how many of us took advantage of those wonderful psychedelic cinematic
discoveries of the late sixties and early seventies, the kind that beckoned
many a youth to view them in an altered state of mind? You know the ones—Yellow Submarine, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fantasia
(1969 re-release), Woodstock, El Topo, Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic,
Allegro non troppo... and of course Fantastic Planet,a surprise European import that hit U.S. theaters in early 1974.
It’s one of the stellar stoner movies that frequented the Midnight Movie houses
around college campuses.
by French animator René Laloux, with a production design by
eccentric French illustrator Roland Topor, Fantastic
Planet takes the audience to a very other-worldly place where humans are
tiny vermin compared to the gigantic blue Draags (called Traags in previous
translations), who are the superior race on the planet. In fact, Draag children
often keep humans—known as “Oms”—as pets, teaching them tricks and keeping them
imprisoned the way we might house a gerbil. Adult Draags, we learn, like to
“meditate,” which is apparently a euphemism for participating in a cerebral,
celestial orgy. While their bodies remain sedate, their consciousnesses are
released inside floating colored bubbles that travel to a nearby “wild planet.”
There, the bubbles attach to giant headless human-shaped statues, which then
come to “life” and dance together. In other words, it’s how the Draags get off.
story involves one human, Terr, who is captured in infancy by a young Draag and
kept as a plaything. Terr grows up, escapes his master, and joins a band of feral
humans to organize, rebel, and attempt to bring down the Draags.
all very creepy and strange, but it’s also a brilliantly fascinating and entertaining
film. The French-Czech co-production managed to win the Jury Prize at Cannes
that year, the first time an animated feature had taken such an award.
Certainly no other movie before or since looks
like Fantastic Planet, for its
eye candy exhibits a surrealism that echoes the work of Dalí, Ernst, or Magritte, but with a hallucinogenic science fiction
sensibility. Add a mesmerizing electronic jazz score by Alain Gorageur, and
you’ve got yourself one extremely trippy motion picture.
first released in the U.S., the dialogue was dubbed in English. The new
Criterion Collection disk features this optional soundtrack, but one must
really watch and listen to the movie in the original French (with newly
translated English subtitles) for the full alien effect.
new 2K digital restoration is absolutely gorgeous. The colors are bright and
vivid, bringing out the details of the drawn, “paper doll” animation. The audio
is an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Supplements include two short animated films made by Leloux and Topor—Les temps morts (1965) and Les escargots (1966)—and if you think
the feature film is bizarre, wait until you see these! The disk also contains a
2009 documentary on Laloux, an episode of a French television program from 1974
about Topor and his work, a short interview with Topor from 1973, and the
experiencing Fantastic Planet, you
may feel as if you’ve jumped back to the 70s and want to say things like, “Far
out, man,” or “roll another one.” Just be sure to Blu-ray responsibly. (“Whoa,
he used Blu-ray as a verb!”)