15 Fascinating Facts About The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal was a Jim Henson production that received a lukewarm reaction from viewers and critics alike when it was released in 1982—in large part because Henson fans, who were used to seeing lovable Muppets, instead witnessed something truly unique.  Now a cult classic, the live-action fantasy adventure centers around Jen and Kira, the last two members of the Gelfling tribe, who are trying to stop the evil Skeksis from conquering the world. Here are some facts about the film that was advertised as the first movie to not have a single human actor.

1. ILLUSTRATOR BRIAN FROUD WAS DISCOVERED BY JIM HENSON SIX YEARS BEFORE THE DARK CRYSTAL WAS RELEASED.

Henson saw some art from the British illustrator in a book called Once Upon a Time, and soon asked him to collaborate. The movie was a combination of imagery from the minds of both Henson and Froud. Henson credited Froud with developing The Dark Crystal’s “symbolic structure.”

2. FROUD GOT HIS DESIGN IDEAS FROM EATING LOBSTER DINNERS.

After enjoying his meals he would glue the shells together for design inspiration.

3. BRIAN FROUD MET HIS WIFE ON THE SET.

Brian Froud met his future wife, puppet designer Wendy Midener, while in production on The Dark Crystal when she was hired to sculpt 3-D versions of Brian’s Gelfling designs for the movie. She later sculpted and helped puppeteer Yoda for The Empire Strikes Back.

4. HENSON WROTE THE MOVIE'S ORIGINAL OUTLINE WHILE SNOWED IN AT A HOTEL.

On February 6, 1978, Henson and his daughter Cheryl were forced to spend the night at a Howard Johnson’s at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City in the midst of a blizzard. With little else to do, Henson hand-wrote multiple pages of the movie’s outline for screenwriter David Odell to work with.

5. HENSON MADE A MANDATORY BOOK RECOMMENDATION.

Both Brian Froud and The Dark Crystal screenwriter David Odell were told by Henson to read Jane Roberts’s 1972 book Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul, based on Roberts’s experiences channeling a multi-dimensional being that existed outside of time and space. Odell claimed Aughra’s line “He could be anywhere then” was influenced by Roberts’s book.

6. THE ORIGINAL GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES WERE ALSO AN INFLUENCE.

Frank Oz recalled that Henson wasn’t afraid to possibly scare the children who were his fans from the Muppet movies and his puppets from Sesame Street. He wanted to “get back to the darkness” of the original stories by the Brothers Grimm.

7. IT WAS FRANK OZ’S FIRST DIRECTING JOB.

In addition to the famous puppeteer performing as Aughra and Chamberlain in the film, Oz accepted Henson’s request to co-direct the film. Oz estimated that Henson helmed “70 percent” of the movie. Having two directors was so confusing and slowed things down for the crew so much that an assistant director was tasked with informing Henson and Oz that everybody wanted Henson to direct himself. He denied the request.

8. SIX PERFORMERS WERE OPERATING EACH CREATURE SIMULTANEOUSLY.

It took six people to work the animatronic Skeksis creatures: two were stuffed in the bird-like body while four worked on a platform underneath the surface. One group of performers worked for at least six months before shooting even began.

9. THEY SHOT THE MOST COMPLICATED SCENES FIRST.

Shooting began on April 15, 1981. One of the first scenes shot was the big showdown between Jen and Kira and the Skeksis in the Crystal Chamber.

10. HENSON MODELED THE SKEKSIS ON THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS.

That would be wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. (Since there were more than seven of them, some of the sins were repeated.) Froud described them as parts reptile, predatory bird, and dragon.

11. IT WAS ALL SHOT WITH A FAINT COLOR TINT TO RESEMBLE FROUD’S CONCEPTUAL DESIGNS.

This was done with a “light flex” by Oscar-winning cinematographer Oswald Morris, who retired after his work on The Dark Crystal.

12. THE SKEKSIS AND MYSTICS ORIGINALLY HAD AN INDO-EUROPEAN ROOTED LANGUAGE.

David Odell wrote in the original script for the Skeksis and the Mystics to share a similar language, with the Skeksis using a “cruder, uglier” version of it. However, the actors were too busy trying to work on their movements to learn new words, so they mostly spoke gibberish. Until ...

13. THE FIRST PREVIEW AUDIENCE HATED THE MOVIE.

On March 19, 1982, a Washington D.C. crowd was one of the first groups of people to ever witness the original cut—and they didn't like it. Mostly because they were confused and unhappy with not understanding what the Skeksis were saying. Henson asked Odell to add some voiceovers as well as some new dialogue so that the Skeksis could be re-recorded into English.

14. HENSON PAID $15 MILLION OF HIS OWN MONEY TO BUY THE FILM FROM ITS STUDIO.

ITC Entertainment had new leadership in the form of Robert Holmes à Court, who gave the film little advertising after its bad first screening. Worried his baby wasn’t going to get the chance it deserved, Henson spent all of the money he had available to buy his movie from Court. The movie came in third on its opening weekend (losing to Tootsie and The Toy), but the movie that was made on a $15 million budget eventually ended up making $40 million at the box office.

15. A SEQUEL HAS BEEN IN THE WORKS FOR A WHILE.

It has been reported that Jim Henson’s children and some of the original creative term have been working on Power of the Dark Crystal, a sequel, for many years now. Director Shane Abbess left the project because executives wouldn't allow him to follow through on Henson’s handwritten notes on what he wanted the sequel to be.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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14 Black Authors You Should Read Right Now

Pexabay, Pexels // CC0
Pexabay, Pexels // CC0

With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, works on anti-racism have been flying off the shelves of Black-owned bookstores. But anti-racism doesn’t start and end with philosophical theories—it’s also a matter of shifting your current reading patterns. If you’ve found yourself purchasing Stamped but not The Hate U Give or With the Fire on High, then you’re doing yourself a major disservice. To help you get started, here are some groundbreaking Black authors you should read—and a few suggested books for you to check out.

1. Jason Reynolds

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, Amazon

Jason Reynolds has a true gift when it comes to describing the Black male experience. He began writing poetry at age 9 and published his first novel in 2014. With his books—more than 10 so far—he’s created a space for Black boys to see themselves on the covers of fiction as much more than victims. On his website, Reynolds acknowledges that “I know there are a lot—A LOT—of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don't actually hate books, they hate boredom… even though I'm a writer, I hate reading boring books too.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: The Boy in the Black Suit, Ghost

2. Nic Stone

Nic Stone has been kicking down the door on issues that have been overlooked for decades. Through her books, she brings attention and nuance to subjects like grief, discrimination, and questioning one’s sexuality in a way that has rarely been seen before in Young Adult and Middlegrade fiction. Up until 2013, The New York Times bestselling author didn’t think she could write fiction. “Part of the reason I didn't think I could do it is because I didn't see anyone who looked like me writing the type of stuff I wanted to write (super popular YA fiction),” Stone writes in an FAQ on her website. “But I decided to give it a shot anyway. (Life lesson: If you don't see you, go BE you.)”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Dear Martin, Odd One Out

3. Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas made waves after the release of The Hate U Give, a New York Times Bestseller that was made into a critically acclaimed film. Thomas’s second novel, On the Come Up, takes place in Garden Heights about a year after the events of The Hate U Give. It follows a 16-year-old up-and-coming rapper who goes by the nickname Bri. As a former teen rapper herself, Thomas knows the topic well. Just don’t ask her to participate in a rap battle. “I hoped that with writing these scenes and with showing people the ins and outs of it and the internal part of it, of coming up with freestyles on the spot, that maybe—just maybe more people would respect it as an art form,” Thomas told NPR. “But I can't do it.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: The Hate U Give, On the Come Up

4. Brittney Morris

Simon Pulse/Amazon

In her debut novel, Slay, author Brittney Morris shows the ways that Black people are discriminated against in the gaming industry. In its review, Publisher's Weekly wrote, “This tightly written novel will offer an eye-opening take for many readers and speak to teens of color who are familiar with the exhaustion of struggling to feel at home in a largely white society.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Slay

5. Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Nigerian-American author who intertwines African mysticism and science fiction in her writing, masterfully addressing societal issues while showing us how the world can become a better place. Okorafor never envisioned a career as a writer; she planned to be an entomologist until, as a college student, she was paralyzed from the waist down after back surgery. She began writing to distract herself while she recovered, and never looked back. “Nigeria is my muse,” Okorafor told The New York Times. “The idea of the world being a magical place, a mystical place, is normal there.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Binti, Akata Witch

6. Tiffany D. Jackson

If you love psychological thrillers and haven’t read Tiffany D. Jackson’s first two novels, you’re missing out: Jackson has an ability to twist elements of her story to include new perspectives while keeping readers second-guessing their own theories. Her writing was influenced by many of the authors she discovered in her teen years. “I was, and still am, a HUGE R.L Stein fan, so his Fear Street series took me into my teen years," she writes on her website. "But then I was introduced to Mary Higgins Clark, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Jodi Picoult, to name a few.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Allegedly, Monday’s Not Coming

7. Nafissa Thompson-Spires

Nafissa Thompson-Spires catalogues the plights of the Black community with stories that are so intricate, they could be true. One story follows a Black cosplayer shot by police; another addresses post-partum depression. She also showcases the joy that surfaces throughout our lives, despite the hardships. Thompson-Spires’s writing has earned her comparisons to the likes of Paul Beatty, Toni Cade Bambara, and Alice Munro. “I think the goal of a writer should be to tell the truth in some way, even if it’s to tell it slant—or to imagine a better version of the truth," she told The Guardian. "We have to find ways to confront difficult subjects.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Heads of Colored People

8. Justin A. Reynolds

Katherine Tegen Books/Amazon

No, Justin A. Reynolds isn’t related to Jason Reynolds, but he’s just as talented. In his debut novel, Opposite of Always, Reynolds uses common YA tropes in an innovative way; a star-crossed lovers plot with the added effect of time travel truly sets this story apart.

Add to Your TBR Pile: Opposite of Always, Early Departures

9. Tony Medina

Tony Medina, the first Creative Writing professor at Howard University, has published 17 books, and his fight for social justice is evident in his writing. In his graphic novel, I Am Alfonso Jones, Medina uses Hamlet as inspiration for explaining issues of police brutality and social justice to Young Adult readers.

Add to Your TBR Pile: I Am Alfonso Jones

10. Elizabeth Acevedo

Quill Tree Books/Amazon

The Black experience is not a singular one, and Elizabeth Acevedo—whose debut novel, The Poet X, was a New York Times bestseller and won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2018—expands the canon with beautifully detailed Afro-Latinx narratives. “I feel like it’s hard to dream a thing you can’t see," Acevedo said in an interview with Black Nerd Problems. "And I think growing up like I knew I loved music and I loved poetry and I loved the feeling of being with other poets and listening to other stories and thinking, like, I think I can do that just as good.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: The Poet X, With the Fire on High

11. N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin is a voice for the marginalized in science fiction. She has won a number of awards for her work, including a Nebula Award and two Locust Awards, and she was the first person to win three Hugo Awards for Best Novel in a row, for her Broken Earth trilogy. "I’ll use whatever techniques are necessary to get the story across and I read pretty widely," Jemisin told The Paris Review. "So when people kept saying second person is just not done in science fiction, I was like, well, they said first person wasn’t done in fantasy and I did that with my first novel. I don’t understand the weird marriage to particular techniques and the weird insistence that only certain things can be done in science fiction."

Add to Your TBR Pile: The City We Became, The Fifth Season

12. Renée Watson

Renée Watson uses her novels to address gentrification, discrimination, and what it’s like to grow up as a Black girl. “My motivation to write young adult novels comes from a desire to get teenagers talking," she said in an interview with BookPage. "I hope my books are a catalyst for youth and adults to have conversations with one another, for teachers to have a starting point to discuss difficult topics with students.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: This Side of Home, Piecing Me Together

13. Maika and Maritza Moulite

Inkyard Press/Amazon

In their book Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, Haitian-American sister-author duo Maika and Maritza Moulite have created an exciting and riveting story of self-exploration and the meaning of family. These two have already secured a publishing deal for their next novel, One of the Good Ones.

Add to Your TBR Pile: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

14. Talia Hibbert

Although you may have heard her name more recently due to her USA Today bestselling novel Get a Life, Chloe Brown, Talia Hibbert isn’t a newcomer to the world of adult and paranormal romance: In books, she writes narratives that often follow characters who are diverse in race, body types, and sexuality—because, as her website bio states, “she believes that people of marginalised identities need honest and positive representation.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Get a Life, Chloe Brown, A Girl Like Her

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