We talk with Toby Froud about Netflix's upcoming Dark Crystal prequel!
Yesterday, the faerie community, and indeed all those who love beautiful and fantastical storytelling, received momentous news when Netflix officially announced their upcoming project, slated to begin filming in fall. A prequel series to the beloved 1982 Henson/Froud film, The Dark Crystal, it will run for ten episodes and include state-of-the-art puppet creations from the imaginations of our own friends and Faerie Magazine contributors, Brian and Toby Froud. The series is called The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and our minds are racing with guesses as to what characters and stories might be included.
The original film, The Dark Crystal, featured a world imagined by renowned fairy artist Brian Froud (conceptual designer) that was a surreally accurate three-dimensional recreation of his artwork. Froud’s imagination combined flawlessly with Jim Henson’s vision and skill, and the film is now considered a fantasy masterpiece. With Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and Brian and his impressively-skilled puppeteer and artist son, Toby, involved in the project, we have no doubt that the project will be a rousing success.
Deputy Editor Grace Nuth was able to give Toby Froud a quick phone call to ask him some questions about the project.
Faerie Magazine: How hard has it been to know this project was happening and not be able to share it?
Toby Froud: We’ve been on this around five weeks or so. When people have asked us “will Dark Crystal ever happen again” and things like that, my mom and I have had to keep quiet, and say “well, possibly,” and things like that.
FM: Way back at the first Faeriecon, your parents were guests, and announced the possibility of another feature film, so this has been a long time coming.
TF: It has! The idea of doing a sequel has been kicking around for twelve years or so. They did the Power of the Dark Crystal stuff for this big sequel feature, and it never really got off the ground. But then after the resurgence from the Hensons doing all of these competitions, [ex: Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge on SyFy] and having the fan base be what it is today, it just so happened that they caught the idea doing of a prequel, using all of the writing and lore of the world that now exists in recent years. Netflix said yes, so it became this idea that the Hensons would think in a different way, a prequel instead of a sequel. And now here we are.
FM: Were you and your father directly approached by Netflix, or by the Hensons?
TF: By the Hensons. It’s a Henson-Netflix production. We are a part of the Hensons’ development to build the creatures and world under management of Netflix.
FM: You and your father have worked together in creative capacities informally throughout your life. Was the creation of “Granny” for Lessons Learned the first time you had him create a creature, and you then translated it into a three dimensional puppet?
TF: It was, for a film together. We certainly have done a lot of puppets…Ignatz [Toby’s Froudian puppet, seen at many fairy events like Faeriecon] was my father’s design, and my creation. But Granny was our coming together for film.
FM: Do you anticipate the creations on this Dark Crystal project happening similarly, with him creating the concepts and you interpreting those concepts in three dimensional puppets, or do you and your father plan to work together to create the concepts as well?
TF: We are doing both. What’s very interesting is I am working alongside my father right now in the conceptual designs. I am translating his designs still as well, into three dimensional forms. What is bigger and is the amazing part is the translation of them into puppets. My father and I are giving them these characters; we are developing these ideas with the Hensons…and Louis Leterrier, and Lisa Henson and my father and I are figuring this out, creating this visual. Then the team of the Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, this amazing team, are creating the puppets for us.
FM: Has work already begun on pre-production?
TF: I am in the studios in L.A.! I’m working with them on a daily basis, designing and also fabricating with them. Then my father is in England, and he is designing from there. So work has begun fast and furious!
FM: Of course you can’t tell us anything about new creations, but what is your favorite type of creature in the world of the original Dark Crystal film? Are there any that you are especially eager to bring to life?
TF: Ooh…That is a tough question. I love them in different ways: To revisit all of the Skeksis…To be able to build a Mystic again, things like that. To be able to envision in the new world with new technology and modern times, bringing these creatures up to date in certain ways. I am so excited to see Aughra on screen as well. So that sort of thing is what I can’t wait for. I’m excited to see the new creatures of the world and also the expansion of the world itself. And then we are revisiting certain things of the old world too…that’s what I’m excited for.
FM: Will your mother be assisting on this project as well, or just a father/son duo?
TF: Wendy is certainly consulting on this, especially with the Gelflings, because she did Jen and Kira originally. So I’m working closely with her and also my father. But she was the sculptural designer for those, and so she’s invaluable to our new process.
FM: How does it feel creating a large-scale work that your young son can grow up watching, just as you watched Dark Crystal and Labyrinth growing up?
TF: It’s…I mean it’s amazing. Beyond amazing. This project is very interesting because it’s a legacy. It’s a dream to do this. What is fascinating is that I am the same age my father was when he started The Dark Crystal. So what’s really interesting is that that’s coming to light. It’s wonderful that I get to work with him and the Hensons on this thing. It’s far more than just another project. And yes, to continue that, and to have my son grow up and see this project eventually. It’ll be interesting.
There’s a lot of pressure from fans and from the world. We’re trying. And what will be wonderful is actually the new: the new ways, new look, new feel. The director coming in and putting his vision into this, and the producing team, and Netflix. It’s quite an interesting and wonderful marriage. I think it will benefit, in a lot of ways. I’m excited to see what director Louis Leterrier does: bringing the camera to life in new ways I think the audience will really enjoy.
Netflix is an amazing juggernaut of a company that has great creative taste in what they’re providing the world, and things to come. It’s brilliant. A very clever match.