The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance Creators Explain Huge Challenges To Making A Puppet Series On Netflix
Of all the ambitious projects that Netflix puts into production, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance stands out in just about every way. For one, it's a TV prequel to a 37-year-old cult classic feature from the legendary Jim Henson and Frank Oz. It's a massive, epic fantasy adventure centering on a gigantic cast made entirely of lovingly crafted (and sometimes nightmarish) puppets. Plus, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance actually manages to eclipse its predecessor across much of the board.
Understandably, nothing about bringing The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance to life was easy. Except, perhaps, for getting fans Jeff Addiss and Will Matthews involved as co-creators of the new series. Addiss and Matthews, along with fellow fan, writer and co-executive producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, spoke with CinemaBlend ahead of the show's August 30 premiere on Netflix. The entire conversation was beyond fascinating, but I was blown away when the topic turned to how challenging a puppet-based Netflix show can be when it comes to getting the voice casts recorded.
It's one thing when puppeteers provide the voices themselves, with Jim Henson, Frank Oz and their inner circles able to cover all the performance angles. But The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance's A-list cast members mostly worked independently from the puppeteers' filming process. That aspect mightn't be so rough on a smaller-scale show, but the Netflix prequel boasts over 30 main and recurring characters, voiced by the likes of Taran Egerton, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nathalie Emmanuel, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Isaacs, Alicia Vikander, Simon Pegg, Mark Hamill, Caitriona Balfe, Keegan Michael-Key, Eddie Izzard, Lena Headey, Awkwafina, Andy Samberg, Natalie Dormer and many more. Even Sigourney Weaver!
Many of those cast members hadn't necessarily frequented puppet-based projects in the past, and thus had to more or less find a new path with their acting. Sure, similar tasks are required in traditional animated projects when dialogue is rewritten after the animation is completed but here, the ENTIRE performance is tethered to matching the puppets' mouth movements, which isn't so easy to rehearse with precision in the shower or car without the visuals to refer to.
To add more contextual scope, over 10,000 lines of dialogue were recorded for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, which averages out to around 1,000 spoken lines per installment in this ten-episode first season. And now to really tip the scales and make everyone's brains hurt. Because Netflix is so big around the world, that painstaking process definitely wasn't limited to just Age of Resistance's U.S. voice actors.
Skeksis is Skeksis, no matter where you go. Dozens of translation teams across dozens of countries around the world were themselves dealing with dozens of local talents' puppet-acting skills. When The Dark Crystal came out 37 years ago, international dubbing techniques likely weren't on par with Netflix's approach today, so it's mind-blowing that producing a single project like Age of Resistance necessarily requires such a mighty effort from so many. Likely not what the show's writers predicted for their futures when they watched Dark Crystal as kids. At least, realistically.
Of course, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance's recording sessions also boasted a sub-challenge that ended up being the hardest aspect of all in some respects: breathing. Here's how they explained it:
This set-up definitely isn't exclusive to puppet shows in the world of animated projects goes, but I dare say episodes of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance feature more unique and labored breaths and grunts than typical TV shows or animated features. Anyone who doubts the wear and tear that stuff can have on the throat should take a few minutes to practice in private.
The co-creators talked about how difficult Benedict Wong had it – though it's definitely for the benefit of the performance – and how well Mark Hamill tapped into his inner Skeksis for the prequel series.
If you have a butt-ugly villain whose voice needs to sound like Batman: The Animated Series' Joker after he'd just fronted a thrash metal band's final show, seek no substitute for Mark Hamill. Just get Mark Hamill.
For as much work as it took to bring The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance to viewers in its gorgeous final form, Jeff Addiss couldn't be happier about the end result, nor more pleased with everyone who worked on the globe-spanning voice-recording process.
Here's to all of those talented technicians and others getting all the credit they deserve! Check out some of their work in action by watching the trailer below for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.
Thankfully for the film's fans, there isn't much longer to wait. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Season 1 will hit Netflix (opens in new tab) on Friday, August 30, at 12:01 a.m. PT, with lots more yet to come from the streaming service in 2019.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.