What was the biggest challenge you faced when tackling the production design for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance?

Conceptually the biggest challenge was honoring Jim Henson and Brian Froud and Henry Lange as the production designer, because I think we’ve all realized with the notices and the publicity that it’s getting, that it was a huge film when it came out. It affected an awful lot of people in a certain age group, maybe late 30s, early 40s…film people who are directors now, or designers now, or concept people. It really gave them [the] inspiration that creativity and concept work, illustration work, there was a sort of career there. It sounds a bit funny. But it was one of the first films that was so different to everything else, the people felt in the early ’80s, “well there’s a whole world here that can be explored,” which it did with many types of films going into Labyrinth and other pieces. It’s quite amazing how it has had that effect. That was what we needed to do — that was the challenge — was to honor the fact that it did have a really strong appreciation of the original film. And it seems like people have been waiting for it for a really long time.

But I think of the physical challenge of what we built, on pure financial and creative terms, we had to get the castle right. If we didn’t get the castle right, the audience would have found it slightly harder to connect with what else we did. But the other world that I think we did well was the background world of Ha’rar with the cathedral and the library. That was meant to be a very sculptural piece of architecture. By nature that’s expensive for us to do in construction, anything that isn’t a straight line costs a little more. We had some clever ways of making these sets, sculpting these sets that look like they’re sculpted in a very organic way but [don’t] not always in real life work. I think the fact that we managed to produce those worlds that hopefully look more intense sculpturally than probably they were physically, if you walked on the set, that would be a big satisfying area.

But strangely, the little Gelfling homestead down in Domrak, which was about 12 feet long and four-foot high with about 10 camera crew in there and 20 puppeteers was also critical. Because it’s so small that the camera’s going to see every detail, every texture, every prop in close-up. So it’s not just the size or scale of things you create that give you more satisfaction — sometimes the smaller things can be even more satisfying.

What was your favorite part of the production design for Age of Resistance?

It’s hard because the next one you do is always the most exciting. But I’ll say, I think Ha’rar and the whole background world was the one we really had to get right. It was something that had never been seen in the film. Also the Circle of the Suns that we did later on in the series, which again was nothing to do [with the original film], they’re completely new. Whereas the Stone-in-the-Wood environment is sort of in the organic woodland world. And Domrak — well, now that I’m saying it, I think Domrak, the underground world, was also a pleasure to do and produce something different. Because in a lot of films, we’ve seen a lot of underground worlds, so to get something that has its own character and works with the characters in that world. So I guess I’m saying that they’re all satisfying.

Well, you have been hinting about the end of this series. Can you tell me anything about a potential season 2?

I can’t tell you, because I don’t know! It’s not that I’ve been told not to say. I haven’t heard anything about that directly. I think if I had been available at the premieres in London and New York, I might have more in-house information. Obviously the ambition at the beginning, that was always the idea. If something’s successful and works well it would be silly to think there wouldn’t be something following up.

And would you return for a season 2?

I would return like a shot if it’s offered. People often ask what you’d like to do next, if you get a choice. And you always want to do something different. So when Dark Crystal came up, [I thought], “Wow I’ve never done anything like that before, where the whole series is based on puppetry.” That was a pretty exciting thing to jump into, and along with Lisa Henson and Louis, it was a totally enjoyable creative experience and you could never say you wouldn’t want to do that again.

Yeah I’m sure you could create so many more rich environments with a second season.

I know there are two or three other Gelfling environments, which I’d presume if they go further, would also come up. And they’re also very different environments. You wouldn’t want to be reproducing what you’ve done before, you have to expand and move on that, like all series do in the second and third [seasons], they get bigger and go in different places. So that would be exciting to do.


The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance premieres on Netflix on August 30, 2019.

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