Fantastic Planet – 1973
Set in an an eerie and dystopian futuristic world ruled by a race of giant blue skinned aliens, called Draags, oppressed human beings, known as Oms, are kept as pets, or live ferel and scrape for survival. The Oms are generally seen as vermin that must be periodically controlled. The film, by René Laloux and Roland Topor, opens in an unsettling scene, with an Om mother, cradling her baby in her arms, running from a group of Draag children, who tease her during play, until her death. The orphaned baby Om is rescued by a young Draag girl, Tiva, and her father, Master Singh, gives her permission to keep the infant as a pet. We follow the child, named Terr by his captor, as he grows, learns more about the Draag community by witnessing their strange mediation sessions that are an integral part of Draag society, and devises a plan for humanity to escape. The animation is strange and compelling, the Salvador-Dali-meets-Terry-Gilliam setting combined with a haunting and psychedelic soundtrack, with a dream-like and at times, thought provoking sci-fi story has enabled the film to retain a place in cult film history.
The Oriental Nightfish – 1978
Oriental Nightfish was a song composed by Linda McCartney during the Band On The Run sessions, and performed by Wings for this technically impressive hand animated film. The 4 minute short, which took a year to produce, was directed by Linda McCartney and Ian Eames, and is as surreal and hypnotic as the song itself. The story opens with a scene from space, and we see a ball of light flying towards Earth. A dramatic and kaleidoscopic scene shows a woman playing a Wurlitzer, and the alien light force enters the building, envelops her and she flies to a strange dimension. Despite the somewhat haunting soundtrack and scenes of an animated Linda McCartney in the nude, the film eventually became available as one of the bonus videos on the 1984 children’s video “Rupert and the Frog Song”.
Fantasia – 1940
Commissioned by Walt Disney at a time when Mickey Mouse’s popularity was beginning to decline, the experimental film is divided into 8 different segments, all set to pieces of classical music under the direction of Leopold Stokoswki, and almost all performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Daring for its time, it’s dialogue-free, except for introductions from the host, composer Deems Taylor. It starts with The Sorcerers Apprentice, with Mickey bringing an army of Broomsticks to life. We’re taken on a striking visual-aural journey to a celestial pastoral realm of mythical creatures, see the story of evolution from the first single-celled animal to the death of the dinosaurs, mushrooms dance to Tchaikovksy, and a hippo and an alligator dance a Ponchielli ballet. Abstract and colourful, the film is dark in places, but an ambitiously enchanting, and exhilarating watch from beginning to end.
Yellow Submarine – 1968
Straight out of the flower power era, when psychedelic art was at its peak, Yellow Submarine made its debut appearance, and was The Beatles’ first feature length cartoon, although they had minimal involvement, not even dubbing their own voices. Designed, for the most part, by Heinz Edelmann, but possibly influenced by Peter Max, Rene Magritte and M.C. Escher, the graphic look of the animation is striking and beautiful. The story begins in the kingdom of Pepperland, which has just been invaded by music-hating Blue Meanies. The Meanies launch blue bombs from anti-music missiles, which turns the once colourful and vibrant landscape with psychedelic flowers and the words YES and LOVE springing up from the sounds of Sgt Peppers band into a cold blue-grey desolate wasteland, apples are dropped by “Bonkers” on peoples heads which leave them frozen in motionless suspension, The conductor of the band, Fred, manages to escape the Meanie attack in a Yellow Submarine to enlist the help of the Beatles to come and bring joy and music back to the land. Fantastical imagery, complimented with an amazing soundtrack, The Beatles themselves even making an appearance at the end of the film, Yellow Submarine takes you on a psychedelic journey like no other.