The Road to Dragon Con: “The Dark Crystal” Puppet Parade

SkekUng!

SkekUng of the Garthim, a baddie due to make hhs grand return soon.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. 2019 marks the twentieth anniversary of our annual tradition, which began with our very first Wizard World Chicago. Apropos of our history, we’ll be honoring the occasion by combining two of our favorite shared pastimes: vacation and convention.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’ve been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we’re aiming for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness…

When we first began vacation brainstorming months ago, the Center for Puppetry Arts was among the top choices on my half of our list for specific reasons we’ll cover in the future. It’s a modest museum packed with puppets from around the world and across centuries, many of which you’d recognize from beloved movies and TV shows of your youth and mine. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area, and not just because they have their own free parking lot.

Upon our visit they were the proud hosts of a temporary exhibit featuring numerous puppets from the 1982 Jim Henson/Frank Oz classic The Dark Crystal, which featured some of the most startlingly dramatic puppets of the decade. This exhibit is perfectly timed with the arrival of the all-new Netflix prequel series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, scheduled to premiere this Friday, August 30th. Also perfectly timed for both the new series and for Dragon Con, the Center is planning an event this Thursday night the 29th called “The Dark Crystal Ball: Gathering of Gelflings“, for which fans can gather in costume, mingle, imbibe, party, and so on. Deep, constructive preparation was well underway when we walked in on Tuesday.

Please allow me to shut up now and share photos of awesome puppets that were actually used in the actual making and filming of The Dark Crystal, for anyone who can’t be here in person while the exhibit lasts. Enjoy!


entrance!

Welcome to the world of…the Dark Crystal!

costumes!

We begin with a few modest artifacts such as the intricate costumes that had to be sewn for each of the puppets, great and small.

Landstrider head!

A head from one of the Landstriders, those stilt-legged riding beasts.

Skeksis head!

Anyone who thinks working for the Jim Henson Company was an easy job has never seen a puppet with this many intricate controls for one creature head alone.

Mystic maquette!

Not a puppet, but a maquette of one of the Mystics made during pre-production.

Dark Crystal Comics!

Examples of various Dark Crystal tie-in comics produced in recent times. Not included is Marvel’s original 2-issue adaptation by David Anthony Kraft and Bret Blevins, which I might still have in my collection.

hero puppet?

UPDATED 10/13/2019: Trystan the Freeling. Full disclosure: I haven’t watched the film in a good 35 years or more, when I saw it on cable TV at my cousins’ house. Originally I couldn’t identify the name on this one until we got home and uploaded our non-phone camera photos, whereupon we found Anne got his placard in her shot.

not Ewok?

Same problem here, where my only note to myself is “not Ewok”. I welcome any and all polite corrections in the comments because I like learning new things and remembering older things I used to know.

Pod People!

Two of the many oppressed Pod People, a name that took on new significance many years later on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Aughra!

Aughra, bringer of science and wisdom.

UrAc the Scribe!

UrAc the Scribe, sort of a local, wizened stenographer.

Jen!

Jen, one of the easiest kinds of characters to remember: a main one.

More to come!

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