Awards Contenders: The director of Netflix's Dark Crystal rescued the puppets from a fiery death
1p>Welcome to Backdraft . It was amazing."
With a security guard's help, Leterrier was able to save some 40 puppets: Gelflings, Podlings, Aughra, and every single Skeksis. (A wet Skeksis, by the way, weighs about 200 pounds.) Says co-creator Jeff Addiss, "Louis literally carrying the puppets on his back through a fire showed how invested he is. It's the perfect metaphor."
"All of us have an extraordinary veneration of Louis at this point," says Grillo-Marxauch. "If he told us to jump in front of a bus, we would do it — because we'd think he would probably be able to stop the bus with his bare hands." ("Or he would at least shoot that bus beautifully," Addiss adds.)
Leterrier and company see their Netflix series — which serves as a prequel to the 1982 fantasy film — as a project worth risking lives for; they've been obsessed with the original Dark Crystal since they were kids. Leterrier considers it the first film to ever scar him emotionally. Addiss once nearly failed an art class because he spent so many weeks trying to recreate one of the Mystics. ("The yarn hair didn't look quite right," he says.) Grillo-Marxauch fought with his mother for oven space to bake clay monsters (she wanted to make dinner).
It was that level of love that inspired the most meta (and most hilarious) moments in the series, which takes place in the nominated episode written by Grillo-Marxauch: the puppet show within a puppet show. "At the risk of arrogance," he says "that is my favorite thing that I have ever done."
The scene involves the Gelflings encountering a Skesis (voiced by Andy Samberg) and a Mystic (Bill Hader), who promise to provide answers to the questing heroes, via "that most ancient and sacred of arts" — a puppet show. Even the Gelflings roll their eyes at this. But the little show — created with the shadow puppetry and hand puppetry of Barnaby Dixon – packs in much useful history about the world of Thra. "It's our solution for how we give the audience a lot of exposition that some of the audience already knows," says Matthews. "It encapsulates everything that is a challenge and a joy about making a prequel."
The series is a loving tribute to the original movie. It does make some significant changes – bringing in the Skeksis and the Mystic who are friends, not enemies, and a Podling who is more than just a background character — but these additions challenge our assumptions about the world, without being a snarky deconstruction.
"We didn't look at The Dark Crystal as something we had to undermine," says Grillo-Marxauch. "And that comes from learning the mistakes of other projects trying to revive older material."
So the series is a labor of love, with occasional weird moments. Matthews was in the creature shop one day and saw a Skeksis Hunter suit being tested, with a puppeteer inside of it. "Then all of a sudden, he whipped his head around and started running, and I screamed and jumped out of the way. It looked like a skeleton that had come alive – it was terrifying!"
Well, in a fun way – a very fun way, says Grillo-Marxauch, "We will never stop evangelizing for this series," Grillo-Maraxauch says. "We'll be 96 years old at the old folks' home and we'll still be talking about this thing."