Fantastic Planet
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (29th December 2017).
The Film

"Fantastic Planet" ("La plančte sauvage") (1973)

Rene Laloux's mesmerising sci-fi animated feature won the Grand Prix at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival and is a landmark of European animation. Set in a distant world, the 'Fantastic Planet', where tiny humans, or Oms, are kept as pets by large alien creatures, the Draags, the film travels through a strange and beautiful world. Soon, one Om absconds with a Draag knowledge device, using the tool to foment a wild Om uprising against his captors. Inspired by the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in the late '60s, Laloux's breathtaking vision immediately drew comparisons to Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" and "Planet of the Apes". Today, the film can be seen to prefigure much of the work of Hayao Miyazaki due to its political and social concerns, epic imagination and groundbreaking animation techniques.

With its psychedelic images, trippy funk soundtrack, and anti-establishment theme, "Fantastic Planet" grabbed audiences from its original release and remained a mainstay for cult cinema circles and avant garde animation fans. Director René Laloux had been an animation director of short subjects, and his collaborations with writer Roland Topor were the most celebrated. But to create the same sensation from short to feature is not particularly easy, dealing with the issues of pace and higher budget, but everything seemed to click with the bizarre alien world of "Fantastic Planet". Working with animation teams in France and Czechoslovakia, the theme of the smaller oppressed race and their uprising was seen as a parallel to many issues of the day. The Vietnam War, Apartheid in South Africa and the treatment of people as less than human. Animal rights also took an issue with the depiction of Oms as pets that were abused and even killed for fun by the Draags. The film doesn't hit these issues hard with any particular villain, as the Draags were just like the average human. They do not see the issue of these little humanoid creatures as equals, but similar to that of how humans see ants, hamsters, or even dogs. If an ant is stepped on there is no remorse. If a pet hamster dies it can simply be replaced. People often talk and play with dogs and even talk to them. The Draags are not being mean spirited towards Oms for a particular reason, and like many people who are accused of being racist that claim not to be racist themselves, the Draags represent that. They cannot see the view from the perspective of the oppressed and therefore can be viewed as racist from others. "Fantastic Planet" does not give particularly fair play to the humanoid oppressed Oms, as they have their infights, their inhuman punishments, and primitive society that is built on hate.

The film may have a trippy and weird feel that is impressive and mesmerizing but underlying in the simple cell animated picture is much more in depth. Like its animated predecessors such as "Animal Farm" (1954) or "Horus: Prince of the Sun" (1968), "Fantastic Planet" is not an animated film just for children, and with some minor bloody violence and partial nudity even kids might find it on a disturbing side. It's a finely crafted piece that has absolutely stood the time while having a retro feeling with its style and its musical score. But the themes it leaves behind are still issues that are still faced in the world today - possibly even more so than before.

Note this is a region 0 NTSC DVD which can be played back on any DVD or Blu-ray player worldwide


Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement in the NTSC format. The film has seen many incarnations on home video over the years, and in 2016 the film was restored from the original negative by Argos Films in 2K. This was the basis of the Blu-ray released by The Criterion Collection in the United States in 2016. There was some controversy over its release as it looked quite different from previous incarnations as the blue tint was very strong compared to prior Blu-ray and DVD editions. The Umbrella Entertainment DVD also is a transfer from this 2016 restoration. Yes it is blue heavy with the Draags looking closer to the Blue Man Group, though in comparison the older transfers look more washed out and pale compared to the restoration which looks more vibrant with the thick color palate. The restoration has removed major damage marks, dust and specs from the image though it has left the film grain intact. The restoration is, well... fantastic. It may not hold a candle to modern animation or larger budget films, but considering the source and limitations of the source, it probably couldn't look any better and this is a satisfying transfer, though a high definition release would have been better.

The runtime with the restoration text cards, Janus Films and Argos Films logos is 71:58.

Below are screenshots of the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release followed by the UK Eureka! Entertainment remastered DVD edition, coming from a high definition transfer from 2012. (Not to be confused with the 2006 UK Eureka! Entertainment release which was an older transfer.) The differences in color between the 2K 2016 restoration and the HD 2012 transfer are quite clear.


French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
English Dolby Digital 1.0

The original French language track is presented in 2.0 mono. Like the film the soundtrack has also been remastered from the original 35mm magnetic tracks. The soundtrack by Alain Goraguer sounds great though the mono stems has its limitations. Compared to the isolated soundtrack available on vinyl or CD in stereo sound, as well as on the UK Eureka! Blu-ray and DVD as an extra, there is a little less depth as there isn't stereo separation and is mixed together with the dialogue track. The French language dialogue has no issues sounding clear and well balanced. There are no issues with hisses or pops and is a very clean remastered track.

The English dub on the other hand is lacking the depth of the remastered French track, with the dialogue and music sounding very tinny and confined.

There are optional English subtitles for the French translation in an off-yellow font. The font style is a little more stylized than the usual set of English subtitles, and can be seen in the screenshots from above. The translation compared to the Eureka! release is slightly different, such as in the Eureka! the planet is referred to "Savage Planet" while in the Umbrella release it is the "Wild Planet". The subtitles are well timed and easy to read with no errors in grammar or spelling.


There are sadly no extras on the DVD. Embedded below is an excerpt of the restored version of the film, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment.


"Fantastic Planet" is a bona fide animation classic that is intelligent, beautiful, disturbing, and absolutely wondrous. It stood out from the animated works of the day while appealing to an audience that was looking at the world in an optimistic way, and still continues to inspire and enthrall audiences worldwide. The Umbrella Entertainment release has a great transfer of the 2016 restoration edition, though having no extras at all and the lack of a Blu-ray release in Australia makes it a difficult one for recommendation.

The Film: A Video: A- Audio: A- Extras: F- Overall: C+


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