The owl in the title sequence is computer generated. The first attempt at a photo-realistic CGI animal character in a feature film.
The various things that Jareth does with the crystal balls (rolling them around his arms and in his hands and so forth) are not camera tricks or any other kind of special effect. They are actually done by Choreographer Michael Moschen, who is an accomplished juggler. Moschen was actually crouched behind Bowie with his arm(s) replacing Bowie's. Unlike a typical Muppet performance, however, he had no video screen to view his performance. In other words, his manipulations were performed completely blind.
The "Dance Magic" scene consisted of over forty-eight muppets, fifty-two puppeteers, and eight people in goblin costumes (as revealed by Brian Henson in the "Inside the Labyrinth" special).
The sources of the characters can be seen in Sarah's bedroom at the beginning of the movie. She has a stuffed animal that looks like Sir Didymus on her dresser, a doll that looks like Ludo on the shelves next to her door (along with the book "Where the Wild Things Are" as the camera pans across her desk), a Firey doll on a shelves next to her bed, bookends with Goblins reminiscent of Hoggle on her dresser, and a figurine of Jareth on the right hand side of her desk. After you see the Hoggle bookend, there is a scrapbook shown. It shows newspaper clippings of Sarah's famous actress mom with another man, David Bowie. In addition, the dress that she wears in the ballroom scene can also been seen adorning the miniature doll in her music box, and a wooden maze game on her dresser next to her books is reminiscent of the hedge section of the Labyrinth. There is also a small painting on her wall that depicts a contraption much like the one operated by the "Cleaners" from which Sarah and Hoggle had to escape. And there is a copy of the famous picture by M.C. Esher which is used in the room where the final confrontation with Jareth occurs.
The full costume for Hoggle was lost for some time. It was lost on an airplane, and turned up at "The Unclaimed Baggage Center", a store in Scottsboro, Alabama. It is now on display in their museum.
In the scene where Toby (Toby Froud) is seated on Goblin King Jareth's (David Bowie's) lap, the baby has a fixed and hypnotized look off-camera as Jareth murmurs evilly into his ear. In fact, Toby screamed so much during the many takes of this scene, that something had to be done to keep him quiet. Fortunately, a crew member had a glove-puppet Sooty. For the duration of Jareth's speech, David Bowie had the Sooty puppet on one hand (out of shot) gently wiggling to distract Toby. The child was entranced, hence the hypnotic stare, and the perfect silence.
The baby who played Toby was Toby Froud, son of Brian Froud, who was the Conceptual Designer for this movie and The Dark Crystal (1982), another Jim Henson production.
Sarah's dog "Merlin" is also used for Sir Didymus' mount "Ambrosius". In Geoffrey of Monmouth's The History of the Kings of Britain, Merlin is called "Merlin Ambrosius".
After solving the problem of the guards who lie or tell the truth, Sarah falls into an oubliette, which Hoggle describes: "It's a place where you put people...to forget about 'em!" Oubliettes were a type of dungeon where the only entry was through an opening high in the ceiling. To leave an oubliette was practically impossible without external assistance. The word "oubliette" comes from the French word "oublier' meaning 'to forget". The basic premise was that an oubliette was a dungeon for prisoners that the captor(s) wished to forget. Prisoners were often left to starve to death in an oubliette.
There are pictures of David Bowie on Sarah's mirror along side of a model figure of King Jareth on the vanity in Sarah's room.
Michael Jackson, Prince, and Mick Jagger were considered to play Goblin King Jareth. Jim Henson preferred Sting, until his kids convinced him that David Bowie (who had reached his peak of mainstream popularity with the "Let's Dance" album) would be best suited to it. Bowie wanted to make a children's movie, liked the concept, and found the script funnier and more amusing than many other contemporary special effects movies.
One of the choreographers for this movie was Cheryl McFadden. She also appeared, uncredited, as one of the masked dancers in the ballroom scene. A year after this movie, she starred on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987), credited as "Gates McFadden", playing Dr. Beverly Crusher, a role she played in six of the seven seasons of the series and four theatrical movies.
To help the puppeteer inside him to see, there was a miniature video camera in Ludo's right horn that fed to a small television monitor mounted inside the puppet's stomach.
When he learned that the Ludo rig weighed over one hundred pounds, Jim Henson told the Creature Shop to start all over again and make it lighter. It was brought down to just over seventy-five pounds, still too heavy for one person to operate all of the time. Puppeteers Ron Mueck and Rob Mills split the performance.
Two official music videos by David Bowie promoting this title and directed by Steve Barron were released. "As the World Falls Down" features scenes from this movie, not just the ballroom scene, and includes specially filmed scenes of Hoggle together with Bowie. "Underground", which can be heard as the final credits roll, features many of this movie's characters again in specially filmed scenes with Bowie.
Hoggle consisted of Shari Weiser inside the suit, and four puppeteers led by Brian Henson controlling eighteen motors inside the face rig. Manipulating a mechanical mitt on his right hand, Henson controlled Hoggle's jaw movements and provided the voice. Another puppeteer provided further lip movements with another mitt. The third puppeteer used a fingertip joystick lever to control Hoggle's eyes and eyelids. The fourth used a similar mechanism to animate the eyebrows and a foot pedal to control the skin around Hoggle's eyes. The puppeteers had to rehearse together for weeks to anticipate each other's movements.
Monty Python member Terry Jones wrote the first draft of the script. Jim Henson then let others re-write Jones' draft. At the end of that process, Henson went back to Jones, saying the script had lost its humor, and asked Jones to put the jokes back in. Jones then tried to pull it back to his original version, but had to retain some of the different directions the script had taken by that point. Jones' biggest problem with the final draft was that the center of the labyrinth was shown before Sarah got there.
An on-going joke is Hoggle's name being mispronounced. In an early instance, Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) calls him "Hogwart". "Hogwart" originally comes from the famous British humor book, "The Compleet Molesworth", by Geoffrey Willans and Ronals Searle.
In one version of the script, the junk lady was actually a puppet being manipulated by Goblin King Jareth (David Bowie), and the junkyard was actually a town complete with a bar that Hoggle visits before they find Sarah.
Producer George Lucas chose not to do any interviews during the release of this movie as to "Not steal Jim Henson's thunder", who was at the time, one of his best friends until his death.
The movie was loosely based on "Outside Over There", a children's picture book written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak in 1981 (Sendak's famous book Where The Wild Things Are is seen at the start of this movie in the bedroom, these two books, and "In The Night Kitchen", comprise a loose trilogy of dreamlike books by Sendak). The story follows young Ida who must enter the fantastical world described as "outside over there" to find her baby sister, who's been spirited away by some goblins.
The split sculpture was an invention of Jim Henson and Debbie the Roboteer for this movie. It looks like a series of rocks until the camera pans to the correct angle, then it resembles Goblin King Jareth's (David Bowie's) face. It was developed over several gruelling evenings with hot, noisy robots and Plastina Romana at the Robotorium, Inc. on Mott Street in New York City during the early 1980s.
In the DVD version, there are hidden faces in seven scenes. In general, they resemble the head that Jareth leans against before giving Hoggle the peach (David Bowie's actual face at that time). The faces can be found: Upper right corner of the (stone) maze, just after the worm shakes its head and says "If she'd have kept on going down that way..." To the right of the screen, after the rung under Hoggle breaks, as he watches it fall. Upper left corner of the hedge maze, as Hoggle is muttering "Get through the labyrinth, get through the labyrinth, one thing's for sure... " Lower right corner of the wall bordering the Bog of Eternal Stench, just after the ledge breaks under Sarah and Hoggle for the first time. During the wide shot of the hedge maze in the middle left on the stony floor just after the hat says, "It's so stimulating being your hat." In the forest as Sir Didymus says "We should reach the castle well before day."
During the "Escher room" scene, there is a sequence when Jareth's crystal ball seems to bounce up the stairs and into Toby's hand. This was accomplished by having Toby drop the ball down the stairs, and then reversing the shot.
Sarah makes the mistake by picking the direction of going "right". When she first enters the labyrinth, she turns right. Then the worm tells her to go "right" when she passes through the wall. She later goes through the "right" door with the Blue Shield Goblins and falls down through shaft of "helping" hands. "Right" again when she chooses the door with the knocker with ring in mouth (door with forest of the Firese.)
This movie filmed next door to Legend (1985), which meant the cast and crew of both movies often intermingled. Brian Henson happened to meet and develop a crush on Mia Sara. Years later the two met again and married.
The upside-down room in the Goblin City was directly inspired by a drawing by M.C. Escher (titled "Relativity"), which can been seen in Sarah's room at the beginning of this movie.
According to the Goblin Companion (a book that gives a description of every goblin in the Labyrinth, written by Brian Froud and Terry Jones) the Junk Lady who carries everything on her back is named Agnas.
In the beginning of the iconic "Magic Dance" scene, Toby is seen crying while surrounded by numerous goblins. In reality, the baby actor Toby Froud wasn't the least bit scared by any of the puppets and animatronics used. They had to wait until he was tired and wanted to nap after filming the musical number.
Helena Bonham Carter, Jane Krakowski, Yasmine Bleeth, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mary Stuart Masterson, Laura Dern, Maddie Corman, Kerri Green, Lili Taylor, Laura San Giacomo, Ally Sheedy, Mia Sara, and Marisa Tomei all auditioned for the role of Sarah Williams. Krakowski, Sheedy, and Corman were all highly considered for the role, alongside Jennifer Connelly, who eventually won the role.
In 1986, two video games based on this movie were released, one in Japan and one in the U.S. and other markets. "Labyrinth: The Computer Game" for Apple II and Commodore 64 was released in the west. It was the first graphic adventure game developed by Lucasfilm Games, a company that became LucasArts in the 1990s. In the game, the player has thirteen real-time in-game hours to solve the dangerous labyrinth and thwart Jareth's plan. In Japan, Nintendo and Henson Associates, Inc. released a different game simply called "Labyrinth" for the Famicom system. The game was almost entirely in Japanese, since it was made exclusively for the Japanese market and it never got an official western release, although popular English unofficial fan translations do exist. The game is an action adventure role playing game, not unlike Zelda, and it also has a real-time in-game ticking clock like its western counterpart.
The thirteen hour margin has a symbolic meaning and was not an arbitrary number chosen randomly. Sarah made her wish around midnight. This is the most powerful time when demons, goblins and other malevolent creatures can cross their dimension and enter the earthly realm. Moreover, according to folklore there is a time rift between midnight and one o' clock a.m. which is the nominal thirteenth hour. In order for this time circumvention to be activated, something jarring and horrible must happen just like Sarah's wish. In this movie, this element is altered with the thirteenth hour lasting for thirteen hours and not just sixty minutes. This is why the magical clock has thirteen numbers on it. Although it is never spelled out directly in this movie, the individuals who enter the Earthly dimension from the outer planes (or vice versa) manage to enter the time fissure. Although time flies in the thirteenth hour, it does not advance in the human world. The novelization confirms that when Sarah's parents return home, little time has gone by in the house as it is past midnight. Although Sarah spends many hours in the Goblin dimension, it is inferred that less than an hour has elapsed in the human world.
The original script had Sarah accidentally entering the Goblin dimension by grabbing Jareth's mantle as he flees. After she enters the Labyrinth, she tracks down Jareth, who eventually offers her a deal. In the final script, the thirteen-hour deal comes right after Jareth invades Sarah's home. Earlier drafts also depicted Jareth explicitly as an ideal man that Sarah subconsciously conjures from some pictures of a charming man in the newspaper. This would lead more fluently to the blur ball room scene where the Goblin King tempts Sarah with everything she always wanted. The original meeting in the house was also more elaborate with Jareth giving a creepy performance with an ugly doll which ultimately turned into a goblin. This was simplified for this movie with Jareth coming after the unwitting wish.
The original script ended with Sarah punching and kicking Jareth, then watching him shrink down until he's becomes a small and "snivelling" goblin.
Just after the Junk Lady places "dear old Flopsy" behind Sarah, she slips a book titled "The Wizard of Oz" behind Flopsy.
A sequence that didn't make it into the movie had Sarah discovering paintings which depicted other sites of the Labyrinth. The paintings were life-like, and as Jareth and Toby moved through the maze , their images would relocate accordingly.
According to the novelization, Hoggle is a gnome. The junk lady, however, is revealed to be a female goblin.
When Sarah, Hoggle, Sir Didymus, and Ludo enter the goblin city, several roaming animals can be seen. One of which is a crawly. A furry shellfish eaten by Skeksis during the feast in Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal (1982).
Toby's name was Freddie in the early drafts of the story. The baby's name was changed because the infant Toby Froud would only react to his own name.
The talking hat had a much larger role. There was an excised scene in a bar where the hat babbled incessantly to the patrons. In the movie, the hat appears briefly.
The music box was a gift to Sarah by her mother on her recent birthday. Although this detail is never mentioned in this movie, the junk lady taps on the emotional attachment of Sarah to the box when she says that this item cannot possibly be junk.
As mentioned above, newspaper clippings showing Sarah's mother and a man resembling Jareth can be seen on her bedroom mirror. Supplemental material (including the novelization) explain that this man is a fellow actor, and Sarah's mother left her family for him. Needless to say, this detail adds a tremendous amount of significance to his role as the Goblin King.
Throughout the movie there is a black crow. When Sarah crosses the bog, it's perched watching her. It's also in the junkyard. Again when her group of friends and her enter the Goblin City.
Brian Froud recounts that at the Royal Premiere, Prince Charles was the only one laughing during the bog of stench scene. They met again at the opening of the Museum of the Moving Image in London in 1988, at which time the Prince recalled to Froud how much he had enjoyed that scene.
When Jim Henson first began making notes for his follow up to The Dark Crystal (1982), he wrote several variations of the title in his notebook, starting with "The Labyrinth", "The Maze", "The Labyrinth Twist" and "The Tale of the Labyrinth".
Brian Froud explains that Hoggle is part goblin and part dwarf. The back of Hoggle's waistcoat features the design of a face, with a tongue sticking out which becomes the strap around his chest.
David Bowie signed on to do the picture on February 15 1985, two months before filming was set to start.
Before settling on the idea of casting a rock star as the Goblin King, Jim Henson considered Simon MacCorkindale, Michael Gothard and Kevin Kline for the role.
The earliest story ideas centered around a king, described as 'Jen from The Dark Crystal (1982), twenty-five years later' and his jester, Snotweed, . A shadow shaper (shape changer) cast a spell on them and kidnapped the queen (at that time described as 'Kira twenty five years later'). Dennis Lee completed a first treatment on April 11, 1983. He had removed the references to Jen and Kira and changed the central character to Taya, a fifteen year old girl. The dark prince became Jareth and Snotweed became 'Hoggle the warty dwarf''. The prince's only companion for seven years was now an unnamed baby. On October 31 1983, Lee, who was originally a composer rather than a writer, finished a poetic novella version of the treatment in which Taya became a modern girl instead of a princess, and he changes her name to Sarah midway through.
The large urn that Sarah and Hoggle climb out off ended up In Brian Froud's garden.
Terry Jones named the top guards 'Alph and Ralph', and bottom ones 'Alph B and Ralph B'. The latter were later changed to Jim and Tim.
One of the reasons why Hoggle is always making groaning noises between lines was to keep his mouth open as much as possible, so that actress Shari Weiser was able to look out.
Frank Oz, Bernie Brillstein, Brian Froud, Wendy Midener, Lisa Henson, Lawrence S. Mirkin and George Lucas all contributed ideas during various phases of the script writing process. Elaine May served as a script doctor and delivered the final draft on April 11, 1985, a mere four days before the start of filming.
The little creatures that appear from beneath the tiles in the Laberinth are called "Tilekeepers".
On his Audio Commentary, Brian Froud mentions that the colors and numbers on the armored goblin knights were inspired by those of Thomas the Tank Engine and friends.
Ambrosius wears a leather saddle with silver stirrups atop a colorful blanket decorated to match Sir Didymus's knightly heraldic signifiers: three bones rampant, seven black paw-marks, a checkered square, a fire hydrant and some trees.
David Bowie has the same hair cut that Limahl the performer of The NeverEnding Story (1984) song. Another fantasy movie with puppets and that told a story of loss of innocence. However, Bowie's version is definitely a wig.
This movie has a Robin Hood connection. Sarah has a scrapbook, and on an opened page shows the fox Robin Hood from Disney's Robin Hood (1973). Actor Brian Bedford, who provided the voice of Robin Hood, passed away January 10, 2016. Alan Rickman, who played in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) passed away January 14, 2016. David Bowie passed away January 10, 2016.