Although Fantastic Planet originates from a European tradition of fantasy art, it made such an impression in the psychedelic zeitgeist of its day that it became the first animated feature to win the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, which convinced Roger Corman to release it theatrically in the United States. Adapted from a novel by French author Stefan Wul, designed by artist Roland Topor (who later made a screen appearance as Renfield in Herzog’s Nosferatu), directed by René Laloux, and largely animated in Czechoslovakia, Fantastic Planet is a visually startling allegory about a race of blue-skinned giants who cultivate human beings as pets in a large, park-like zoo. Abounding in visual delights (trippy landscapes, garish colors, outlandish costumes), its cutout paper animation adds a layer of two-dimensional abstraction, and combined with the film’s celebrated progressive funk score, achieves a pronounced, surreal intensity. Work on the film began in Prague in 1967 but was put on hold for several years after the Soviet invasion of 1968, making the film’s implicit commentary on subjugation and control particularly timely.
Equally allegorical is Elaine and Saul Bass’s rarely screened short film Quest (1983), a Ray Bradbury–scripted adaptation of his short story “Frost and Fire”: on a planet where humans age their entire lifespans in only eight days, a child has a week to attempt the archetypal hero’s journey and restore longevity.
Bing Theater | Followed by Saul and Elaine Bass's short film Quest (1983/color/30 min.) | Included with admission to Zardoz; $5 for Fantastic Planet only. | Tickets: 323 857-6010 or purchase online.