The Fantastic Planet

Rated NR

Modern animation is unbelievably slick; we marvel at the 3-D modeling and fluid motion. But as shockingly real as it all looks, it also tends to be bland, with rounded, visually neutral characters interacting with landscapes designed more for mimesis than creative aesthetic appeal. Perhaps that’s why I was so blown away by Fantastic Planet, a classic French/Czech co-production. This animated science-fiction movie was made in 1973, and it bears the psychedelic markings of the era—but instead of the garish colors of Peter Max and George Dunning, it’s filled with gorgeously muted earth tones and trippy art-nouveau stylings. The story, about Earth creatures trying to survive on a planet inhabited by giant aliens who keep them as pets, is far less important (though no less compelling) than the vision of an alien world. Strange creatures undulate in the background, and the camera occasionally skitters away from the action just to concentrate on the floating heads and plant-birds that feed on each other and fall into lattice-work abysses. Truly fantastic.

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