Fantastic Planet was an amazing film. It has a conceptually way-out trippiness that came from the sheer bizarreness of the flora and fauna that Laloux packed in to the world he had created. Gandahar offers essentially the same. The film is filled with spinnily weird visuals the under-race of The Deformed who come with multiple heads, arms protruding out of necks and stomachs or as walking torsos; a scene where the hero and heroine are drawn up into the bloodstream of a giant pink sea anemone; their being hatched from eggs and treated as the children of a dinosaur; and particularly the scenes with people trying to fight off the metal men using fighting crabs, pink hopping creatures that spew forth a forest of thorned trees, mouth creatures that devour the robots and so on.
Alas, the visuals here never feel as way out than they did in Fantastic Planet and more crucially the plot is tepid. There certainly seems to be much going for Gandahar as a film bizarre mutants, spacey visuals, a genuine alienness and above all a plot that has a huge scope involving travel thousands of years into the future and a time paradox that entwines past, present and future along with predestined prophecy but it all comes directed at a torpid pace that Laloux never fires up. The animation is also somewhat limited. A pity this could have been an animated equivalent of a 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
In the US, the film was brought up by Miramax (which was then only a small company struggling to make it releasing indie films and not the major production company it is today), where it was re-edited and retitled Light Years. Miramax brought in Isaac Asimov to write an English-language script. Asimov was probably the worlds No.1 science-fiction writer at the time so it seemed a logical choice to employ him. However, the result seems a routine effort on Asimovs part where he is clearly only a hired gun and has not put much effort into it. In fact, Gandahars plot, which is more of an epic fantasy than it is a science-fiction film, seems almost the antithesis of Asimovs writing, which dealt in hard science and the entirely explainable wonders of the universe, not in hallucinatory trips of the mind. The credits of the American version are interesting to read it is presented by Isaac Asimov (clear evidence of the clout his name was seen to hold in the mid-80s science-fiction boom), while one can also see in the voice talents the names of Glenn Close, a then unknown Jennifer Grey and celebrity magicians Penn and Teller. Although the most intriguing credit of all is that of the new director none other than Miramax CEO Harvey Weinstein, who has claimed directors credit over and above Rene Laloux, even though he has not directed a single frame of animation anywhere in the film.
Film online in several parts beginning here (original French version subtitled):-
Full US version Light Years available online here:-