I barely made it on time for the Brian and Wendy Froud panel at the Variant Stage this past Sunday, which was entitled “Over 30 Years With Brian & Wendy Froud: Faeries, Goblins and Trolls.” The moderator was public radio host Ellen Kushner, who introduced the couple. Their latest work is a book called “Trolls,” their first-ever book collaboration.
Wendy said that their life was a collaboration, having been married now for 32 years. Their book contains paintings and sketches by Brian among other things. Brian said that it was an exploration of a whole world. He had wanted paintings, artifacts, and 3-dimensional work in it. He also mentioned that he designed it in Photoshop, having finally caught up with modern technology. Wendy was excited by the book, saying that it was the first time they’ve been able to develop a whole world since The Dark Crystal. Brian said that their home in Dartmoor, England, was inspirational for the troll landscapes he designed, even going as far as designing the trolls to look indigenous to Dartmoor.
Wendy had created a whole body of troll folklore, looking at Brian’s paintings and even wrote a few of the stories. They said it took eight months to do the book. Brian had illustrated some of Wendy’s stories, making her the first person he’s illustrated for in years. They used cork boards to storyboard the book, and as a result, their house kind of looks like an archaeological excavation. They talked about how they first met (through Jim Henson recruiting them to work on The Dark Crystal). They also mentioned that their latest project was a meditation app called “Pathways To Faery” (which is now available on iPhone, iPad, and iPod). When I had arrived to sit down before the panel, I was given a card with that title as well as a sketching pen with no pointy tip, and after hearing about the app I now understood what I had gotten and what it was for (which was really cool!).
Another fun fact the Frouds mentioned was that their son Toby had indeed played the baby Toby in Labyrinth. In fact, Brian said that he was the one who had actually come up with the title when discussing it with Jim Henson. Brian had done a lot of conceptual paintings for the film, most of which were actually used. When Terry Jones was brought in to tweak the script, he looked at Brian’s sketchbook and added a lot of things from there. Brian, in response to a fan question, stated that The Dark Crystal looked the way it did because Jim Henson had used a lot of creative people rather than industry people. Brian also mentioned that he tries to draw from the inside out; to find abstractions. He likes to look for something that speaks; is alive. He looks for the spirit of everything, and that you must have faith when drawing. They then thanked everyone for coming.
After the panel, I immediately went to Autograph table 5 to wait in line for the Frouds autographing session that started at noon. Finally, at 12:20 p.m., I got to meet Brian and Wendy Froud. I told them I was a big fan of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, and while they signed my Labyrinth collector’s edition DVD booklet, I asked them about whether or not the sequel to The Dark Crystal was still happening. Wendy responded, “Who knows.” After they finished signing, I shook their hands and thanked them.
After the Frouds’ autograph session, I passed by the Variant Stage and noticed that the Sesame Street panel was still going on. I saw Gordon talking with Elmo on the stage. Elmo announced that he was going to do a musical, then did a Darth Vader impression, and then he went behind the screen to perform a “live” song (which was shown on the screen). After that, he and Gordon sang on the stage as part of the finale to the panel, which can be seen in the video below. It was really cool.