“Entering the Labyrinth: How Henson and Bowie Created a Musical Fantasy”

Equinox Publishing
Publication Type:
The Music of Fantasy Cinema, 2012, pp. 95 - 110
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Nearly thirty years after its initial release, the fantasy film Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986) continues to gain audience attention and favour. This can be attributed in part to the opportunity for new audiences to engage with the film as it has been re-released in various home entertainment formats but also to the continued interest in the careers of Labyrinth’s core creative team: director Jim Henson (the mastermind behind The Muppet Show and Sesame Street) and musician/performer David Bowie. This chapter will argue that the film’s continuing appeal centres on the collaboration between Henson and Bowie rather than simply on its content as a narrative and, most importantly, that this collaboration was essential in locating Labyrinth as a fantasy film. Labyrinth not only allowed Henson and Bowie to develop the career trajectories they had already initiated in other media, but their appearances in the film invited existing Bowie and Henson devotees to engage with the film as well. In a sense, Labyrinth is a film about Bowie and Henson rather than just about a young girl embarking on a journey in a fantasy world. The combination of Bowie’s and Henson’s distinct musical and visual skills ensured that Labyrinth was distinct at the time of its release and it still is.
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