Blog The Surreal Animation of Fantastic Planet

Posted December 28, 2016

By Andrew Jupin, Senior Programmer

Whenever possible, I love to highlight the great work that’s been done—or is being done—in the world of, let’s call it “not for kids” animation. I think the movie-going public tends to associate animated films with things being made with younger audiences in mind, and rightfully so. How many animated kids’ films do we see open in a given year? How many Shrek and Kung Fu Panda sequels have been thrown our way? Anybody remember Storks from a few months back? No? Exactly.

Meanwhile, companies like Studio Ghibli, and distributors like GKids are producing and distributing amazing works of animation that deserve much more attention. Imagine if Ocean Waves or Miss Hokusai had the ad campaigns of the next Pixar film? (Which is a third Cars film, by the way.) That’s why I’m so happy to support Janus Films’ re-release of René Laloux’s cult classic, Fantastic Planet in Retro Revival on January 19.

Set in a distant future, Fantastic Planet tells the story of Terr, an Om—Fantastic Planet code for human being—who is captured by Tiva, a young Draag, or gigantic blue humanoid creature, and kept as a pet from infancy. Draags were responsible for bringing humans from Earth to their home planet, where the humans mostly run wild, though some are kept in captivity like young Terr. Draags are an advanced race with mysterious technology they use to have out of body meditation sessions with beings from other planets. They can also shapeshift.

Everybody still here?

Semi-convoluted world building aside, Fantastic Planet is remembered most for its surreal and psychedelic imagery, created by writer and artist Roland Topor, also a co-writer on the film. The strange, creepy cutout style of animation only serves to enhance the film’s bizarre feel, something that’s only furthered by the incredible acid jazz score, composed by Alain Goraguer—I still regret not picking up the soundtrack on vinyl when I came across it in a used bin at a Amoeba Music in L.A. a couple months back.

Yes, Fantastic Planet is an odd duck, a counterculture gem with beautiful statements on non-violence and anti-conformity. Despite the film being awarded a special jury prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, it’s one few will remember seeing on initial release. But all should check Fantastic Planet out on the big screen with a crowd. It’s an incredibly unique movie-going experience and something I’m ecstatic to be able to present to the JBFC audience in Retro Revival.

And yes, I was knocking the contemporary animation assembly line a bit up top, but hey, I’m not a total curmudgeon; even I’m excited for Incredibles 2.

Fantastic Planet screens on Thursday, Jan. 19. Tickets are available here.

Retro Revival is sponsored by Wine Enthusiast.

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