La Planete Sauvage  - Brian
aka. Fantastic Planet
Director: Rene Laloux
Starring: Jennifer Drake Eric Baugin Jean Topart
The idea of a distant planet, no a universe, teeming with alien life has always fascinated me. I attribute this largely to the fact that such thinking was unofficially forbidden by my father. Even to this day, I'm not entirely sure why he was so against the idea of life existing on other worlds. Maybe it was because he believed that humans were created by God and aliens weren't. Or maybe it was because of what the exposure to this subject matter did to an overly-imaginative little boy like me. I remember seeing the trailer to Communion on television, where Christopher Walken stares down the foot of his bed at an alien face halfway peeking at him from outside his room; Consequently, I also remember not sleeping at all that night.
Thinking back on those years, I'm not sure where this fear came from. The only thing I can attribute it to was the limited perspective in which I was raised with. A perspective that had no room for aliens or the idea that somewhere out there, life existed; it really blew my mind. Despite the fear, I just couldn't stay away and I indulged other nightmare-inducing experiences such as Fire in the Sky, Strange Invaders, and even the ending of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Much to my relief, the irrational fear soon became genuine intrigue and even affinity as I got older. Today, my fascination with alien life hasn't waned in even the slightest and it has effectively permeated into my own work. It's not uncommon for me to sit at my computer at odd hours of the night, imagining different planets and different life forms for my stories.
Recently, I was seeking reference for ideas about an alien planet and I remembered back to an animated film I caught on the Sci Fi channel (long before the "SyFy" era). This film was called Fantastic Planet. It had been a long time since I'd seen something so bizarre and imaginative. The animation was unconventional, the designs were sloppy and expressive, and NOTHING sounded like it was supposed to. The end result was an auditory phenomena coupled with trippy visuals to create some kind of unnerving, yet beautiful hallucination; not since Gumby had I experienced such a thing.
Fantastic Planet appeals to humanitarians and sci-fi enthusiasts alike: the former is treated to a poignant commentary on humanity's treatment of other living creatures and the latter finds an action-packed narrative that follows one manï¿½s struggle for equality and recognition. However, the story, as great as it may be, can easily be lost under waves and waves of brilliant creature design and psychedelic animations. Basically, a race of giant, blue humanoids called the "Draags" brought humanity to their planet where they are now domesticated and kept as pets. Those humans that have managed to escape are treated like vermin, much in the same way we treat our rats. One human, named Terre by his owner, is raised after his mother is toyed with and eventually killed by adolescent Draags. The story is about Terreï¿½s exodus from domesticated living and his journey to rally the "wild" humans against their mutual foe.
Unfortunately, all the eco-friendly commentary and epic storytelling does little to prevent the alien planet, itself, from stealing the show. Viewers are frequently treated to violent and humorous interactions between various creatures in the alien eco-system. These vignettes, alone, are enough to make the viewer forget that there's an actual narrative occurring. Anything from a snail-like creature that spins silk clothing directly onto a personï¿½s body, to a malevolent, cackling creature that strangle anything that gets close; the viewer is constantly bombarded with new and interesting imagery. In addition to alien wildlife, the film frequently showcases alien landscapes, both bizarre and hazardous. One region of the planet looked like the surface of a human brain, but as soon as it started raining, sections of the ridges rose up like tubes.
It is unfortunate that the idea of alien life and alien planets has become very humanoid in recent science fiction. If you want a good example of a truly alien planet, then look no further than Fantastic Planet. With the exception of the humanoid Draags and Oms (Draag word for "human"), there isnï¿½t a whole lot that's familiar to the viewer and each vignette, each establishing shot, is like a new discovery.