A movie poster for ‘Fantastic Planet.’
I recently saw a 35mm presentation of director René Laloux’s Fantastic Planet, his animated adaptation of a 1950s science fiction novel by French writer Stefan Wul titled Oms en Série. When La Planète sauvage (or Fantastic Planet) was released in 1973 initial impressions expressed in reviews attempted to draw comparisons to the Czech opposition to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Wul went on the record to clear up the rumor (as the book had been written a many years prior to the invasion) saying that Fantastic Planet was truly a work of fiction—and not a political dramatization hiding beneath the cloak of a sci-fi premise.
A ‘Dragg’ and his ‘Oms.’
Working with far-out French illustrator and long-time collaborator the great Roland Topor, Laloux set out to give Wul’s novel an animated life of its own. The two assembled a team of talented illustrators and artists from Czechoslovakia which during the 60s and 70s were well known within the realm of animation in film for their innovation in the art. Though it was not the only film to use “cut-out” animation (a style of animation used in film starting back in the early 1900s) the laborious work of Fantastic Planet’s talented crew was done frame-by-frame without the aid of modern digital technology.
Reminiscent of the surreal creations of Hieronymus Bosch the story tells the tale of the inhabitants of Ygam—a place where giant blue titans called “Draags” toy with humans (or Oms) who have few other options other than to be great pets. The epic triumph of Fantastic Planet would sadly mark the last time Laloux and Topor would work together. Though nothing can quite compare to the glory of seeing Fantastic Planet in 35mm, late last month Criterion released the film on Blu-ray which was mastered from the original 35mm along with a complete restoration of the soundtrack.
Striking images from this timeless film follow.
The trailer for ‘Fantastic Planet.’
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The Far Side: Roland Topor’s cheerfully violent illustrations from ‘Les Masochistes’