Long before there was “Pink Floyd The Wall” or “Koyaanisqatsi,” there was “Fantastic Planet” — a trippy, animated French sci-fi feature film from the early ’70s, rounded out with spacey, psychedelic music that assured its status as cult classic and stoner staple.
For the uninitiated, the distant planet of Ygam is a surreal place where tiny, abducted humans (the Om race) run wild, scampering across the vast, muted plains and prickly wooded areas like vermin. Others are collared and kept as pets by the indigenous Draag race, enormous, blue-skinned humanoids with fire-red eyes. The film is as remembered for its lush, hand-drawn images as it is for the airy, orchestral score by Alain Goraguer.
On Tuesday, animation historian Jerry Beck will host a rare “performance screening” of the film at Cinefamily’s Animation Tuesdays. The series, held monthly at the Silent Movie Theatre, features premieres, retrospectives and Q&As with special guests. For the “Fantastic Planet” event, the band Jesus Makes the Shotgun Sound will perform a live revision of the original score and actors will be on-hand to voice the dialogue along with the animation.
“We did it a month ago and it was so successful and popular that we’re doing it again,” says Beck. “It’s quite a theatrical event.”
French experimental animators Roland Topor and René Laloux toiled over the production of “Fantastic Planet” – which is based on a 1957 novel by Stefan Wul – for five years at a Czech animation studio.
The themes of oppressive establishment, identity and little-man anxiety are not-so-subtle statements about the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. Roger Corman brought the film, which won the special jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973, to the U.S. and had it dubbed into English.
Beck is particularly fond of the film’s simplistic, painterly images. “It doesn’t look like any other animated film in this — or its own – era,” he says. “The hand-drawn aspect really lends something to the alien nature of the film. It gives it this organic feel that a computer-generated film just doesn’t have.”
– Deborah Vankin
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