In 2006, Labyrinth turns 20, while the Realm turns 10. Jesus, I can’t believe it’s been that long. As I reflected back over the past two decades, I started making a timeline of Labyrinth and its fandom.
1982: The Dark Crystal hits theaters with Brian and Wendy Froud on visual design and Jim Henson on puppets.
1984: Henson gets the idea for Labyrinth, originally conceived as “The Dark Crystal, only better, ’cause it’ll have human actors that the audiences can relate to.” He assembles his talented collaborators, including the Frouds again, Terry Jones of Monty Python fame, George Lucas [talent debatable]…and David Bowie for the lead since, y’know, audiences can easily identify with a rock star with Tina Turner hair.
1984-1986: Labyrinth is filmed.
1986-1987: Labyrinth hits movie screens across the world. Critics call it boring, lengthy, lacking in magic and, at best, mediocre. Fans love it. With few merchandising tie-ins and lackluster box-office receipts, though, the film quickly slips from the public view.
1986-1989: Labyrinth fans enjoy their film and fanaticism largely in isolation, playing their tapes of the soundtrack and renting videos of the movie from their local video store.
1989: The soundtrack CD appears, coinciding with a spike in VHS popularity. As VCRs become fixtures of the home entertainment center, the fledgling medium of compact disc also spreads the Labyrinth love.
1990: Jim Henson dies. Everyone in the known universe eulogizes the man and his work, including Labyrinth. Once scorned by critics, Labyrinth now appears as a testament to Henson’s genius.
1993: Jim Henson: The Works — The Art, The Magic, The Imagination, a coffee table book by Christopher Finch, appears. Covering Henson’s entire career with photos, diagrams and historical anecdotes, The Works includes pages on Labyrinth. The book’s discussion of Labyrinth marks the movie’s first mention in print since its theatrical release.
1995: The teacher of my Great Ideas class shows Labyrinth during class. I write a reaction paper that forms the germ of Jareth’s Realm.
1996: In the summer, I go on the Internet for the first time. Naturally I type in search terms like “Labyrinth and David Bowie.” The small number of results depresses me. However, Sarah Packard’s I Love Labyrinth! page and Walter Pullen’s Think Labyrinth! show me that there are other fans out there.
At this point, the Labyrinth fan culture [hmmm, sounds like a bacterial colony] just explodes with exponential growth, so I’ll start a new entry for the second decade in the life of our favorite movie.