Kira

Description

Adolescent female Gelfling. Two-and-a-half feet tall, with long fair hair and gossamer wings. Kira wears clothes with Podling designs.


History

Origin

Young Kira with Podling
Young Kira with Podling
Kira at the Podling village
Kira with Pod People at the Podling village

Kira was one of only two surviving Gelfling following the Garthim War (the other being Jen). Rescued by the Podlings after her mother was dragged off by the Garthim, she learned to live in harmony with the woodland creatures that inhabited the swamps and forests surrounding the Podling village. She was taught herbalism and how to speak to living things.

She met Jen while he was exploring the swamp after he fled from the Garthim. When fate brought Kira and Jen together, she joined him on his quest. They gave each other strength, encouragement, and the will to succeed.

Quest

When the Garthim pursued her and Jen on their journey, she sheltered Jen in the Podling village, but the village was raided and destroyed by Garthim soldiers. Jen and Kira fled to the “Houses of the Old Ones” and there they discovered the Wall of Destiny. It is only in that moment that Jen and Kira truly understood the Prophecy; they must take the True Shard to the Castle before the Great Conjunction and heal the Dark Crystal.

Kira with Fizzgig and Landstriders
Kira with Fizzgig and Landstriders

SkekSil confronted them at the Wall of Destiny, attempting to “make peace,” but Kira kept her wits and the pair of Gelfling fled to the Hill of the Landstriders. Kira summoned a pair of landstriders to help them on their quest. With the landstriders’ help, they swiftly rode to the Castle, fighting off the Garthim raiders, and sneaking into the Castle through the Teeth of Skreesh.

Kira was then captured by SkekSil and he presented her as a hostage to skekUng, the newly crowned Emperor. Because of this deed, SkekSil was then reinstated as Chamberlain. Kira was then taken to the Chamber of Life by skekTek and drained of her essence. Aughra, who was captured during the raid on her Observatory, was also imprisoned in the Chamber of Life (as skekTek sought to drain her essence as well). She urged Kira to fight the effects of the Dark Crystal and Kira did, calling out to the imprisoned animals in the Podling tongue and inciting them to escape their cages and free her.

In the chaos, skekTek was thrown into the shaft below the Dark Crystal and fell down into the Lake of Fire. UrTih, his urRu counterpart, sympathetically died in a flash. Kira, now free of her bonds, fled to the Crystal Chamber.

Her Sacrifice

The Skeksis, Mystics and Gelfling all converged in the Crystal Chamber as the three suns aligned overhead. The Skeksis spotted Kira and Jen and called on the Garthim to attack. As Jen tried to escape a Garthim attack, he jumped onto the Dark Crystal and dropped the shard. Kira picked up the shard to keep it from the Skeksis, and then sacrificed herself to give the shard to Jen so he could heal the Crystal. Kira was then mortally wounded by skekZok.

Kira with Fizzgig and Landstriders
Kira with the shard

Because of her sacrifice, Jen was able to heal the Crystal and the urRu and Skeksis are reunited into the urSkeks. The grateful urSkeks restored Kira’s life and departed for their home through the pure Crystal. And with the healing of the Crystal so, too, was Thra healed. The wasteland receded and turned green and vital once again.


Production

Development

Prototype & Build

Kira concept drawing
Kira concept drawing

As the team of craftspeople began to grow, prototypes of various characters started to proliferate. Wendy Midener sculpted head after head, trying to hit on a set of features that was just right for Jen and Kira. Some versions resembled human children; others were animalistic.

The eyes, as Brian Froud recognized, would be crucial to the success of the characters that were being developed. Static taxidermists’ eyes, no matter how realistic, would not suffice for Jen, Kira, Aughra or any of the characters who would inhabit the world of The Dark Crystal. They needed eyes that blinked and swiveled as naturally as those of any human performer. This presented two challenges that no puppet builder had ever faced before. Precisely the right kind of glass (or plastic) eyes had to be found, and mechanisms to control them on cue had to be devised. The search for glass eyes took months. The problem was not in finding a number of skilled manufacturers of artificial eyes willing to help the Henson people; it was simply that these companies were not equipped to produce eyes of the shape that was needed. Sherry Amott reports that every conceivable source, not excluding Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, was canvassed before the appropriate eyes were found. Eventually, the supplier turned out to be an English firm that hand-crafted the eyes to Henson’s specifications.

Getting Kira just right for the screen was challenging. Kathryn Mullen had been working with versions of Kira for months but still did not feel completely comfortable with her. The cable controls passing up through the puppet’s neck hampered her wrist and hand movements, and the hovering cable crew was distinctly inhibiting. With larger characters like the Skeksis, it was easy enough to hide the cable crew; that was not the case with Kira, who was small and had to be capable of quick and natural movements. This was one of the last problems on the film that would be solved.

Just a few weeks before principal photography was about to begin, Mullen requested a radical design change. “Faz” Fazakas, the Muppets’ technical wizard, had told her there was no reason why the functions of Jen and Kira that were now controlled by cable could not be controlled by radio signals. Henson and Oz asked Fazakas to build prototypes and bring them to London for tests.

“Having the remote-control Kira made my performance,” Kathryn Mullen said. “I did a couple of scenes with the cable-controlled version, and the difference was like night and day. Remote control gave me the freedom of movement I needed.”

Ultimately, of course, it was Mullen’s acting ability that made the performance.

Performance

Kathryn Mullen on set
Kathryn Mullen on set

Jim Henson had always been determined that a female puppeteer should perform Kira, and both he and Frank Oz detected something in Mullen that made them feel she could handle the role. “We felt that her puppeteering skills could be developed,” Henson explained. “What was more important was that we sensed that she had the acting ability to take on Kira.” Mullen spent some time working in The Muppet Show’s London shop, helping out on the studio floor when an extra puppeteer was needed. After a while, she graduated to full-time performer, all along receiving special coaching from Frank Oz. Working with Oz on Yoda gave her the final baptism by fire that proved she had the stamina that, along with acting ability, would be crucial to anyone taking on a major role in The Dark Crystal.

Kathryn Mullen’s own voice was ruled out to be the voice of Kira because it didn’t quite sound young enough, but it soon became evident that there would little problem in finding a voice to match the character.

Jim and Kathy performing on crane
Jim Henson and Kathy Mullen performing on crane

Performers

Kathryn Mullen Kira – Character Performer
Lisa Maxwell Kira – Character Voice

See Also