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Fantastic Planet
Les Mâitres du Temps FANTASTIC PLANET starts off with an act of violence the death of an Om. Perhaps not violence as we would accept it today because, to some extent, we've become inured to violence in fantasy! After all, this is animation. So when cuties get hurt or eaten we probably don't react even when the cutie has mistaken the predator for its mother.

René Laloux's mesmerising psychedelic sci-fi animated feature deservedly won the Grand Prix at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival. Based on Stefan Wul's novel Oms en Série (Oms by the Dozen), it is a landmark of European animation and very much part of 70's culture and nostalgia.

Released in France as La Planete Sauvage (The Savage Planet) and in the US as Fantastic Planet, comparisons were drawn with Jonathon Swift's Gulliver's Travels and also Planet of the Apes. The 'young generation' of the Sixties and Seventies will also remember the US television series Land of the Giants and its 'little people', which is along similar lines (not terribly pleasant giants trying to annihilate little people).

Seen today the film anticipates much of the work of Hayao Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli (Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away), due to its clear political and social concerns, highly creative imagination and unforget-table animation techniques.

In Fantastic Planet the Oms — humanoid small creatures — are domesticated and kept as pets by an alien race of blue giants called Draags. Draag children use them as entertainment.

The setting is Ygam — the home planet of the Draags — and the story is narrated by Terr, an orphaned Om who was found by a young Draag female next to his dead mother as an infant. As he grows up, he begins to resent his lack of freedom and the restrictive collar around his neck that can pull him back if he strays too far. (Children should have one for their waist — it's brilliant!).

He manages to escape, aided by an Om beauty (naturally!) and begins to organise a revolt, teaching the Oms all he has learned from the Draags by using a special headset device. But there are repercussions for the little Oms as the Draags retaliate.

The story is clever and the setting quite Dali-esque: surreal creatures in eerie landscapes. Expect the unexpected! Even the accompanying soundtrack was… the word that springs to mind is 'emotive' and true
to the style of René Laloux — see also Les Mâitre du Temps (Time Masters) and Gandahar. All three are very different, but Laloux's magic touch shines through. Fantastic Planet captures the imagination and evokes the era beautifully. And, as always, there is a neat rounding off at the end (which came all too quickly for me, although the film is 82 minutes long).

Fantastic Planet was five years in the making at Prague's Jiri Trnka Studios, where, under the direction of René Laloux, this astounding experience came together with the incredible art of Roland Topor
and Alain Goraguer's brilliant, complementary score — much sampled
by the hip-hop community.

The Masters of Cinema series is proud to release Fantastic Planet on DVD in the UK for the first time. Special features: anamorphic 1.66:1 transfer; new and improved optional English subtitles; two short René Laloux films (L'Escargot and Comment Wang-Fo Fut Sauvé); and a 40-page booklet featuring essays about René Laloux, Roland Topor and Alain Goraguer.