In advance of the Netflix Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Hall H panel here at San Diego Comic-Con, key members of the cast and crew sat down to chat with the press. Executive Producer Lisa Henson, Director Louis Leterrier, and star Taron Egerton took questions on topics that ranged from pre-production to singing. The most interesting insight, however, was how they made a puppet television show with 2019 technology that is true to the 1982 original.
Henson and Leterrier gave Netflix a lot of credit for supporting the use of puppets and real cinematography in the show. Showrunners did not expect Netflix to let them take on such a huge creative lift, but were delighted to be given the opportunity. The creative team included Brian Froud, a designer for the original Dark Crystal movie. Early on, Henson, Leterrier, and Froud made the decision to be as true to the source material as possible. Consequently, as a prequel, everything in Age of Resistance was designed to lead seamlessly into the original film.
Henson laid out the years of pre-production work that was necessary to make Age of Resistance a reality. Puppeteers started by copying some of the original puppets. These puppets, the same ones Jim Henson used, had been on display in museums around the world. By starting the design process with pieces from the original movie, the puppeteers and artists were able to ensure that Age of Resistance had the look and feel of Dark Crystal.
Leterrier emphasized how important it was that the show appear visually similar to the original movie. He explained that only 10-15% of the show is done with CGI. Every shot in the show is originally filmed with a camera, set, scenery, and puppets. They shoot every scene in real life and then used CGI to enhance the images, adding the magical touches. The director acknowledged that choosing this path created more work for himself and said that every shot of the show was the most complicated and difficult of his career. There is a silver lining, however. Because the show uses puppets and real world filming, Leterrier maintains complete creative control over the characters. If the show was animated, he would have lost some design control to animators.
Using puppets to shoot the show also means that every scene of an episode is filmed before the voice actors ever step into the recording studio. For Egerton, this filming technique means that he can’t improvise as a voice actor. Unlike animation, each facial expression and puppet movement has to be choreographed and performed in advance. Therefore, any vocal improvisation would require reshoots. Leterrier was personally involved in the voice recording, just him and the voice actor in the studio. Because improvisation often comes when actors work together in the recording booth, Louis has all of the actors record their parts solo. Not as much fun for the actors, obviously, but vital to keeping the look and the feel of the show consistent with the movie.
Egerton did get one boom from his starring voice role as Rian, however. He got to use his singing skills. At some point in the series, Rian will sing. Fans who watched Rocketman know Egerton has a great voice, and he is excited to get to use it again.
The amount of work, money, skills, and resources that went into making Age of Resistance is mind blowing. Henson stated that every working puppeteer in England was involved in the project at some point. Character design was locked-in years in advance. Once the puppets were built, changing anything would lead to delays. And, according to the director, there is not a single shot in the show without a puppet in the frame.
From the trailer for Age of Resistance, and everything we have heard from the people who have seen it, all that hard work has paid off. I can’t wait to see the final product. As an added bonus, Henson and Leterrier have produced a “Making of Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” documentary to function as an eleventh episode. I can’t wait to find out more about the production process as well.
Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance premiers August 30 on Netflix.