The Most Astounding Sci-Fi Animated Movie Ever Turns 50

By Kevin C. Neece | Published

La Planète sauvage, known in English as Fantastic Planet, is one of the most astounding and unique animated science fiction films ever produced. After 50 years, it continues to hold a special place in film history and has received recognition as the stunning achievement it is. The French animated film, from director René Laloux, with its psychedelic visuals and complex world-building, has only increased in relevance over the decades.

Still Relevant Today

Fantastic Voyage was notable upon its theatrical release on December 1, 1973, for its imaginative visual style and its jazz rock score by musician Alain Goraguer, quickly becoming a cult hit. In the decades since, it has continued to inspire and intrigue generations of viewers with its allegorical exploration of important cultural issues like the rights of animals, oppression, slavery, and racism, all of which are conveyed in compellingly trippy fashion. Set on the strange alien planet Ygam, the story concerns the oppression of the Oms, who are more human-like in their appearance, by the larger, blue-skinned Draags.

The Rise Of The Oms

Though the Draags in Fantastic Planet have long kept the Oms oppressed, denying them education and treating them as pets, when a young Draag teaches an Om boy to read and learn, the Oms rise up. Realizing they can be more than what the Draags have allowed them to be, the Oms revolt against their oppressors. The two will either fight to destruction or peace.

A Masterpiece In Animation

Winning the Special Jury Prize at the 1973 Cannes International Film Festival, Fantastic Planet has long been the recipient of laudits and praise. Through entrancing and hypnotic sights and sounds that create an almost hallucinatory experience, the film pushes the medium of animation in ways that are still mesmerizing. Using similar techniques of cutout stop motion animation as those employed by Terry Gilliam in the Monty Python series and films, Fantastic Planet still dazzles after five decades.

The Criterion Release

Now, through its Criterion Collection release on high-definition Blu-ray, viewers can see Fantastic Planet in a 2K digitally restored Edition. The Blu-ray includes the film’s original mono soundtrack in crisp, uncompressed quality, an alternate English-language soundtrack, and two earlier short films by Laloux and illustrator Roland Topor: 1965’s “Les temps morts” and “Les escargots” from 1966. Also included on the disc are trailers, an interview with Topor, and a 2009 documentary about the film’s director, entitled Laloux sauvage.

Streaming On Max

For those who are interested, Fantastic Planet is also streaming on Max, though the Criterion Collection disc is well worth at least renting, if not owning. After 50 years, the film still stands as an amazing piece of forward-thinking and limitation-breaking animation, not to mention an inspiring story that is still thought-provoking decades after the film’s original release. Its bizarre visual stylings have influenced countless artists, from filmmakers and designers to sculptors and authors, making it all the more fascinating to view through the lens of history.Science fiction is broad and inclusive, always reaching for the outskirts, and Fantastic Planet is one of the genre’s most unique and influential offerings. Whether you’re familiar with it or have never seen it, on its 50th anniversary, it is well worth exploring.