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Labyrinth is a 1986 British-American fantasy film, directed by Jim Henson, produced by George Lucas and starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly.

The screenplay was collaboratively produced between Henson, George Lucas, poet Dennis Lee, Laura Phillips, Terry Jones and Elaine May, although Jones received the film's sole screen-writing credit.

Labyrinth was mostly filmed at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England, with a few scenes being filmed in New York and West Wycombe Park in England.

In the Labyrinth series, this was preceded by Untitled Archaia Comics Project and followed by Return to Labyrinth.

This was the last feature film directed by Henson before his death in 1990.

Official Synopsis

Frustrated with babysitting on yet another weekend night, Sarah, a teenager with an active imagination, summons the Goblins to take her baby halfbrother away. When little Toby actually disappears, Sarah must follow him into a fantastical world to rescue him from the Goblin King, Jareth. Guarding his castle is the labyrinth itself, a twisted maze of deception, populated with outrageous characters and unknown dangers. To get through it in time to save Toby, Sarah befriends the Goblins, in hopes that their loyalty isn't just another illusion in a place where nothing is as it seems.[1]


A white barn owl lands in a park where 16-year-old Sarah Williams is acting out a play accompanied by her English sheepdog Merlin. When the town clock tower strikes seven o' clock, Sarah remembers that she has to babysit her infant brother Toby and rushes home.

Upon returning home, Sarah is admonished by her step-mother Irene for being late, as she and Sarah's father Robert were due to go out for the evening. Sarah complains that her parents have started to assume that she'll babysit without asking her, to which Irene responds that Sarah ought to have dates at her age. This provokes Sarah into a rage, and she storms upstairs to her room. Her parents ensure that Toby is safe in his cot, and leave while Sarah is still sulking in her room. Upon discovering that her toy bear Lancelot is missing from her room, Sarah storms into her brother's room and finds the bear with him. Sarah flies into a rage and wishes that someone would take her away from "this awful place," lifting a distressed Toby out of his cot and telling him a story that mirrors her own situation. She calms down, but as she leaves the room Toby continues to cry and she says "I wish the Goblins would come and take you away. Right now." Sarah turns the light of the room off, but the next moment Toby goes silent. When she tries to turn the light on again, the switch fails to work. Upon re-entering the room, Sarah finds that Toby has vanished.

Jareth with Sarah.

After Toby's disappearance, the white barn owl that had seen Sarah in the park earlier flies into the room, and transforms into Jareth, the Goblin King. Jareth tells Sarah that he has taken the baby as she asked, and offers her a crystal that will reveal her dreams if she forgets about her brother. Sarah declines, and Jareth tells her that she has thirteen hours to rescue her brother from his Labyrinth and that the baby will become "one of us forever" if she fails to reach him in time.

Sarah sets off on her quest and quickly encounters Hoggle, a dwarf who works as a gardener in Jareth's Labyrinth. When Sarah first meets Hoggle he asks her for her name, and his response suggests that he was anticipating her arrival. Sarah asks Hoggle to show her the entrance to Jareth's Labyrinth and is led to the front gates, which open as she approaches them. Hoggle leaves Sarah, and she enters the Labyrinth alone.

After running through a seemingly endless corridor, Sarah stops and slumps down against one of the walls in defeat. As she rests, she is addressed by a worm who lives in a crack in the wall. The Worm tells Sarah that things in the Labyrinth are not always what they seem, and suggests that she try walking through the wall adjacent to them as it contains an opening. Despite initially being sceptical, Sarah carefully approaches the wall and finds that there is indeed an opening. Sarah enters a new maze-like area of the Labyrinth and tries to mark the route she is taking with lipstick, only to find there are small creatures over-turning the stones she is marking, making her system useless. Meanwhile, Jareth is seen with Toby in his castle, celebrating his arrival. Jareth sings the song Magic Dance, and gleefully plays with Toby in the midst of his goblin subjects.

Sarah and Hoggle escaping the cleaners.

Sarah eventually encounters The Four Guards and is challenged to a logic puzzle, which she is able to solve quickly. She takes the correct door, but fails to look where she is going and falls down a tunnel lined with hundreds of animated, scaled hands that catch her mid-fall. The hands ask Sarah if she wants to go up or down, and Sarah chooses down only to be dropped into an oubliette, a dungeon that can only be accessed through a hatch in the ceiling. Hoggle is sent by Jareth to release Sarah from the oubliette, and by bribing Hoggle with a plastic bracelet she has with her Sarah is able to persuade him to take her back into the Labyrinth. Hoggle leads Sarah pass a series of huge False Alarms as they journey towards the exit, but they are soon stopped by Jareth who demands to know why Hoggle is helping Sarah. Sarah irritates Jareth by describing his Labyrinth as "a piece of cake," provoking him to take some of her time away, and send The Cleaners after her and Hoggle, which sends them running for their lives. Faced with a dead end, they manage to push down a wall and escape moments before the machine collides with them.

Sarah and Hoggle climb up a ladder and emerge in a courtyard which is home to The Wiseman, who offers Sarah a few words of rambling advice in exchange for her ring. Hoggle attempts to leave Sarah at this point, but she snatches the collections of plastic jewelry he has attached to his belt and refuses to return it to him unless he agrees to lead her through the Labyrinth. Reluctantly, Hoggle agrees to accompany Sarah. They both continue through a hedge garden, and as they are walking Sarah tells Hoggle he is the only friend she has in the Labyrinth. Hoggle seems startled by this, and tells Sarah he has never had a friend before. Just after this exchange, they are stopped by a pained roar that makes Hoggle flee in fear despite Sarah's attempts to stop him. Sarah goes forward to investigate the noise, and finds Ludo, a huge, shaggy-haired monster being tormented by a group of mounted guards wielding horrific, biting monsters on sticks. Sarah makes the guards leave by throwing rocks at them, and releases Ludo from his bonds. Finding that he is kind and gentle, Sarah allows him to join her on her journey. Together, Sarah and Ludo find two doors with talking door knockers attached to them. Sarah and Ludo pass through one of the doors into a dimly lit forest. Soon after they enter, Ludo vanishes and Sarah is left to go through the forest alone.

Meanwhile, Hoggle runs into Jareth, who orders him to give a peach to Sarah. When Hoggle asks if the peach will harm Sarah, Jareth taunts him and ridicules the idea that Sarah could consider "a repulsive little scab" such as him a friend. In parting, he tells Hoggle he will make him a prince if Sarah should ever kiss him, derisively adding that Hoggle would be made nothing less than the "Prince Of The Land Of Stench" just prior to leaving.

Sarah soon encounters the fireys, a gang of wild, fun loving creatures with detachable body parts who attempt to remove Sarah's head. Sarah runs away from them, and comes to a rocky cliff face. She is saved by Hoggle who is at the top of the cliff and lowers a rope for her to climb. In her gratitude, Sarah kisses Hoggle and they both instantly drop through a trap-door. They come out on a ledge above The Bog of Eternal Stench, and manage to avoid falling in by edging their way across to safety. They meet Ludo as they are finding their way across the Bog, but are stopped from escaping it by Sir Didymus, a small, fox-terrier like Knight whose duty it is to defend the bridge. Sarah asks Sir Didymus for his permission to cross the bridge, and they are allowed to go across. The bridge breaks as Sarah is crossing it, but she clings to a branch hanging overhead and is saved from falling into the Bog by Ludo, who makes rocks rise up in the bog that Sarah uses as stepping stones to get across.

Jareth and Sarah dancing at the ball.

Together, Sarah, Hoggle, Ludo and Sir Didymus (on his sheep-dog mount, Ambrosius) move forward, entering an enchanted forest. Worn out by exhaustion and hunger Sarah is delighted when Hoggle offers her a peach Jareth ordered him to give to her. Sarah takes a bite, but the peach is poisoned and she falls unconscious while Hoggle, wracked by guilt at his betrayal, runs away. Drawn toward one of Jareth's dream-crystals, Sarah enters a dream-world, where she dances with Jareth at a magnificent ball. As they dance, Sarah notices a clock in the corner of the room that indicates the thirteenth hour is drawing near. Remembering her brother, Sarah breaks away from the dance and flees, shattering the dream-world by smashing the edge of it with a chair. She falls, landing in a vast Junkyard, where she is met by The Junk Lady, a withered old woman with a mound of possessions piled on her back. The Junk Lady takes Sarah to an exact copy of her room at home, and while Sarah is initially convinced she has returned home she eventually remembers she has to save Toby, and escapes from the room as it collapses around her.

Sarah finds Ludo and Sir Didymus, and together they approach the Goblin City. They are nearly blocked from entering the city by the giant robot Humongous, but Hoggle leaps onto Humongous from above and stops it before it can attack them. Once Humongous is stopped, Hoggle leaps down from it onto the ground and is reunited with Sarah, who tells Hoggle that she forgives him for giving her the peach.

With all of her friends alongside her, Sarah enters the Goblin City. They are quickly attacked by the Goblin Army, but Sarah and her friends manage to dodge all attempts to stop them and reach Jareth's Castle together. When they reach the Throne Room of the castle, Sarah realizes that Jareth must have hidden Toby elsewhere. Sarah tells her friends that she has to go forward alone, and leaves them to move deeper into the Castle. Sarah finds herself in the Escher Room, a vast, disorientating room filled with gravity defying stairways. Jareth is in the room with her and Toby, but Sarah mostly ignores him and focuses entirely on finding her brother. Sarah finally reaches a high ledge, and finds that Toby is sitting above a pit a long way below her. Closing her eyes, Sarah leaps from the edge to reach him.

Jareth tempting Sarah with a crystal.

Sarah descends slowly and lands on a platform that is suspended on mid-air, with pieces of rubble floating around her. Jareth approaches her from a shadowed alcove, and desperately attempts to distract her, telling her that he did everything she asked of him and saying he will give her everything she wants in exchange for her love, fear and obedience. Sarah ignores him, and recites the speech from The Labyrinth, which she could not quite remember at the beginning of the film. Jareth holds out a crystal for her to take, but Sarah disregards it and tells Jareth "You have no power over me." Jareth crumbles before Sarah's eyes, the crystal he had held out to her turning into a bubble that pops as he transforms into an owl. Sarah finds herself transported back to the entrance hall of her house, just as the white barn owl flies from the window.

Sarah runs back upstairs to check on Toby, and finds him sound asleep in his cot. Returning to her room, Sarah starts to pack away some of her childish possessions, when her friends speak to her from the mirror of her vanity. They tell her she can call upon them if she ever needs them, and Sarah tells them that she will always need them. With that, her friends suddenly appear in her room along with other creatures from the Labyrinth, and they all celebrate Sarah's victory.

Jareth is seen in his owl-form perched on a branch outside Sarah's window, peering inside. The owl flies off as Sarah continues to have fun with her friends, heading towards the moon.


Human cast

Creature performers

  • Shari Weiser and Brian Henson as Hoggle, and Brian Henson as the voice of Hoggle.
  • Ron Mueck and Rob Mills as Ludo, and Ron Mueck as the voice of Ludo.
  • Dave Goelz and David Barclay as Sir Didymus, with David Shaughnessy as the voice of Sir Didymus.
  • Karen Prell as the worm, and Timothy Bateson as the voice of the worm.
  • Frank Oz as the wiseman, and Michael Hordern as the voice of the wiseman.
  • Dave Goelz as the wiseman's bird hat and David Shaughnessy as the voice of the wiseman's bird hat.
  • Karen Prell as the junk lady and Denise Bryer as the voice of the junk lady.
  • Steve Whitmire, Kevin Clash, Anthony Asbury and Dave Goelz as the four guards and Anthony Jackson, Douglas Blackwell, David Shaughnessy and Timothy Bateson as the voice of the four guards.
  • Anthony Asbury as Right Door Knocker and David Healy as the voice of Right Door Knocker.
  • Dave Goelz as Left Door Knocker and Robert Beatty as the voice of Left Door Knocker.
  • Kevin Clash with David Barclay and Toby Philpott as Firey 1 and Kevin Clash as the voice of Firey 1.
  • Karen Prell with Ron Mueck and Ian Thom as Firey 2 and Charles Augins as the voice of Firey 2.
  • Dave Goelz with Rob Mills and Sherry Amott as Firey 3 and Danny John-Jules as the voice of Firey 3.
  • Steve Whitmire with Cheryl Henson and Kevin Bradshaw as Firey 4 and Danny John-Jules as the voice of Firey 4.
  • Anthony Asbury with Alistair Fullarton and Rollin Krewson as Firey 5 and Richard Bodkin as the voice of Firey 5.
  • Steve Whitmire and Kevin Clash as Ambrosius, with Percy Edwards as the voice of Ambrosius.
  • Don Austen, Michael Bayliss, Martin Bridle, Fiona Beynor Brown, Simon Buckley, David Bulbeck, Sue Dacre, Geoff Felix, Trevor Freeborn, Christine Glanville, David Greenaway, Brian James, Jan King, Ronnie Le Drew, Terry Lee, Christopher Leith, Kathryn Mullen, Angie Passmore, Michael Petersen, Nigel Plaskitt, Judy Preece, Michael Quinn, Gillie Robic, David Rudman, David Showler, Robin Stevens, Ian Tregonning, Mary Turner, Robert Tygner and Francis Wright as Goblins
  • Michael Attwell, Sean Barrett, Timothy Bateson, John Bluthal, Anthony Jackson, Ron Mueck, Brian Henson, David Shaughnessy, Douglas Blackwell, Peter Marinker and Kerry Shale as the voices of The Goblins.


Main article: Labyrinth: Original Soundtrack

The soundtrack to the film features both selections from the score by Trevor Jones and original songs by David Bowie. The film's signature song, Underground, was released as the lead single from the soundtrack and reached 21 on the U.K singles chart. Magic Dance was the other single from the soundtrack, and was released as a 12" single in the U.S, Italian and Spanish markets.


Main article: Labyrinth Merchandise

A range of merchandise has been produced to tie-in with the film, both at the time of its release in 1986 and in recent years. Merchandise to have been produced includes soft toys, activity books, puzzles and video games.


Main article: Timeline (Production)

Early Development

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Toby and the Goblins. A piece of concept art by Brian Froud.
According to the film's conceptual designer Brian Froud, Labyrinth was first discussed between himself and director Jim Henson during a limousine ride on the way back from a special screening of their 1982 fantasy film The Dark Crystal. Both agreed to work on another project together, and Froud suggested that the film should feature goblins. On the same journey, Froud "pictured a baby surrounded by goblins" and this strong visual image - along with Froud's insight that goblins traditionally steal babies - provided the basis for the film's plot.[2] According to Henson, Froud also made the suggestion that the film should feature a Labyrinth.[3]

Froud produced a range of concept paintings and sketches that informed the overall look and feel of the finished film. Several of these feature a young girl journeying through the Labyrinth with Hoggle and other assorted goblins, and this girl appears to be an early version of Sarah.[2]

Discussing the film’s origins, Henson explained that he and Froud “Wanted to do a lighter weight picture, with more of a sense of comedy since Dark Crystal got kind of heavy - heavier than we had intended. Now I wanted to do a film with the characters having more personality, and interacting more.” [3]

Labyrinth was being seriously discussed as early as March 1983, when Henson held a meeting with Froud and children's author Dennis Lee.[4] Lee was tasked with writing a 90-page novella that would become the basis for Terry Jones’ script of the film, turning it in at the end of 1983. [5]

One of several ideas being discussed in the early stages of the film's development was that the lead character would be a King whose baby had been stolen and placed under an enchantment. Alan Lee - Froud’s collaborator on the illustrated book Faeries – observed that this plot seemed similar to that of Ridley Scott’s Legend, and Henson and his creative team decided to consider a new focal point for the film. Ultimately the decision was taken for the film’s lead character to be a young girl, as according to Henson “That hadn't been done very much.”[3]

The protagonist went through several different incarnations before it was decided that she should be a teenage girl from contemporary America. Henson noted that he wished to “make the idea of taking responsibility for one's life - which is one of the neat realizations a teenager experiences - a central thought of the film." [3] With this in mind, 14 year old actress Jennifer Connelly was cast in the role. According to Henson, Connelly "could act that kind of dawn-twilight time between childhood and womanhood." [6]

The character of Jareth also underwent some significant developments during the early stages of pre-production. According to Henson he was originally meant to be another creature in the same vein as his subjects. Henson eventually decided he wanted a big, charismatic star to the play the Goblin King, and developed the role with David Bowie in mind. Henson met David Bowie in the summer of 1983 to seek his involvement, as Bowie was in the U.S for his Serious Moonlight tour at the time.[7] Henson continued to pursue Bowie for the role of Jareth, and sent him each revised draft of the script of the film. At one point Bowie lost interest in the project because he felt that a particular re-draft of the script lacked humor.[8] Bowie only formally agreed to take part a few weeks prior to the start of filming.[3]

While Terry Jones is credited with writing the screenplay the shooting script was actually a collaborative effort that featured contributions from Henson, George Lucas, Laura Phillips, Dennis Lee and Elaine May. Jones himself has said that the finished film is very different from his version of the script. According to Jones, “I didn’t feel that it was very much mine. I always felt it fell between two stories, Jim wanted it to be one thing and I wanted it to be about something else.”[8]

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Another piece of concept art by Brian Froud.

According to Jones, his version of the script was “about the world, and about people who are more interested in manipulating the world than actually baring themselves at all.” Jones script had Sarah realize there is no true solution to the Labyrinth, and featured a Jareth who used the Labyrinth to “keep people from getting to his heart.”[8]

Jones has said that Bowie’s involvement in the project had a significant impact on the direction taken with the film. Jones had originally intended for the audience not to see the centre of the Labyrinth prior to Sarah’s reaching it, as he felt that doing so robbed the film of a significant ‘hook.’ With the thought of Bowie starring in the film in mind, Henson decided he wanted Jareth to sing and appear throughout the film, something Jones considered to be a "wrong" decision.[8]

An early version of the script attributed to Jones and Phillips varies in several notable ways from the shooting script. The early script has Jareth enter Sarah's house in the guise of Robin Zakar, the author of a play she is due to perform in. Sarah does not wish for her brother to be taken, and Jareth does not set an ultimatum until Sarah has already made some head-way through the Labyrinth. The early script ends with Jareth transforming into a powerless, snivelling Goblin, an outcome that was ultimately abandoned in favour of that found in the finished film.[9]

After much tweaking and re-writing, the script was ready for filming. The Jim Henson Creature Shop in London had been producing puppets and costumes for the film since 1984, and filming finally started in April 1985 at Elstree Studios.[10]


The team that worked on Labyrinth was largely assembled from talent who had been involved in various other projects with the Jim Henson company. Veteran performers Frank Oz and Dave Goelz operated various puppets in the film, as did Karen Prell, Ron Mueck and Rob Mills who had all worked with Henson on Fraggle Rock. Members of Henson's family also worked on the production, including son Brian Henson and daughter Cheryl Henson. Newcomers working on the production included puppeteer Anthony Asbury, who had previously worked on the satirical puppet show Spitting Image.

Labyrinth took five months to film, and was a complicated shoot due to the myriad of puppets and animatronic creatures involved. In the documentary Inside the Labyrinth, Henson stated that although the Jim Henson Creature Shop had been building the puppets and characters required for around a year and a half prior to shooting, “everything came together in the last couple weeks.” Henson noted that “Even if you have the characters together, the puppeteers start working with them, they find problems or they try to figure out what they're going to do with these characters.”[11]

Each of the film's key puppets was operated by a small team of puppeteers, however the most complex puppet in the entire production was Hoggle. Shari Weiser was inside the costume, however Hoggle's face was entirely radio-controlled by Brian Henson and three other operators. Speaking in the Inside the Labyrinth documentary, Brian Henson explained that Weiser "does all the body movement and her head is inside the head. However, the jaw is not connected to her jaw. Nothing that the face is doing has any connection with what she's doing with her face. The other four members of the crew are all radio crew, myself included." Speaking of the challenges involved with performing Hoggle, Brian Henson said that "Five performers trying to get one character out of one puppet was a very tough thing. Basically what it takes is a lot of rehearsing and getting to know each other."[11]

Karen Prell and Kevin Clash working with one of the Fireys.
One of the most complicated scenes to film was that where The Fire Gang harass Sarah. The scene was filmed against a black velvet screen, and the puppeteers wore black, costumes and face coverings when operating the creatures. Each Firey was operated by three puppeteers, and all of them had to be highly co-ordinated in order to make the creatures move convincingly. After it was filmed, the footage of the Fireys was composited with the back-drop of a forest that was filmed separately. Jim Henson told Ecran Fantastique that he "Liked the rhythm of the sequence" and "strove to keep it in" despite issues with its visual effects becoming apparent in post-production.[12]

At the early stages of filming, stars Connelly and Bowie found it difficult to interact naturally with the puppets they shared most of their scenes with. Bowie told Movieline "I had some initial problems working with Hoggle and the rest because, for one thing, what they say doesn’t come from their mouths, but from the side of the set, or from behind you."[13] Speaking to Teen Idols Magazine, Connelly remarked that "it was a bit strange [working almost exclusively with puppets in the film], but I think both Dave [Bowie] and I got over that and just took it as a challenge to work with these puppets. And by the end of the film, It wasn't a challenge anymore. They were there, and they, were their characters."[14]

Jim Henson found working with the human actors in the production a pleasant change from the complex, puppet-orientated scenes he was used to working on, commenting that he loved filming the ballroom scene and found it "a fun kind of thing to try to weave together." Connelly told Muppet Magazine "It was a wonderful scene and very romantic. Everywhere I looked, there were all these dancers, and the candles, and they were playing David Bowie's incredible music. It really felt like I was in a ballroom and not on a movie set."[15]

The film required a series of vast set pieces, from the Shaft of Hands to the rambling, distorted Goblin City where the film's climatic battle takes place. The Shaft of Hands sequence was filmed on a rig that was roughly forty feet high, and required nearly a hundred performers to operate the grey, scaly hands integral to the scene. Connelly was strapped into a harness when shooting the scene, and would spend time between takes suspended mid-way up the shaft.
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Brian Henson working with a goblin for the climatic battle scene.
The set of the Goblin City was built on Stage 6 at Thorn EMI Elstree Studios in London, and required the largest panoramic back-cloth ever made. According to Production Designer Elliott Scott, the biggest challenge he faced was building the forest Sarah and her party pass through on their way to Jareth's Castle. The film's production notes state that "The entire forest required 120 truckloads of tree branches, 1,200 turfs of grass, 850 pounds of dried leaves, 133 bags of lichen, and 35 bundles of mossy "old man's beard."[16]

While most filming was conducted at Elstree Studios, a small amount of location shooting was carried out in England and America. The park seen at the start of the film is West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire, England. The scenes of Sarah running back home were filmed in various towns in New York, namely North Nyack, Piermont and Haverstraw.[17]

Principal photography on Labyrinth wrapped on September 8th 1985.[18]

Post Production

Most of the visual effects in Labyrinth were achieved in camera, with several notable exceptions. The most prominent of these effects was the computer generated owl that appears at the opening of the film. The sequence was created by animators Larry Yaeger and Bill Kroyer,[19] and marked the first use of a realistic CGI animal in a film.[20] The opening sequence of Labyrinth won its animators the NCGA Best Computer Animation award of 1986.[21]

The scene where Sarah encounters the Fire Gang had to be altered in post-production as it had been filmed against black velvet cloth, and a new forest background was added. Jim Henson was unhappy with the compositing of the finished scene, although he considered the puppetry featured in it worthy of inclusion.[12]

Jim Henson received help editing the film from executive producer George Lucas. According to Henson, "When we hit the editing, I did the first cut, and then George was heavily involved on bringing it to the final cut. After that, I took it over again and did the next few months of post-production and audio." Henson went on to explain that "When you edit a film with somebody else you have to compromise. I always want to go one way, and George goes another way, but we each took turns trading off, giving and taking. George tends to be very action-oriented and he cuts dialogue quite tight; I tend to cut looser, and go for more lyrical pauses, which can slow the story. So, I loosen up his tightness, and he tightens my looseness."[22]

Deleted Scenes

As of November 2011, the shooting script to Labyrinth is not available to the public. Due to this, only limited information is available about material that was shot but later removed from the film. The only scene that is known to have been shot but later deleted was-

  • A scene from the start of the film where Sarah uses a broom to try and shoo away the goblins after they invade her room. The fact this scene was filmed is proven by the existence of a production still that shows Sarah holding a broom. The scene is restored in several pieces of the tie-in media produced to be released alongside Labyrinth, including the Marvel comic book adaptation.

Writer Neil Gaiman wrote the film Mirrormask (2005) for The Jim Henson Company, and was allowed to view a three-hour long work-print of Labyrinth to inspire his script, which had to have a similar feel. According to Gaiman, the work-print "had puppeteer voices instead of actor voices, and lots of genuinely funny Sir Didymus stuff that never made it into the final film."[23] In a separate entry in his journal, Gaiman commented that a comparison of the rough-cut and the finished film showed what a "good an editor Jim Henson was -- there are some excellent sequences in the finished movie that were just too long as filmed."[24]


Box Office

Labyrinth opened at number 8 at the American box office in its opening weekend (June 27 1986), earning $3,549,243 from 1141 theaters. It faced competition from The Karate Kid: Part II, Top Gun and Ferris Buller's Day Off.[25] In its next weekend at the box office, the film dropped to number 13 in the charts, only earning $1,836,177.[26]

Over the course of it's North American theatrical run, Labyrinth earned $12,729,917,[27] just over half of its $25 million production budget.[28]

Critical Reception

Labyrinth was met with mixed reviews upon its North American release in June 1986, with critics singling out various aspects of the production for both criticism and praise.

While acknowledging that Labyrinth was made with “infinite care and pains” Roger Ebert felt that the film “never really comes alive.” Ebert felt that as the film was set in an “arbitrary world” none of the events in it had any consequences, robbing the film of any dramatic tension.[29] Gene Siskel’s review of Labyrinth for the Chicago Tribune was highly negative, and he referred to it as an “awful” film with a “pathetic story,” “much too complicated plot” and a “visually ugly style.”[30] Jon Baltake of the Philadelphia Enquirer described Labyrinth as "pretentious psychobabble about a curiously eccentric and seriously snooty teenager who, in all likelihood, would actually enjoy this dark, uppity, terminally silly movie."[31]

Other reviewers were more positive about the film, and Kathryn Buxton found that it had “excitement and thrills enough for audiences of all ages as well as a fun and sometimes slightly naughty sense of humour.”[32] Bruce Bailey was impressed by the film's depth, writing that "adults will have the additional advantage of appreciating the story as a coming-of-age parable."[33]

The film impressed most critics with its technical wizardry, with Nina Darton of the New York Times praising the characters created for the film by The Jim Henson Creature Shop. Darton wrote that the film featured “fantastic humanoid creatures inhabiting a newly created world who mirror our own foibles, and so can move us and make us laugh.”[34] Writing for Cosmo magazine, Helen Duncan found that “the dazzling technology is more evident than the magic” in the film, remarking that “It doesn’t really work as an adolescent fantasy.”[35]

Several critics noted the film’s subtext, and found it successful to varying degrees. Saw Tek Meng acknowledged that “Sarah’s experiences in the labyrinth are symbolic of her transition from child to woman” but ultimately found the film “too linear” for its latent themes to come through.[36] Nina Darton compared the film’s tone to the writings of E.T.A. Hoffman, stating that Hoffman’s The Nutcracker “Is also about the voyage to womanhood, including the hint of sexual awakening, which Sarah experiences too in the presence of a goblin king.” Darton enjoyed the film and considered it to be more successful than Henson’s previous collaboration with Brian Froud, The Dark Crystal.[37]

The performances in the film polarized critics, however Jennifer Connelly’s portrayal of Sarah was singled out for criticism. Critic Kirk Honeycutt referred to Connelly as “a bland and minimally talented young actress”[38] Writing for the Miami News, Jon Marlowe stated that “Connelly is simply the wrong person for the right job. She has a squeaky voice that begins to grate on you; when she cries, you can see the onions in her eyes.”[39] Contrary to these negative views, an anonymous review in St Petersburg Times praised her acting saying that “Connelly makes the entire experience seem real. She acts so naturally around the puppets that you begin to believe in their life-like qualities.”[40]

Bowie’s performance was variously lauded and derided. In his largely positive review of the film, Richard Corliss praised him as “charismatic” referring to his character as a “Kabuki sorcerer who offers his ravishing young antagonist the gilded perks of adult servitude.”[41] Bruce Bailey enjoyed Bowie’s performance, writing that “The casting of Bowie can’t be faulted on any count. He has just the right look for a creature who’s the object of both loathing and secret desire.”[42] In a largely critical review, The St Petersburg Times found that “Bowie forgoes acting, preferring to prance around his lair while staring solemnly into the camera. He’s not exactly wooden. Plastic might be a more accurate description.”[43]

Director Jim Henson was dissapointed by the reception Labyrinth received, and never directed another film. After her husband's death in 1990, his widow Jane Henson told People magazine that "Labyrinth['s poor performance, both critically and at the box office] was a real blow. He couldn't understand it. He talked to [our son] Brian and said, 'What did we do wrong?'"[44]

Since Jim Henson's death, Labyrinth has been re-evaluated by several notable critics. A review from 2000 in Empire magazine called the film "a fabulous fantasy" and wrote that "David Bowie cuts a spooky enough figure in that fright wig to fit right in with this extraordinary menagerie of Goth Muppets. And Jennifer Connelly, still in the flush of youth, makes for an appealingly together kind of heroine." [45] Writing for the Chicago Tribune in 2007, Michael Wilmington described Labyrinth as "dazzling," writing that it is "a real masterpiece of puppetry and special effects, an absolutely gorgeous children's fantasy movie."[46] In 2010 Total Film ran a feature called 'Why We Love Labyrinth' which described Labyrinth as a "Hyper-real, vibrant daydream, Labyrinth's main strength lies in its fairytale roots, which give the fantastical story a platform from which to launch into some deliriously outlandish scenarios."[47]


Despite its disappointing performance at the box office, Labyrinth later became a success of home video and through screenings on the Disney Channel in the early 1990s.

An annual masquerade ball inspired by the film and named the Labyrinth of Jareth began in 1997, and has been held every year since then.

Realising the success of the film on home video and DVD in the early 2000s, Sony Pictures asked The Jim Henson Company to produce a film similar to it. Since LucasFilm partially owned the copyright to the film, a direct sequel could not be produced so instead Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean were approached to produce a film with a similar atmosphere that would appeal to the same audience. The resulting film, Mirrormask, received a limited theatrical release in the U.S in 2005 after being premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.


  1. The Jim Henson Company Official Website
  2. 2.0 2.1 Froud, Brian & Jones, Terry. The Goblins of Labyrinth. Abrams. 2006/
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Pirani, Adam. Starlog Magazine. "Part Two: Into the Labyrinth with Jim Henson." August 1986/
  4. [[1]]
  5. [[2]]
  6. Labyrinth Production Notes
  7. Pegg, Nicholas. The Complete David Bowie. Reynolds and Hearn. 2002. Page 469.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Johnson, Kim "Howard." Life Before and After Monty Python. Plexus. 1993. Page 210./
  9. Labyrinth Early Script
  11. 11.0 11.1 Inside the Labyrinth - a documentary on the making of Labyrinth
  12. 12.0 12.1 Schlockoff, Alain. Ecran Fantastique. "Jim Henson Interview." Feb 1987
  13. Anonymous. Movieline. "David Bowie Interview." June 13 1986.
  14. Dickholtz, Daniel. "I love doing daring things!" Teen Idols Magazine. 1986
  15. Gikow, Louise. "Behind-the-Scenes of Labyrinth." Muppet Magazine. Summer 1986
  16. Labyrinth Production Notes
  17. Labyrinth Locations Blog
  18. [[3]]
  19. A Brief, Early History of Computer Graphics in Film
  20. Stikky Media Blog
  21. Larry Yaeger Official Website
  22. Pirani, Adam. Starlog Magazine. "Part Two: Into the Labyrinth with Jim Henson." August 1986
  23. Neil Gaiman Journal Entry, June 17 2003
  24. Neil Gaiman Journal Entry, July 29 2004
  25. Box Office Mojo Charts for w/e June 27 1986
  26. Box Office Mojo Charts for w/e July 4 1986
  27. Labyrinth's Page on Box Office Mojo
  28. [ Price, Andrew. "Now and Then: Labyrinth Vs. Alice In Wonderland." Good. July 19 2011.
  29. Roger Ebert's review of Labyrinth at the Chicago Sun Times
  30. Siskel, Gene. “Jim Henson`s Wizardry Lost In `Labyrinth.” Chicago Tribune. June 20 1986.
  31. Baltake, John. "Labyrinth: An Unpleasant Trip." Philadelphia Enquirer. June 30 1986
  32. Buxton, Kathryn. “Henson’s fantasy Labyrinth takes cues from the classic.” The Palm Beach Post. 2 July 1986
  33. Bailey, Bruce. “Labyrinth is a Fairy-Tale Movie That Grown-Ups Can Believe In.” The Montreal Gazette. July 3 1986
  34. Darton, Nina. Untitled Review. New York Times. June 27 1986
  35. Duncan, Helen. "Untitled Review." Cosmo Magazine. December 1986.
  36. Meng, Saw Tek. "Yellow Brick Road Revisited.” New Straits Times. 9th August 1987
  37. Darton, Nina. Untitled Review. New York Times. June 27 1986
  38. Honeycutt, Kirk. “Quality gets lost in ‘Labyrinth.” The Spokesman. 27 June 1986
  39. Marlowe, Jon. “Bowie’s trapped in Labyrinth.” The Miami News. 27 June 1986
  40. Anonymous. "Labyrinth Review." St Petersburg Times. June 27 1986
  41. Corliss, Richard. "Cinema: Walt’s Precocious Progeny." TIME Magazine. 7 Jul 1986
  42. Bailey, Bruce. “Labyrinth is a Fairy-Tale Movie That Grown-Ups Can Believe In.” The Montreal Gazette. July 3 1986
  43. Anonymous. "Labyrinth Review." St Petersburg Times. June 27 1986
  44. People Magazine. 1990.
  45. Lane, Nathan. "Labyrinth Review." Empire Magazine. 2000
  46. Wilmington, Michael. "New print revives Jim Henson's Labyrinth." Chicago Tribune. June 15 2007
  47. Winning, Josh. "Why We Love ... Labyrinth." Total Film. May 13 2010
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