As Labyrinth comes to a close and Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) faces off against the Goblin King, Jareth (David Bowie) for the last time, there is a distinct moment when she makes the leap from the innocence of childhood into the unknown of growing up. After all of the twists and turns of the labyrinth and the dizzying highs of dancing away her adolescence at the ball before landing on a pile of junk, Sarah echoes the refrain from her earlier play at make believe:
“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great. You have no power over me.”
Not only does Sarah find out that the strength she needed to grow up was inside her all along, she also learns to value her friends and family higher than her own misguided fantasies. Few films have so perfectly encapsulated the fear that many feel as they leave behind the sheltering safety of adolescence as Labyrinth, and while it may have been a little misunderstood when it was released in 1986, it has since become a beloved cult classic. While other fantasy films from the ’80s have slipped from the public’s consciousness, though, Labyrinth remains a perennial favorite. But why? In pursuit of the everlasting affection that a (still growing) fan base feels for this Jim Henson classic, we went to the heart of fandom at Dragon Con, a new Labyrinth exhibit at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, and spoke with Brian Henson and Karen Prell, who worked closely with Henson to bring the world of Labyrinth to life.