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What a Draag

[whitespace] Fantastic Planet
Head Games: A scene from Rene Laloux's fluid, colorful 'Fantastic Planet.'

Animated sci-fi cult favorite 'Fantastic Planet' returns

By Richard von Busack

BACK for a 25th-anniver sary revival, Fantastic Planet was the Gran Prix winner at Cannes in 1973. Based on a novel by the Czech fantasy writer Stefan Wul, the story has a Planet of the Apes scenario with some novel twists. The Draags, cold, emotionless and turquoise-skinned, are the lords of their planet. They stare out of lidless, blood-red eyes and have salamander frills for ears. The Draag children keep Oms (probably from the French hommes): human beings long ago exiled from Earth, who only stand as high as a Draag's finger. Oms are treated as both pets and pests. In the wild, Oms are considered vermin and are sometimes gassed.

An Om named Terr is adopted as a baby by an adolescent Draag named Tiwa. Tiwa likes to dress up his little pet in Peter Max versions of Pierrot costumes, but Terr runs away and meets the feral Oms living in a nearby park. Tested by these barbarians, Terr becomes a leader. (The title refers to a moon of the Draags' world, where the Oms decide to go.)

Director Rene Laloux collaborated with Czech animators, who drew on modes in Eastern Bloc pop art; the characters have the colorful, vivid style of figures on those beautiful Polish movie posters. The Draags' world is populated with toothy creatures that look like escapees from a Miro painting. The soundtrack is vintage psychedelic sludge cooked up by Alain Goraguer, featuring theremin, attenuated keyboards, marimbas and bird whistles.

Fantastic Planet has a cruel streak, which recommends it. The wantoness of the young Draags playing with their human pets is chilling and gives the allegory some necessary bite. The story proceeds at a slow, mandarin pace, as befits a story of effete aliens, and I have no doubt its cult status has something to do with marijuana (stoned or straight, I wouldn't advise this for children under 12). The bland voices in the English version seem to be the work of the same people who dubbed Speed Racer, but a check of the credits comes up with some familiar names from TV: Barry Bostwick, Marvin (Adam-12) Miller and Janet Waldo--perhaps hired because of her voice talents on that other piece of cartoon futurism, The Jetsons.

Fantastic Planet (Unrated; 72 min.), directed by Rene Laloux, written by Roland Topor and Laloux, based on a novel by Stefan Wul.

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From the December 10-16, 1998 issue of Metro.

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