Review by Gordon Justesen
Jennifer Drake, Eric Baugin, Sylvie Lenoir, Jean Topart, Jean Valmont
Director: Rene Laloux
Audio: French PCM Mono, English Dolby Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.66:1
Features: See Review
Length: 72 Minutes
Release Date: June 21, 2016
“Deprived of lessons, I decided to run away.”
In the realm of animated fare, Fantastic Planet is extraordinarily unique. It’s visual style is one that may not capture those into modern animation, but those who treasure the format in all its incarnations are bound to find this feature truly fascinating. If anything, it’s a combination of the strange and beautiful.
The film tells of two distinct races of people on a distant planet known as Ygam. There are the human-like Oms, who are miniscule in size when compared to the other living race. They are known as the Draags, giant blue creatures who nearly resemble that of sea monkeys.
The adult members of the Draags don’t much care for the Oms, with some even regarding them as vermin. However, the children take a strong liking to them. They even consider Oms to be like pets, as in the case of an Om named Terr, whose been kept in a pet like manner by a Draag family ever since his mother was killed.
Much of the film focuses on Terr’s growth into a man. At a certain point, he escapes from his Draag captors. He soon falls into a clan of rebellious Oms who fighting back against the Draag’s oppressive, violent ways.
The animation by Roland Topor is something vastly original in terms of style and movement. It appears to resemble the style of the animated bits seen in the works of Monty Python (there’s no telling who inspired who). The jazzy music score by Alain Goraguer gives it a sound that definitely makes this a product of its time.
The film does have something of a slow pace to it, even with a 72 minute running time. It could end up testing some viewers patience. But if you have a curiosity for experimental films of this type, as I do, Fantastic Planet will end up being quite an enriching viewing experience.
Even with its age and retro animation, the film looks nothing short of stunning thanks to the fine folks at Criterion. The collection of colors, particularly that of blue, pop off the screen in beautiful, vibrant form. Just about every individual frame of this film gives you something to be awestruck by. Criterion’s tremendous rendering of the picture, courtesy of a 2k digital restoration, makes this matter even more extravagant to the senses.
Criterion supplies two different sound mixes for this release. For the original French verison, there’s a PCM Mono mix. If you opt for the English dubbed version, you’ll hear it in Dolby Mono. Both tracks suit the film quite well, with Alain Goraguer’s music score coming off as the presentation highlight. Dialogue is delivered very well, in addition.
Included on this Criterion Blu-ray are two short films; Les temps marts and Les escargots, which come courtesy of director Rene Laloux and animator Roland Topor. Also included is “Lalour savage”, a documentary from 2009 that focuses on director Laloux, an episode of the French TV show “Italiques” from 1974 about Roland Topor’s work, as well as an interview with Topor from 1973 and a Trailer. The disc also comes with a terrific, and very colorfully detailed, insert featuring an essay by critic Michael Brooke.
Fantastic Planet is truly an animated experience unlike any other. That will mean great for some and not so much for others. For me, being transported to another universe, as well as an entirely different time of animated storytelling was truly fascinating. If you fancy such a trip, you should indeed take it!