One of the most influential films of the 70's. René Laloux's intergalactic counterculture animation. A psychedelic space-odyssey masterpiece.
La Planète Sauvage (Fantastic Planet) is one of the most acclaimed animated fantasy films ever made, an experimental stop-motion surrealist allegory fairytale based on the Soviet occupation of the Czech Republic. This monumental achievement in French animation was adapted from the 1957 novel Oms en série by French writer Stefan Wul. The film was written and directed by French animator René Laloux and was designed largely by his co-writer, visual artist Roland Topor. This French/Czech production was a prizewinner at Cannes upon it's release in 1973 and is now revered by many as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time.
Fantastic Planet was a game changing enigma for animation history that doesn't look or feel like anything else, and still feels completely alien and fresh forty years later. Nothing of this scope or nature had ever been made before. France didn't have the infrastructure to produce a feature animation at the time, with only a handful of short animations available, so the film became a outsourced collaboration with animators in the Czech Republic.
This miraculously otherworldly animation is a marvellously poetic, strange, humorous, savage and indelible space odyssey with a powerful allegorical narrative backbone which is deeply multifaceted and open to various interpretation. Fantastic Planet's storyline examines and addresses themes of human rights, cultural identity, racial discrimination, enslavement, animal welfare and genocide with a compelling style and rare earnestness. However you interpret it, there are vital truths and parallels in this film.
This landmark animated feature takes place on the strange and hostile planet of Ygam. The story follows the turbulent relationship between a race of small illiterate human-like creatures called Oms and their gigantic hyper-intelligent blue-skinned humanoid alien oppressors, the Draags, who rule and dominate the Planet Ygam and regard the Oms as a primitive animal, a pest population of troublesome rat-like vermin that need to be eradicated.
The luckier Oms who are captured by the blue giants are kept like domestic pets for the Draags youth, while the less fortunate are forced to battle each other till death, the remaining Om are left to roam and scavenge in the wilderness while doing everything to avoid the Draag extermination crews.
The plot follows the journey of a domesticated baby Om, named Terr, who becomes intelligent after being exposed to the Draag's technology. The Om's mind and body grows rapidly and he escapes from his masters with a headset that implants information directly into the brain. Terr, now armed with Draags hyper-technology, becomes the wise leader of a settlement of nomadic Oms and leads a revolutionary war against the blue alien titans.
The film's visual aesthetic is a cross between The Beatles: Yellow Submarine, Planet of the Apes, and the surrealist paintings of Salvador Dali and Hieronymus Bosch, with otherworldly landscapes inhabited by strange, menacingly and uniquely alien creatures. The film's hand-drawn animation style is distinctive for implementing paper cut out characters that were moved and adjusted by hand to create stop motion animation, this pioneering technique became famous twenty years later with South Park.
The striking animation is elevated beyond the screen with the film's dreamy and iconic soundtrack, composed by French jazz pianist Alain Goraguer. The remarkable music is an unforgettable experimental score of jazz and funk fusions with electronic sounds effects to create a truly otherworldly audio aesthetic. The film's OST is just as significant and powerful as the animated film itself, and completely deserved of appreciation on it's own terms. The score has been sampled dozens of times in modern music, the most famous example that springs to mind is Big Punisher's song Boomerang, which samples the melody from Track No.4 - Le Bracelet.
If you're a fan of mind-bending original cinema, psychedelic animation, surrealist science fiction or even experimental cosmic funk soundtracks, you should definitely check this hypnotic masterpiece that has remained one of animation's most enigmatic cultural phenomenons and best kept secrets.
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Fantastic Planet is a spellbinding experience from opening image to the last, and is available to watch via Eureka! and the Criterion collection.
~ Psychic Garden