In the distant future, the gargantuan blue humanoid Draags have brought human beings (who are called Oms as a play on the French word for "man", homme) from Earth to the planet Ygam, where they maintain a technologically and spiritually advanced society. The Draags consider Oms animals, and while they keep some as pets, others live in the wilderness and are periodically slaughtered by the Draags, who wish to control their population. Draags have much longer lifespans than Oms, but reproduce much less.
When an Om mother is teased to death by three Draag children, her orphaned infant is found by Master Sinh, a key Draag leader, and his daughter Tiwa, who keeps the boy as a pet and names him Terr. Tiwa loves Terr and is careful not to hurt him, but, in accordance with her parents' instructions, keeps him under control, giving him a collar with which she can pull him in any direction. She brings Terr to sessions in which she receives her education using headphones that transmit knowledge into her mind, and a defect in his collar allows him to receive the knowledge too. Around the time that Tiwa grows into her teens and first performs Draag meditation, which allows the species to travel with their minds, she loses some interest in Terr, who has become a young man and acquired much Draag knowledge. He escapes into the wilderness, stealing Tiwa's headphones.
There he runs into a wild female Om, who cuts off his collar and introduces him to her tribe, which lives in an abandoned Draag park full of strange creatures and landscapes. Terr shows them how to use the headphones to acquire Draag knowledge and literacy, winning the right to do so in a duel. The literacy they gain allows them to read a Draag announcement that the park will be purged of Oms, and, when the purge comes, some are slaughtered by Draag technology while others escape, joining forces with another tribe. They are attacked by two Draag passers-by and manage to kill one of them before escaping to an abandoned Draag rocket depot, much to the outrage of Draag leaders.
They live there for years, joined by many other Oms, and, due to the knowledge acquired from Terr's headphones, manage to replicate Draag technology, including two rockets; they hope to leave Ygam for its moon, the Fantastic Planet, and live there safe from Draags. When a large-scale Draag purge hits the depot and many Oms are slaughtered, a group led by Terr uses the rockets to flee to the Fantastic Planet, where they discover large statues that Draags travel to during meditation and use to meet beings from other galaxies in a strange ritual that maintains their species. The Oms destroy some of the statues, threatening the Draags' existence; the genocide is halted on Ygam, and, facing a crisis, the Draags sue for peace. This leads to an era of peaceful coexistence between the two species, who now benefit from each other's way of thinking.Jean Valmont as Terr, the film's narrator
Eric Baugin as young Terr
Jennifer Drake as Tiwa
Jean Topart as Master Sinh
Gérard Hernandez as Master Taj
The film's score was composed by Alain Goraguer, and has been called a blend of "psychedelia, jazz, and funk", and the film's main theme has been compared to the "Atom Heart Mother" suite by the English rock band Pink Floyd. In 2000, DC Recordings released the soundtrack on CD, and the soundtrack was later released on LP.
The film's narrative has been considered to be an allegory about animal rights and human rights, as well as racism. Sean Axmaker of Turner Classic Movies referred to the film as "nothing if not allegorical", writing that "it's not a stretch to see the fight against oppression reflected in the civil rights struggle in America, the French in Algeria, Apartheid in South Africa, and (when injustice takes a turn to wholesale annihilation of the 'inferior' race) the Holocaust itself".
Liz Ohanesian of LA Weekly speculated on the film being a commentary on animal rights, using the Draag's treatment of the Oms as evidence and writing that the film places "humans in roles of pets and pests". Mike D'Angelo of The A.V. Club wrote that "The Traag-Om dynamic is broad enough to be multipurpose, reflecting both racism and animal rights via 'How would you like it?' role reversal".
The film was reported to have a total of 809,945 admissions in France.
Fantastic Planet has received generally positive reviews. On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 88% based on 26 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads "Fantastic Planet is an animated epic that is by turns surreal and lovely, fantastic and graceful".
Howard Thompson of The New York Times wrote that the film offers "original, thoughtful, often strong (but tasteful) animation". Carson Lund of Slant Magazine gave the film a score of three-and-a-half out of five possible stars, writing that "by the film’s conclusion, it’s hard to feel comfortable with similar episodes on our own imperfect planet". Mike D'Angelo of The A.V. Club gave the film a rating of "B+", writing that "with Alain Goraguer's prog-rock-ish score, that should make Fantastic Planet seem extremely dated, yet it’s ultimately too singular to feel beholden to a particular era. It truly earns the adjective in its title". Alan Morrison of Empire gave the film four out of five stars and called it "Surreal and wonderful in a way not often seen from Europe".
Maitland McDonagh of TV Guide gave the film three out of four stars, calling it an "Eerie, surreal and a welcome respite from Disney-style animation". Scott Thill of Wired called the film "a sterling example of the trippy animation ambition of the late '60s and early '70s". Gary Dauphin of The Village Voice wrote that "Although the visuals are worth the ticket alone, Fantastic Planet also crackles with emotional and political resonance". Paul Trandahl of Common Sense Media gave the film a rating of four out of five stars, calling the film "A jarring examination of racism and intolerance".
In 2016, Fantastic Planet was ranked the 36th greatest animated movie ever by Rolling Stone.
The film won the Special Prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival.
The film was released by Anchor Bay Entertainment on DVD on 16 February 1999. In 2006, Eureka Entertainment released the film on DVD in the United States as #34 in their Masters of Cinema line. In August 2010, Eureka released a restored high-definition transfer of the film on Blu-ray, with special features including a collection of Laloux's short films and a 27-minute documentary called Laloux sauvage. Eureka, a London-based company, has produced the edition only as a Region B release.
On 23 October 2007, Facets Video and Accent Cinema released a newly restored version on DVD, including many bonus features never available before. In June 2016, the Criterion Collection released the film on Blu-ray and DVD.