The various things that Jareth does with the crystal balls (rolling them around his arms and in his hands and so forth) are not camera tricks or any other kind of special effect. They are actually done by choreographer Michael Moschen, who is an accomplished juggler. Moschen was actually crouched behind Bowie with his arm(s) replacing Bowie's. Unlike a typical Muppet performance, however, he had no video screen to view his performance. In other words, his manipulations were performed completely blind.
In the scene where Toby is seated on Jareth's lap, the baby has a fixed and hypnotized look off-camera as Jareth murmurs evilly into his ear. In fact, Toby screamed so much during the many takes of this scene, that something had to be done to keep him quiet. Fortunately, a crew member had a glove-puppet Sooty. For the duration of Jareth's speech, David Bowie had the Sooty puppet on one hand (out of shot) gently wiggling to distract Toby. The child was entranced, hence the hypnotic stare, and the perfect silence.
The sources of the characters can be seen in Sarah's bedroom at the beginning of the movie. She has a stuffed animal that looks like Sir Didymus on her dresser, a doll that looks like Ludo on the shelves next to her door (along with the book "Where the Wild Things Are" as the camera pans across her desk), a Firey doll on a shelves next to her bed, bookends with with Goblins reminiscent of Hoggle on her dresser, and figurine of Jareth on the right hand side of her desk. After you see the Hoggle bookend, there is a scrapbook shown. It shows newspaper clippings of Sarah's famous actress mom with another man, David Bowie. In addition, the dress that she wears in the ballroom scene can also been seen adorning the miniature doll in her music box, and a wooden maze game on her dresser next to her books is reminiscent of the hedge section of the Labyrinth. There is also a small painting on her wall that depicts a contraption much like the one operated by the "Cleaners" that Sarah and Hoggle had to escape from. And there is a copy of the famous picture by M.C. Esher which is used in the room where the final confrontation with Jareth occurs.
The full costume for Hoggle was lost for some time. It turns out that it was lost on an airplane and later bought from the airline by 'The Unclaimed Baggage Center', a store in Scottsboro Alabama. It is now on display in their museum.
Various music superstars were in the running to play Jareth. Michael Jackson was strongly considered. Prince and Mick Jagger were thought about too. Jim Henson preferred Sting, until his kids convinced him that David Bowie (who had reached his peak of mainstream popularity in 1983 with the "Let's Dance" album) would be best suited to it. Bowie was keen to make a children's movie, he liked the concept and found the script amusing and of more interest to him than many other contemporary special effects movies.
In the DVD version, there are hidden faces in seven scenes. In general, they resemble the head that Jareth leans against before giving Hoggle the peach (David Bowie's actual face at that time). The faces can be found: Upper right corner of the [stone] maze, just after the worm shakes its head and says "If she'd have kept on going down that way..." To the right of the screen, after the rung under Hoggle breaks, as he watches it fall. Upper left corner of the hedge maze, as Hoggle is muttering "Get through the labyrinth, get through the labyrinth, one thing's for sure... " Lower right corner of the wall bordering the Bog of Eternal Stench, just after the ledge breaks under Sarah and Hoggle for the first time. During the wide shot of the hedge maze in the middle left on the stony floor just after the hat says, "It's so stimulating being your hat." In the forest as Sir Didymus says "We should reach the castle well before day."
Two official music videos by David Bowie promoting this title and directed by Steve Barron were released. "As the World Falls Down" features scenes from the film itself, not just the ballroom scene, and includes specially filmed scenes of Hoggle together with Bowie. "Underground", which can be heard as the final credits roll, features many of the films characters again in specially filmed scenes with Bowie.
After solving the problem of the guards who lie or tell the truth, Sarah falls into an oubliette, which Hoggle describes: "It's a place where you put people...to forget about 'em!" Oubliettes were a type of dungeon where the only entry was through an opening high in the ceiling. To leave an oubliette was practically impossible without external assistance. The word "oubliette" comes from the French word "oublier' meaning 'to forget". The basic premise was that an oubliette was a dungeon for prisoners that the captor(s) wished to forget. Prisoners were often left to starve to death in an oubliette.
When he learned that the Ludo rig being made weighed over 100 pounds, Jim Henson told the Creature Shop to start all over again and make it lighter. It was brought down to just over 75 pounds, but was still too heavy for one person to operate all the time. Therefore the performance was split between puppeteers Ron Mueck & Rob Mills.
Monty Python member Terry Jones wrote one early version of the script. Little of his material was retained beyond the point where Sarah eats the poisoned peach. The original script ended with Sarah punching and kicking Jareth, then watching him shrink down until he's becomes a small and "snivelling" goblin. Also, Toby's name was Freddie in the early drafts of the story. The baby's name was changed because the infant Toby Froud would only react to his own name.
Hoggle consisted of 1 actor inside the suit: actress Shari Weiser, along with 4 puppeteers led by Brian Henson controlling 18 motors inside the face rig. Manipulating a mechanical mitt on his right hand, Henson controlled Hoggle's jaw movements and provided the voice. Another puppeteer provided further lip movements with another mitt. The third member of the team used a fingertip joystick lever to control Hoggle's eyes and eyelids. The fourth used a similar mechanism to animate the eyebrows and a foot pedal to control the skin around Hoggle's eyes. The puppeteers had to rehearse together for weeks in order to anticipate each other's movements.
The split sculpture was an invention of Jim Henson and Debbie the Roboteer for Labyrinth. It looks simply like a series of rocks until the camera pans to the correct angle, then it resembles Jareth's face. Developed over several grueling evenings with hot, noisy robots and Plastina Romana at the Robotorium, Inc on Mott Street in NYC during the early-1980s.
One of the choreographers for the film is Cheryl McFadden. She also appears, uncredited, as one of the masked dancers in the ballroom scene. A year after this film, she starred on "Star Trek: The Next Generation", credited as Gates McFadden, playing Dr. Beverly Crusher, a role she played in six of the seven seasons of the series and four feature films.
An ongoing joke is Hoggle's name being mispronounced. In an early instance, "Sarah" calls him 'Hogwart'. 'Hogwart' originally comes from the famous British humor book, 'The Compleet Molesworth', by Geoffrey Willans and Ronals Searle.
During the "Escher room" scene there is a sequence when Jareth's crystal ball seems to bounce up the stairs and into Toby's hand. This was accomplished by having Toby drop the ball down the stairs, and then reversing the shot.
Sarah makes the mistake by picking the direction of going "right." When she first enters the labyrinth she turns right. Then the worm tells her to go "right" when she passes through the wall. She later goes through the "right" door with the Blue Shield Goblins and falls down through shaft of "helping" hands. "Right" again when she chooses the door with the knocker with ring in mouth (door with forest of the Firese.)
According to the Goblin Companion (a book that gives a description of every goblin in the Labyrinth - written by Brian Froud and Terry Jones) the Junk Lady who carries everything on her back is named Agnas.
In 1986, two video games based on the movie were released, one in Japan and one in the US and other markets. Labyrinth: The Computer Game for Apple II and Commodore 64 was released in the west. It was the first graphic adventure game developed by Lucasfilm Games, a company that became LucasArts in the 1990. In the game, the player has 13 real-time in-game hours to solve the dangerous labyrinth and thwart Jareth's plan. In Japan, Nintendo and Henson Associates, Inc. released a different game simply called Labyrinth for the Famicom system. The game was almost entirely in Japanese, since it was made exclusively for the Japanese market and it never got an official western release, although popular English unofficial fan translations do exist. The game is an action adventure role playing game, not unlike Zelda, and it also has a real-time in-game ticking clock like its western counterpart.
The movie is loosely based on Outside Over There, a children's picture book written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak in 1981. The story follows young Ida who must enter the fantastical world described as "outside over there" to find her baby sister, who's been spirited away by some goblins.
A sequence that didn't make it to the film had Sarah discovering paintings which depicted other sites of the Labyrinth. The paintings were lifelike and as Jareth and Toby moved through the maze , their images would relocate accordingly.
The 13 hour margin has a symbolic meaning and was not an arbitrary number chosen randomly. Sarah made her wish around midnight. This is the most powerful time when demons, goblins and other malevolent creatures can cross their dimension and enter the earthly realm. Moreover, according to folklore there is a time rift between midnight and one o' clock a.m. which is the nominal 13th hour. In order for this time circumvention to be activated, something jarring and horrible must happen just like Sarah's wish. In the film this element is altered with the 13th hour lasting for 13 hours and not just 60 minutes. This is why the magical clock has 13 numbers on it. Although it is never spelled out directly in the film, the individuals who enter the earthly dimension from the outer planes (or vice versa) manage to enter the time fissure. Although time flies in the 13th hour it does not advance in the human world. The novelization confirms that when Sarah's parents return home, little time has gone by in the house as it is past midnight. Although Sarah spends hours in the Goblin dimension, it is inferred that less than an hour has elapsed in the human world.
The original script had Sarah accidentally entering the Goblin dimension by grabbing Jareth's mantle as he flees. After she enters the Labyrinth she tracks down Jareth who eventually offers her a deal. In the final script the 13-hour deal comes right after Jareth invades Sarah's home. Earlier drafts also depicted Jareth explicitly as an ideal man that Sarah subconsciously conjures from some pictures of a charming man in the newspaper. This would lead more fluently to the blur ball room scene where the Goblin King tempts Sarah with everything she always wanted. The original meeting in the house was also more elaborate with Jareth giving a creepy performance with an ugly doll which ultimately turned into a goblin. This was simplified for the film with Jareth coming after the unwitting wish.
When Sarah, Hoggle, Sir Dydimus, and Ludo enter the goblin city, several roaming animals can be seen. One of which is a crawly. A furry shellfish eaten by Skeksis during the feast in Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal.
The music box was a gift to Sarah by her mother on her recent birthday. Although this detail is never mentioned in the film, the junk lady taps on the emotional attachment of Sarah to the box when she says that this item cannot possibly be junk.
In the beginning of the iconic "Magic Dance" scene, Toby is seen crying while surrounded by numerous goblins. In reality, the baby actor Toby Froud wasn't the least bit scared by any of the puppets and animatronics used. They had to wait until he was tired and wanted to nap after filming the musical number.
The climactic siege where the army of guards tries to invade the goblin house inside which the leads have taken refuge was extended. The goblins would repeatedly deride Hoggle for his betrayal and he would retort that he has found friends, a concept that was inconceivable for the creatures of the Labyrinth.
The novelization clarifies that every individual inside the Labyrinth is an island. Jareth has prohibited every emotional relationship among them and therefore every creature must survive on its own. For every transaction there must always be a price. This is why every passage has a test or a riddle. It also explains why there is an exchange for every bit of information that Hoggle or the Wise Man offer.
In the novelization the scene with the talking door knocks was extended. Sarah would try both doors and not just knock on the mumbling head. She would tentatively open the door with the deaf head and it would lead to an extremely sunny and cheerful forest. Despite the warnings by a wary Ludo she would enter the enchanted forest. Then she would find out that every living creature inside it would laugh incessantly including the flowers. Essentially this was just another trap by Jareth. It was only by much coercion by Ludo (who stayed wisely by the door) that Sarah managed to escape from the eternally happy forest and her entranced state. After she comes back she eventually knocks on the second door. For pacing reasons the scene in the film was cut short and Sarah enters the gloomy forest right away. However this is proven to be the right choice since it ultimately leads to the castle. This is consistent with the recurring theme of the Labyrinth that many things are not what they seem.
The last scene was altered during production. Sarah's communication with Ludo, Hoggle and Sir Didymus would take place via her bedroom window and not her vanity mirror. After sharing their goodbyes with Sarah, her friends would simply fade away. In the film this scene is modified to a more upbeat resolution.
It appears that the worm has double crossed Sarah since it sends her on the wrong track. However this may not necessarily be the case. By going through the entire Labyrinth, Sarah met her friends. It was only with much assistance from Ludo, Hoggle and Sir Didymus (the latter actually had a more active role in the novelization by fending off many goblins) that Sarah managed to survive the robot guard and the massive attack in Goblin City. If she went straight into the castle she would be most likely injured and chased away by the goblin army. So the wrong choice may ultimately be the right one (which is a common underlying theme in the Labyrinth).