Only One Scene From The Original 'Script' Made It Into Labyrinth

Once upon a time in a distant land, before the all-consuming creature known as CGI was even a thing, there was a wise and gentle puppeteer named Jim Henson. He spent many years crafting his gang of colorful creatures, known as the Muppets. Soon, though, the Muppets decided it was time to leave their cozy home on the TV and make the perilous crossing to the big screen. 

Luckily, everyone loved them, and even grumpy old Orson Welles wanted a piece of the action for their first feature, "The Muppet Movie." Many people came to watch Henson's cheerful creations in their first film, and it was one of the biggest hits of 1979.

The success of "The Muppet Movie" kept the Muppets and their creators busy, leading to the first two sequels: "The Great Muppet Caper" and "The Muppets Take Manhattan." Frank Oz, who performed many Muppet characters, landed the role of Yoda in "The Empire Strikes Back" before going on to his own successful directorial career. His first movie behind the camera was "The Dark Crystal," co-directed with Henson. 

"The Dark Crystal" was the most ambitious project for Henson's team to date, combining Brian Froud's astounding designs with Henson's groundbreaking animatronics to create a fully immersive fantasy world, promoted as the first live-action feature film without humans onscreen. It was a breathtaking spectacle, albeit a rather remote one, with the amazing world-building marred by a formulaic story and bland protagonists.

After going through such a lengthy production process for middling reviews and modest box office, what next? Henson and company jumped into another lengthy production with "Labyrinth," which took very little from the original "script." Which wasn't a script at all.

So what happens in Labyrinth again?

Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connolly) is a stroppy 16-year-old fantasy nerd who enjoys playing make-believe in the park with her dog. Angry about babysitting her toddler brother Toby (Toby Froud) one night, she impulsively wishes for some goblins to take him away. Unknown to her, Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie) is listening and happily grants her wish, sending his squad to snatch the kid. Regretting her words instantly, she refuses an offer from Jareth for the baby, so he gives her 13 hours to navigate his vast labyrinth and recover Toby before he gets turned into a goblin for good.

Magically finding herself standing outside the labyrinth's daunting walls, Sarah initially has trouble finding the way in before a chatty worm shows her that not everything is what it seems. Sarah finds her path to Jareth's castle hindered by magic, weird creatures, puzzles, and very smelly traps. If that wasn't bad enough, Jareth doesn't want to play fair, bullying her dwarf guide, Hoggle, into giving her a poisoned peach that will make her forget all about her little brother. Will she snap out of it and make it on time?

Sarah isn't the most likeable protagonist and some of the stuff with Jareth seducing her is a bit queasy, but putting humans alongside puppets is a good choice, rooting the story in some kind of reality. Bowie enjoys himself in a role that has gained a passionate following, but the main attraction is the wild array of creatures from Henson's team. Swinging back to friendlier territory after "The Dark Crystal," the creatures Sarah encounters are far more towards the humorous end of the scale. Still, any movie that has a gallant talking fox riding a Dulux dog steed is okay with me.

What happened to the original script?

Dennis Lee, the Canadian poet who would later write lyrics for the songs in "Fraggle Rock," was brought in to work on the original story with Henson and Brian Froud, the concept artist who had provided such incredible imagery for "The Dark Crystal." He was given the job of writing a novella to base the screenplay on, which was then passed to Monty Python's Terry Jones on the strength of his children's novel, "Erik the Viking," of which Henson's daughter was a fan.

Jones was perhaps a little confused by what he was being given. As he told Empire:

"Rather than write a script, [Dennis had] written a poetic novella, and he hadn't actually finished it, so it wasn't even a complete thing. I can't remember if Brian Froud had been designing from this novella or not, but I didn't really get on with it, so I discarded it and sat down with Brian's drawings and sifted through them and found the ones that I really liked, and started creating the story from them. I think the only thing I kept from the novella was Hoggle squirting the fairies. I thought that was funny!"

"Labyrinth" flopped at the box office and, like "The Dark Crystal," was met with indifferent reviews. Despite this, critics were almost unanimous in their praise of the imagination on display, and Jones certainly made the most of the inspiration taken from Froud's evocative designs. Time has been kind to the film, and it now ranks as one of the most beloved '80s family movies, even if the road to get there was a little bumpy.