René Laloux (1929-2004) was a French animator and film director. He studied painting when he attended art school. After some time working in advertising, he worked at a psychiatric institution where he began experimenting in animation with the interns. It is at the psychiatric institution in 1960 that he made his first short film, Monkey’s Teeth. He then met Roland Topor, with whom he made the short films Dead Times in 1964 and The Snails in 1965. Laloux would then move on to cut-out stop motion feature-length animation. In honor of its 40th anniversary, I’ll be taking a look back at Laloux’s debut feature Fantastic Planet, as well as his follow-up feature, Time Masters.
Co-written and directed by Laloux, 1973’s Fantastic Planet centers on a minute human shaped Om slave and pet of the giant blue alien Draags. He escapes into the wilderness with a devise used for intellectual advancement, finds refuge and support from fellow Oms, and uses the learning tool, discovering that knowledge is power and then sets to use the new found knowledge to revolt against the Draags. Featuring the voices of Jennifer Drake, Eric Baugin, Jean Topart, and Jean Valmont, this critically acclaimed film was an international co-production between France and Czechoslovakia, and was distributed in the United States by Roger Corman. The film, which was a box office hit in France, was based on the French novel by Stefan Wul, and is known for its surreal imagery by Roland Topor. Among its accolades are winning the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and was also nominated for the Palme d’Or.
Co-written and directed by Laloux, 1982’s Time Masters centers around a boy named Piel, who is stranded on Perdide, a desert planet where giant killer hornets live. He awaits rescue by the space pilot Jaffar, his sister Belle, and Jaffar’s old friend Silbad who are trying to reach Perdide and save Piel before it is too late. Featuring the voices of Jean Valmont, Michel Elias, Frederic Legros, Yves-Marie Maurin, and Monique Thierry, this critically acclaimed film was designed by comic book artist Jean Giraud and was based on the French novel The Orphan of Perdide (also written by Stefan Wul). Like Fantastic Planet, it was also a box office hit in France. Among its accolades are a Saturn Award nod for Best Animated Film and winning the Best Children’s Film prize at Fantafestival.