Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth is the poster child for what it is to be a cult classic. The movie recouped just about half of its $25 million production budget upon its initial release, but some 35 years later, it's found a second life on home video, streaming services, and through countless collectibles. It's now lauded for its groundbreaking special effects and imaginative puppetry, and for its memorable performances by a young Jennifer Connelly and rockstar David Bowie, who perfectly embodied the flamboyant Goblin King. Now you can learn more about the characters and inhabitants within the movie through the new guidebook, Jim Henson's Labyrinth: Bestiary: A Definitive Guide to the Creatures of the Goblin King's Realm.
In the book, author S.T. Bende and illustrator Iris Compiet, who previously did the artwork for The Dark Crystal Bestiary, bring Labyrinth to life in a whole new way for fans to enjoy. "The Jim Henson Company has had a huge influence on my creative (and everyday!) life, and it was a dream come true to get to step into their world," Bende tells Mental Floss in an email interview.
The central part of this 160-page guidebook covers the Labyrinth's sites, visitors, and residents, including its protectors, adventurers, and members of the Goblin King’s court like Ludo, Humongous, and Sir Didymus with his steed Ambrosius. Fans will get to learn new facts and tidbits about these characters, like how the Goblin King stealing baby Toby actually mirrors his own childhood and the fact that he was stolen as well. Because Labyrinth has fewer creatures than The Dark Crystal, the creative team could concentrate more on the personalities of each character. “…for me, it always felt like it was a scrapbook made by Sarah of her adventures in the Labyrinth, a keepsake,” Compiet says.
Though both Bende and Compiet are fans of the film and grew up watching it, they still had to do countless hours of meticulous research to bring this guidebook to life. In addition to multiple screenings of the movie, there were plenty of Labyrinth-related comics, books, and online resources to parse through. As Bende made her way further into this Henson rabbit hole, she devised a system of sticky notes to mark the different creatures and moments from the movie she wanted to include in her draft.
“When I felt like I had as much ‘data’ as I could gather, I compiled it into a master document that logged all of my findings on each character/species/location,” Bende says. "Then I studied the gorgeous images Iris was sending over. Her portrayal of each character’s wonder, kindness, stubbornness or joviality played a huge part in the way I ultimately framed each section."
For Compiet's visuals, having access to photos and imagery used for the film by The Jim Henson Company was invaluable. “I also was sent tons of photos by The Henson Company, sometimes photos I don't think anyone else besides people at Henson had seen of some of these goblins and it was such an amazing experience," Compiet says. "[Editor Chris Prince] made sure we had everything we needed to paint these creatures in a realistic light—whether we had a question about a comic book character, wanted clarity on a novel reference, or just really hoped to see another side of a certain goblin."
It was important to both Bende and Compiet to honor the characters from a film they love so dearly—but it was equally important to pay homage to Henson himself. And to do that, the team made sure to fill the book with something that was near and dear to the creator's heart: Chickens.
"We’d heard that Jim Henson loved chickens, and when Iris floated the idea of chickens being everywhere in this book (just like they are in the Labyrinth!) it felt like a great way to pay homage to the creator who inspired so many of us," Bende says. "At the end of the day, we both have a ton of love for this world and for the artists who brought it to life."
Jim Henson's Labyrinth: Bestiary: A Definitive Guide to the Creatures of the Goblin King's Realm is now available on Amazon for $29, and you can check out a few pages from the book below.