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Jim Henson is remembered first as a puppeteer, but he was also one of the great innovators of on-screen special effects. The computer-animated owl in Labyrinth, for example, is one of the earliest realistic CGI creatures seen in a film. But arguably more impressive are the “practical”— as in non-computer-generated — effects in Labyrinth, the 1986 musical fantasy that was Henson’s third feature film as director (after The Great Muppet Caper and The Dark Crystal).
This video, an excerpt from the behind-the-scenes documentary Inside the Labyrinth that recently resurfaced on Reddit, shows how the Henson Creature Shop created one of the movie’s most memorable scenes: teenage heroine Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) falling down a dark shaft lined with living, disembodied hands. Watch screenwriter Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) discuss how he came up with the idea, while Jim Henson and his puppeteer son Brian figure out how to create faces with their combined hands. A young Kevin Clash, future creator of Elmo, is among the puppeteers seen rehearsing for the scene, which ultimately involved over 100 pairs of foam latex gloves and a custom-built set with a forty-foot drop. For more scenes from Inside the Labyrinth, visit the Jim Henson Company’s YouTube channel.