If you've ever seen Fantastic Planet, the early 1970s French-Czech animated sci-fi film, then you know that the movie is a trip. There's Alain Goraguer funky jazz score, the vinyl copy of which went on to become DJ gold. Then there's the animation, gorgeous character design mixed with earthy colors.
These are the things that stand out when you watch Fantastic Planet. On January 4, at Jerry Beck's Animation Tuesdays series at Cinefamily, the elements that make the movie so unusual were more pronounced. For this encore presentation of the film, Jesus Makes the Shotgun Sound recreated Goraguer's score live. A series of voice actors set up in a corner of the theater followed the script for the English-language dub. And on the big screen, Fantastic Planet looked stranger and more ethereal than it ever had on my TV and computer screens. It was sensory overload in the best way possible.
But, does this kind of intensely unusual beauty detract from the story? Often, when I talk to people about Fantastic Planet, we speak of it in terms like "cool" and "weird." We might mention the animation and we'll definitely talk about the music, but the story seems to get lost.
The basic story is that you have two groups living on a planet, the Draags and the Oms, with the latter being humans. The Draags overpower the Oms in both size and technology. Amongst the Oms, there are two subsets. The "domesticated" ones are cherished by Draags, often considered cute and fun, and are cared for in a manner similar to pets. Meanwhile, the "savage" Oms live in the wild, almost like strays, and are frequently called "pests."
Fantastic Planet is a movie I love and have watched many times. The more I rewatch, the more I start to wonder if the film is a commentary on the treatment of animals. Below are some indications from the film.
The Child Draags Love to Play with Oms, but Aren't Necessarily Loving When They Play
The kids think they're having fun by tapping Oms so that they roll down the hill. Perhaps they don't notice the terror in the face of the Om like the audience does. Perhaps they don't realize their own strength. One thing is certain, though, this can lead to death.
What Do You Name Your Om?
Tiva is a young, female Draag who discovers a baby Om while walking with her father. The baby's mother has just been killed by some other young Draags. Tiva's father allows her to bring the Om home and care for it. Now they must think of a name. While Tiva wants to name him after herself, her father disagrees.
"You must call him Fido or Trusty," he says.
Since American dog names of the mid-20th century didn't appeal to her, Tiva settles on Terr, after her father refers to the baby Om as a "terror."