Brandon Gray’s review published on Letterboxd:
When people talk about symbols and the unconscious in relation to movies, my brain usually automatically files these under "not intended by the director/creators." But it's not always so black and white, and I want to unlearn this gut reaction.
Example: Author Amy Gentry talked before this particular screening about how the "helping hands" scene reflects the coming-of-age of a young girl and those real life characters around her, groping and manipulating her like a puppet. (Amy Gentry also acknowledged that Jim Henson, when questioned about the "helping hands" scene, said that he "just thought it would be creepy." The majority of her observations were spot on ("try watching it as a coming-of-age horror movie"), and then there's an occasional observation ("shaft-like tunnels") where my gut reaction belongs to the "a cigar is just a cigar" category.
That's the fun and evasive thing about the unconscious, and the thing that makes movies an interactive experience. These "symbols" may not always be specific references to me, but artists like Jim Henson, who is well versed in mythology and storytelling, knows how stories prod the unconscious. And there's a reason young girls were obsessed with this movie, and I fully acknowledge some of those reasons are probably deeper a surface reading of the movie.
I've always had a certain aversion to specific readings of a movie that I consider more broad and open to interpretation. But I also really relish these alternative readings, because they set my mind up to experience something in a different way. It's an exercise in imagination and in empathy, to try and see an artwork the way someone else saw it.
P.S. Amy Gentry also mentioned that Jim Henson's help with the script ends around the point of the "helping-hands" scene. My interest and attention always wanes just slightly in the second half of the movie, and especially the battle scene (though I love the set), so maybe this makes a little more sense now.