MirrorMask came about when Sony noticed that while Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal didn’t do very well in theaters, over the years they’ve become strong, steady sellers in the home video market. So they went to the Jim Henson company and asked if they could do a fantasy film in the same vein, on a budget. So Lisa Henson called up Neil Gaiman by way of asking for Dave McKean, and explained the situation: They only had a $4 million budget, but they wouldn’t have any studio interference. They went on to say they knew they couldn’t afford Neil to write the screenplay, but could he at least come up with a story, at which point he said (Edit: corrected quote) “If Dave’s directing it, I’m writing it.”
The story (what we know of it) is reminiscent of Labyrinth as well as Gaiman’s Coraline and Sandman: A Game of You: A teenage girl, Helena (who wants to run away from the circus and join the real world!), dealing with parental issues (in this case her mother being in the hospital), dreams her way into another world. At least, she thinks it’s a dream. But she realizes that, whether it’s a dream or whether it’s real, she still needs to complete the quest set before her.
Most of the sets and non-human characters are being done with computer graphics, which means they can really let loose. If you’ve ever seen Dave McKean’s work (he did all the Sandman covers, among many, many other projects), you know what to expect. The clips they showed look exactly like Dave McKean illustrations set in motion.
There was a screening the night before (with scenes switching into bluescreen action from time to time), with one of the Sony execs reportedly saying, “That was like Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast… on acid… for kids!” (Edit: more quotes are available)
They kept the shots with actors to a minimum, probably to keep the story under wraps, but what was there looks good.
Current plans are for an art-house release sometime next spring, if post-production is finished by then. I know I’ll be in line.
See Also: Convention Photos & Write-Ups