Back during the late 70s/early 80s, television programming was a lot less dumbed down if you can even believe that. Cases in point: the original animated Hobbit (1977), and, pretty much anything produced by the Rankin Bass people. Times were simpler, and animated features were witty. Some were even intelligent. But somewhere around 2003, the era of the Saturday morning cartoon disappeared, and, so did the broadcasting of the occasional, award winning animated film. Another case in point: The Secret of Kells.
Presumably, we no longer see this kind of programming because the audience just isn’t there anymore. Or maybe it is, and, the generation that grew up watching this particular era of TV just isn’t all that compelling to commercial interests compared to the greediest demographic in the history of the universe and their spawn. After all, there are only about 40 million Gen Xers vs. 80 million each of the Boomers & their children, but I digress.
Fantastic Planet (La Planète Sauvage) is an animated, science fiction film that won an award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973. I remember seeing it on TV sometime before 1977. Thereafter, it ran periodically on the USA Network until the early 80s before completely disappearing. It was directed and produced by René Laloux and Roland Topor. Based on the novel, Oms en série by Stefan Wul, it was recently translated into English & is available from the major online book retailers if you’re interested.
The story focuses on Terr, a humanoid called an Om, who is kept as a pet by Tiva, a female Draag child. The Draags are an alien race that have blue skin, bulging red eyes, fan-like ears and are gargantuan in size. They spend much of their time in meditation, and, keep some Oms as domesticated pets while others run wild. Meanwhile, the Draag Council periodically debates as to whether to regularly exterminate the wild Oms to keep their numbers down.
As Terr matures, he gains knowledge of the world around him via Tiva’s headset that she uses for her school lessons. He becomes increasingly bored with his life as a pet and eventually escapes from his captivity. Once free, he encounters a community of savage Oms. Initially, the wild Oms are suspicious of Terr and laugh at him as they consider domesticated Oms to be little more than buffoons for the Draags.
Because they are so tiny on a planet inhabited by giants and outlandish creatures, the Oms face many dangers. But after killing a Draag in self-defense, the Draag Council decides to mass exterminate them once and for all. The savage Oms agree to take direction from Terr, and then proceed to educate themselves using the headset Terr dragged along with him when he escaped into the wild. They then build a spaceship to travel to the Fantastic Planet where they find and learn to exploit the Draags’ Achilles heel to barter for their continued survival as a species.
Touching on themes of cultural intolerance and mutually assured destruction, the film is at times bizarre and chock full of Bosch-like imagery that will stay with you for a long time. This movie is definitely not for young children, but will be appreciated by connoisseurs of Sci Fi everywhere.
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