DVD Review

Fantastic Planet & r & & r & by MARTY DEMAREST & r & & r & Fantastic Planet (La Plan & egrave;te sauvage) is a film by Ren & eacute; Laloux that was a prizewinner at Cannes in 1973. Like a later year's winner at that prestigious festival, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, Fantastic Planet is a socially engaged film whose political relevance has been eroded by time. Allegedly "about" the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia, it works now only as a beautiful piece of animated psychedelia. (A fate I doubt any of Moore's work will ever enjoy.)

Flickering colored pencil drawings are enlivened with less animation than the Flash-style work of South Park, but the images themselves have an imaginative grace that make viewers' eyes swoop up and around a fanciful universe as kinetically as if someone were moving the camera. Plants look like rainbow-tinted arabesques. Anteater creatures have jagged, gaping maws. Clothing and furniture drips with colors and curves as absurd as circus-wear and as graceful as grass.

The designs overwhelm the story, which is about a race of giant humanoid, blue-skinned aliens called Traags that have enslaved humans as hermit crab-sized pets. Most of the humans seem resigned to their fates, toted around and collared by Traag children. But one of the humans, named Terr, learns about the Traag's world and escapes. Finding a colony of free-loving fellow escapees, he teaches them how to read, refine themselves and rebel. The Traags then disrupt their important political discussion to debate about how to handle this rodent-sized menace. If this sort of story interests you, you really should watch Robotech: The Macross Saga, which tells it better and without any political posturing. But if you want to trip out, Fantastic Planet is perfect.

The "newly restored" DVD from Facets Video doesn't feature the best transfer -- dots still pepper the screen. But the disc does include an indication of the artistic roots of Fantastic Planet (the short film Les Escargots) and a small slice of its legacy (a music video by Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono). No interviews are included with hip-hop impresario Peanut Butter Wolf, who has sampled from the groovalicious soundtrack and emblazoned some of the film's images on the albums he's produced. But any well-saturated fan of pop culture will recognize the seminal place Fantastic Planet has taken in modern imagination, even without its political message. (Not Rated)