I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Let’s watch it! The movie gets to cut loose and have a little fun in these scenes, 44:24-47:10 on the Blu-ray.
We’ve seen the Podlings several times before now, as both the slaves of the Skeksis, and in Kira’s dream-fasting with Jen, but this is our first formal introduction to them. It’s night now, and Jen and Kira walk through some trees, and we get a look at the Podling village. It’s hard to tell, but it looks like they live inside hollowed out trees. The book World of the Dark Crystal tells us that they live inside giant seed pods, with which they have a symbiotic relationship. The book says the name Podling, however, is a shortened version of their name in their native language, which is “Apopiapoiopidiappididiapipob.” This obviously translates to “Master Gardeners Who Live in Bulging Plants.”
Kira provides the exposition, saying these are Podlings, and they adopted her and that they are her clan. This is the first mention of clans existing in this world, something the tie-in works have run with in a big way, establishing a variety of Gelfling clans. A bunch of Podlings pop up out of the bush and are happy to see Kira. They speak in their own language without subtitles. The translations are all on the website DarkCrystal.com. You can look it up if you want, but I’ll tell you right now they’re not saying anything all that interesting. Kira introduces Jen and they all walk off toward the village. There’s a quick shot of one of the Podlings petting Fizzgig. World of the Dark Crystal states that the Podlings were the ones who domesticated the Fizzgigs.
The music swells and, with that, we go right into the party. We’re indoors now, in a rustic, tavern-like setting, with Podlings everywhere. A Podling band rocks out with guitar and flute-like instruments. The camera pans across the room, where we see more Podlings sitting around tables, and others on alcoves looking down on them. Jen and Kira sit a table off to one side. To the right of the screen is a Podling clapping her hands in perfect time to the music, a nice little bit of puppetry. A Podling offers Jen a tray full of vegetables. He asks Kira how to say thank you. “Fala vam,” she says, and he repeats it to the Podling.
Jen has a plate in front of him with what looks like red and grey meatballs. I have no idea what this stuff is, but it’s the closest answer we’ve ever had as to what Gelflings eat. In this world, in which there are no boundaries between animal, vegetable, and mineral, and all things are alive, what to eat becomes a confusing conundrum. The graphic novel Creation Myths has a fleeting reference to Gelflings hunting and gathering, so maybe I’m just overthinking things.
The party continues on, with a lot of Muppet Show-style silliness. More and more Podlings offer Jen food. A wet Podling pokes his head out of a barrel, and of course the Podling drummer goes nuts pounding away on the drums. During his rockin’ drum solo, he even breaks the fourth wall, looking right at the camera and saying, “Yeah!” (I think he might be my favorite character.) Then there’s another pan across the room with all the Podlings dancing, including some impressive puppetry where we see their feet.
Look closely: In the background, there’s a Podling on his back, juggling a small barrel with his feet. This one’s obviously a dancer/stuntman and not a puppet.
Fun fact: Gates McFadden, better known as Dr. Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation was a choreographer on this film. (She really is the Dancing Doctor!) I’m assuming this scene is where such choreography was needed, but I’ve never been able to confirm that. In interviews, McFadden always says how proud she is of her choreography in the ballroom scene in Labyrinth, the musical numbers in The Muppets Take Manhattan, and in a lesser-known Henson-related film called Dream Child, but it seems she never talks about The Dark Crystal.
Jen goes over the exposition with Kira again. Remember, this stuff gets repeated throughout the movie because the early test audiences were confused. Jen says that when the three suns converge (“the Great Something-or-other” he calls it) something must be done with the shard, but that’s all Jen knows right now. An especially enthusiastic Podling interrupts and insists that Jen dance with her. This leads to a bit of slapstick as the Podling awkwardly swings Jen around on the dance floor.
More partying! The Podlings use their forks like drumsticks, pounding on a table in time with the music. More shots of the band, and of the drummer still wildly into it. Now loosened up, Jen gets into the spirit of things by playing along with his flute. Amid the band, there’s one Podling who’s just standing there not doing anything. I guess that’s their manager. Anyway, with all this partying, music, and levity, good vibes are in the air, and absolutely nothing bad could happen, right?
Next: Something very bad happens!
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