Retro Animation: Fantastic Planet (1973)

Michelle reviews the 1973 animated film, Fantastic Planet. 

Fantastic Planet isn't something you merely watch. It's something you experience. Every single aspect of it is so peculiar and downright surreal that it's hard to take it in all at once. The 1970s were an interesting era for animation and the genre was used to explore complex social issues. Much like Ralph Bakshi's anti-war animated feature Wizards (1977), Fantastic Planet aims to highlight issues and conflicts that plague the human condition.

My brain is made of planets and stars. Groovy. 

The film takes place on a planet known as Ygam which is home to giant blue humanoids called Draags. The Draags share the planet with displaced Earthlings that are called Oms. These humans are considered no better than animals to the Draags and are either kept as pets or exterminated like vermin. We follow the plight of one specific Om by the name of Terr who is the pet of a child Draag named Tiva. The relationship between the Draags and the Oms is the main conflict of the film and the ideas it conveys can have many parallels to real life. Classism is the most prominent theme as the Draags look down upon the Oms and treat them like lesser class citizens. There is an interesting juxtaposition between the advanced technology and intelligence of the Draags and their inability to use empathy with "lesser" Oms. While the film can be taken at face value as a work of science fiction, the allegorical nature of the content can be explored if one chooses to.

Fantastic Planet uses a unique animation style that consists of stop motion cutouts. This results in a strange jerky style of movement though there are scenes where it is used masterfully to depict abstract transformations and fantastical creatures. Surrealist French painter Roland Topor was responsible for the look of the film and his creature designs are incredibly bizarre to behold. Somehow, even with all the crazy psychedelic visuals, the movie does manage to have a cohesive style and it is hypnotizing to see in motion. The film is dark at times with death and destruction presented in almost a nonchalant manner. I'm just speculating, but the fact that it is a collaboration between France and Czechoslovakia might account for the more subversive themes that creep into the movie.

We are the Blue Man Group and we are here to entertain you.

Alain Goraguer provides an incredible musical score for the film and it is just as wacky as the visuals. It's a mixture of dreamy psychedelic reverb-soaked ambient music with touches of funk thrown in for variety. You could listen to the score isolated from the film and still be able to piece together an aural emotional journey from point A to point B. The English dubbing is the one negative aspect of Fantastic Planet, as it is performed in a monotone style. It may have been done on purpose, but it doesn't add to the atmosphere. Thankfully there isn't a whole lot of spoken dialogue in the film (I was unable to find a French language version to watch, unfortunately).

Animation junkies should definitely try to give this film a watch, both for its intriguing visual style and for its thought provoking message.

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-Michelle Kisner