TAKE A LITTLE BIT OF OZ, add Middle Earth plus a few other fantasy terrains, and, if you're HA! (Henson Associates), you might come up with an original film set in the world of the Three Suns and the great Crystal. Furthermore, if you're HOP! (Henson Organization Publishing/The Muppet Press), you'd probably be bringing out (at least) four new books to tie-in with the movie.
What's it all about? Gelflings, Skeksis, Garthim, urRu and Pod People, for a start. As a cuteness bonus, there's Fizzgig, "a fuzzy thing with teeth." These creatures--noble, evil, victimized or cuddly--are the featured players in The Dark Crystal, a movie set to open December 17. Directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz and produced by Star Wars' Gary Kurtz, it's live action without living people. (Or, maybe there are some hiding, Ma la E.T., under the fur and feathers.) It's not a "puppet movie," but, judging from an advance look at the art in the Dark Crystal titles being published later this fall, you can move the fantasy away from the Muppets but not so far that there are no traces of Oscar and the Cookie Monster. Aughra, the "Watcher of the Heavens" who aids Jen, the Gelfling hero, even slightly resembles a monstrous, mystical Miss Piggy.
Knopf and Holt are where the Dark Crystal books have found homes, and there's a Marvel comic planned, as well. The most lavish of the offerings is Knopf's The World of the Dark Crystal, elaborately illustrated by noted fantasist Brian Froud (he did the conceptual design for the film), with a text by J.J. Llewellyn. (Jane Leventhal, director of the Henson publishing operation, told "Book Report" that Llewellyn, whose introduction to The World of the Dark Crystal places him at Oxford, is actually a Cambridge professor who doesn't wish his identity revealed.) This book, says Leventhal, "is really independent of the others, more an offspring of elements in the film," not all of which are fully developed on screen.
Then there are two novelizations, one a storybook for children, both being done by Holt. The Dark Crystal, with a Froud cover, is an Owl paperback -- the first print run is 300,000 copies -- written by an English novelist, Anthony C.H. Smith. It, as well as Donna Bass' The Tale of the Dark Crystal, the version for kids, is based on David Odell's screenplay. Bass, a former editor at McKay and Pantheon, now works for the Muppet Press; her illustrator, Bruce McNally, is art director for Jim Henson Enterprises Ltd. of England. Many hands, as you can see, have been involved in this enterprise, five years in the making. Toys and clothing tie-ins are expected in additon to these books, and next spring Holt will also have a book detailing the state-of-the- art techniques behind the scenes on The Dark Crystal set, to be called -- what else? -- The Making of the Dark Crystal.