance at the American box office, Labyrinth was a success on home video and later on DVD.[93] David Bowie told an interviewer in 1992, "every Christmas a new flock of children comes up to me and says, 'Oh! you're the one who's in Labyrinth!'"[94] In 1997, Jennifer Connelly said "I still get recognized for Labyrinth by little girls in the weirdest places. I can't believe they still recognize me from that movie. It's on TV all the time and I guess I pretty much look the same."[95]

Labyrinth has become a cult film.[96] Brian Henson remembered his father, Jim Henson, as being aware that Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal both had cult followings by the time of his death in 1990, saying, "he was able to see all that and know that it was appreciated."[97] Academic Andrea Wright wrote that Labyrinth has managed to maintain audience popularity long after its initial release to a greater extent than The Dark Crystal.[56] Since 1997, an annual two-day event called the "Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball" where revelers come dressed in costumes inspired by the film has been held in various cities, including San Diego, Hollywood, and, most recently, Los Angeles.[98] Labyrinth has developed a significant internet fan following since the early 1990s, and as of 2021, FanFiction.Net hosts over 10,000 stories in its Labyrinth section.[99][100]

The strong DVD sales of Labyrinth prompted rights-holders the Jim Henson Company and Sony Pictures to look into making a sequel,[93] and Curse of the Goblin King was briefly used as a place-holder title.[101] However, the decision was ultimately taken to avoid making a direct sequel, and instead produce a fantasy film with a similar atmosphere. Fantasy author Neil Gaiman and artist Dave McKean were called in to write and direct a film similar in spirit to Labyrinth, and MirrorMask was ultimately released in selected theaters in 2005 after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.[93] On January 22, 2016, Sony Pictures announced that a reboot is in development with Lisa Henson as producer and Nicole Perlman attached as the screenwriter.[4] However, on January 25, Perlman confirmed on Twitter that while she is working on a Labyrinth project with the Jim Henson Company, it is not a remake or reboot.[102] Perlman also discussed the timing of the rumors in conjunction with David Bowie's death and said, "Henson Co & I started talking in late 2014, so the timing of these rumors is so upsetting. I would never seek to profit from Bowie's death."[103]

In other media[]

Upon release, Labyrinth was translated to various forms of tie-in media. The Goblins of Labyrinth, a book containing Brian Froud's concept art for the film with descriptions by Terry Jones, was published in 1986[104] and reissued in a deluxe expanded 20th anniversary edition in 2006.[105] A concurrent novelization of the film was written by A. C. H. Smith,[106] which, along with Smith's novelization of The Dark Crystal, was reprinted with illustrations and Jim Henson's notes by Archaia Publishing in 2014.[107] Marvel Comics published a three-issue comic book adaptation,[108] which was first released in a single volume as Marvel Super Special#40 in 1986.[109] The film was adapted into picture book form as Labyrinth: The Storybook, written by Louise Gikow with illustrations by Bruce McNally,[110] and Labyrinth: The Photo Album, written by Rebecca Grand with photographs taken by John Brown from the film set.[111] Other tie-in adaptations included a read-along storybook produced by Buena Vista Records, which came with either a 7" 33⅓ RPM record[112] or cassette tape.[113]

The film was also adapted for the Commodore 64 and Apple II home computers in 1986 as Labyrinth: The Computer Game. Different versions were also released in Japan the following year for the Family Computer console and MSX computer, under the title Labyrinth: Maō no Meikyū.[114]

In 2019 Boom! Studios published Labyrinth: A Discovery Adventure, a hidden picture book illustrated by Laura Langston and Kate Sherron.[115] Macmillan published Labyrinth: The ABC Storybook, an alphabet book by Luke Flowers, in 2020.[116]

Spin-off comics[]

Tokyopop, in partnership with The Jim Henson Company, published a manga-style four-volume comic sequel between 2006 and 2010 called Return to Labyrinth, written by Jake T. Forbes and illustrated by Chris Lie, with cover art by Kouyu Shurei.[117] Return to Labyrinth follows the adventures of Toby as a teenager, when he is tricked into returning to the Labyrinth by Jareth.[118]

Archaia Entertainment, in collaboration with The Jim Henson Company, announced in 2011 it was developing a prequel graphic novel about the story of how Jareth became the Goblin King.[119][120] Project editor Stephen Christy described the graphic novel as a "very tragic story" featuring a teenaged Jareth, and said it does not feature Sarah or Toby. In the early stages of development, there were plans for the novel to integrate music into the plot in some way. David Bowie was approached by Archaia in order to seek permission to use his likeness, and ascertain if he wished to have any involvement in the project.[121] As a creative consultant on the project, Brian Froud was set to design characters as well as produce covers for the graphic novel.[121] Reported to feature a young Jareth who is taken into the Labyrinth by a witch,[122] the novel's official synopsis states the plot revolves around Jareth's "attempt to rescue his true love from the clutches of the wicked and beautiful Goblin Queen."[123] While initially set for release at the end of 2012,[121][124] the graphic novel was repeatedly delayed. Its scheduled April 2014 release slot[123] was replaced by Archaia's reissue of the Labyrinth novelisation.[107] The graphic novel remains unreleased as of 2021.

Archaia released a Labyrinth short story titled Hoggle and the Worm for Free Comic Book Day on May 5, 2012[125] and another titled Sir Didymus' Grand Day on May 4, 2013.[126] To mark the film's 30th anniversary, Archaia published Labyrinth: 30th Anniversary Special, a collection of seven short stories, in 2016.[127] Cory Godbey's stories from this collection were also released in picture book form as Labyrinth Tales.[128] Another six-story collection was released the following year, titled Labyrinth: 2017 Special.[129] In 2018 the two collections were compiled as Labyrinth: Shortcuts, which also included two new stories,[130] and another three-story collection was released as Labyrinth: Under the Spell.[131]

Between 2018 and 2019, Archaia published Labyrinth: Coronation, a 12-issue comic series written by Simon Spurrier and illustrated by Daniel Bayliss. The series is a prequel about how Jareth became the Goblin King. Beginning in 1790s Venice, the story revolves around an infant Jareth who has been stolen by the previous ruler of the labyrinth, known as the Owl King, and follows the quest of Jareth's mother, Maria, to rescue her son.[132][133] In 2020, Archaia published Labyrinth: Masquerade, a one-shot story set during the film's masquerade dream sequence, written by Lara Elena Donnelly with art by Pius Bak, Samantha Dodge and French Carlomango.[134]

Stage adaptation[]

In 2016, Brian Froud expressed that he would like to see Labyrinth adapted as a stage musical with live puppetry and special effects,[135] remarking that it would be “an absolute gift to do it on stage. People would come and sing the songs, and dress up, I think."[136] Brian Henson announced in April 2018 that the Jim Henson Company was working on a "stage show, a big theatrical version" of Labyrinth. He said the production was not intended for Broadway theatre but could potentially take place on London's West End.[137]


In January 2016, Nicole Perlman announced that she had been hired to write the script for the sequel.[138] By April 2017, Fede Álvarez signed on as director, as well as co-writer with Jay Basu.[139] Henson's daughter Lisa Henson will produce.[140] By October 2018, Álvarez confirmed that the script was complete.[141] However, in April 2020, Álvarez announced that he had stepped down as director.[142]

In May 2020, Scott Derrickson, known for directing Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was announced as director of the sequel. Maggie Levin will join him in writing the script for the movie. The Jim Henson Company's Brian Henson is set to be executive producer while confirming Lisa Henson as producer.[143]

In February 2021, Jennifer Connelly revealed that she had "had conversations" about being involved in the Labyrinth sequel but was unsure about what is going to happen.[144][145]


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Further reading[]

  • Block, Paula M.; Erdmann, Terry J. (2016). Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History. London: Titan Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-78565-435-0.

External links[]

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