Dust off your contact juggling balls and crotch-hugging jodhpurs, today marks the 30th anniversary of Labyrinth debuting in theaters. While not a commercial success upon its release (earning just half of its reported budget in its U.S. release), the film has become a touchstone for generations who grew up on the VHS and DVD of the Jim Henson phantasmagoria. The film stars Jennifer Connelly as Sarah, a confused teenager who wishes to stay a young and imaginative child, confronting Jareth The Goblin King (immortally portrayed by David Bowie in full glam excess) after accidentally sending her baby brother, Toby, into his clutches. Written by Monty Python alum Terry Jones, produced by George Lucas, and directed by Jim Henson, the film had a host of talents behind and in front of the camera, complete with some of the most complicated puppetry work The Jim Henson Company had done to that point.
There’s an excellent behind-the-scenes documentary on YouTube called Inside The Labyrinth that features many of the various creatives involved in the project, including Bowie, Connelly, Jones, and Henson. Although it’s an electronic press kit made around the time of the film’s production, it does offer lots of great insight into the making of the film and how all its moving parts came together to create what would become a childhood staple for years to come.
This being the internet and all, there have been many theories about what the film is “actually” about. One of the best, or at least most convincing, comes from a video by Cracked, which features Soren Bowie and Katy Stoll discussing the film as a metaphor for a teen woman’s sexual awakening. It’s a bit icky, but it also seems pretty on point, as the film follows a young woman’s passage into a different aspect of her life, and the sexual imagery is pretty pronounced.
And it wouldn’t be a proper tribute to the evergreen children’s flick without directly addressing the elephant-sized bulge in the room. One of the most infamous elements of the film, Bowie’s ridiculously tight and revealing pants, has been the subject of much discussion over the years. It wasn’t until late last year that it received the musical attention it deserved, as YouTube user and parodist Bonecage released a tribute song and video called “Crotch Magic.” It was worth covering then, and it’s worth listening to once again as viewers stare, mesmerized, into the bulging codpiece of David Bowie.
Continuing the Jareth love is this video from a recording of an episode of the Harmontown podcast in which host Dan Harmon and comptroller Jeff Davis both dressed up as versions of the Goblin King for Halloween—as did many members of the audience. The duo performs their own version of the classic song “Magic Dance,” with some impromptu lyrics about the “poorly structured” film, before inviting all of the Jareths onstage to dance (and awkwardly rub their pronounced bulges).
It’s surreal that something so timeless was, at first, dismissed by the population and has now gone on to be so interwoven into pop culture (or at least a segment of it). Labyrinth is certainly a weird beast of a film, but it’s made its mark on the world and the imaginations of millions across it. Now dance, magic, dance!