Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: March 12?, 1983
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Cité en vol © Procidis‘Cité en vol’ is the third of six episodes, which form the finale of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’.

This episode starts with Pierrot and Murdock flying to the hostile planet of Yama. Yama is overtly similar to Mos Eisley from ‘Star Wars’ (1977), and Pierrot and Murdock walk around like jedis. At Yama they ally with a rebel group, and together they try to enter the center of the city, which is pure robot territorium. Unfortunately, the robot city is well-guarded…

Meanwhile the humanoids try to get to the secrets of Psi’s psychic powers. As Pierrot reveals to Murdock, if they’ll succeed nothing will be able to stop them. At one point they get help from a Cassiopeian telepath, and he and Psi have a telepathic mind battle, which is a nightmarish variation on the battle between Merlin and Madam Mim in ‘The Sword in the Stone’ (1963). This scene, with its continuous metamorphosis, arguably is the most impressive piece of animation of the entire series, even if it’s still nowhere near the Disney animation that might have inspired it.

Although most of this episode is about Pierrot trying to get inside the robot city, it also hints at the real dangers the humanoids form. They call ambassador Le Nabot (Dwarf) a fool behind his back, and continuously refer to a secret plan. At the end of the episode the robot city takes flight, giving the episode its name. This concept Barillé undoubtedly borrowed from James Blish’s science fiction book series ‘Cities in flight’, which appeared between 1955 and 1962.

The importance of this event will only be revealed later, but it’s clear that Pierrot made it inside just in time. Unfortunately, it does kill Murdock, the only human being killed on screen in the entire series, a death that made a strong impression on me when I was a kid.

Watch ‘Cité en vol’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 23th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 22th episode: Un monde hostile (A Hostile World)
To the 24th episode: Le grand ordinateur (The Great Computer)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: March 5?, 1983
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Un monde hostile © Procidis‘Un monde hostile’ is the exciting second of six episodes, which form the finale of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’.

It immediately starts where ‘Les humanoïdes‘ left off, with Pierrot’s ride through the hostile world of Apis. Practically the complete episode is devoted to Pierrot’s journey.

Meanwhile Psi is visited by Le Nabot (Dwarf), who’s actually proposing to her. Because Psi’s certain Pierrot will come to rescue her, she accidently reveils that he’s not dead, endangering his life. Le Nabot immediately restarts the search for our hero. He succeeds in destroying their mounts, and Pierrot and his fellow travellers have to continue on foot.

Soon however they’re are captured by bandits, whose captain turns out to be Murdock, the very man they seek. After some discussion, Murdock decides to help our heroes, and the episode ends with them flying to the neighboring planet Yama…

Because of its one-dimensional subject (Pierrot is travelling to Murdock’s place throughout the picture), ‘Un monde hostile’ is a little less compelling than the other final episodes. But on the way Sylva provides some necessary background information, which will be expanded on in the following episodes.

Watch ‘Un monde hostile’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 22th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 21th episode: Les Humanoïdes (The Humanoids)
To the 23th episode: Cité en vol (City in Flight)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: February 26?, 1983
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Les humanoïdes © ProcidisIt’s the last ride of the Libellule, Pierrot’s and Psi’s little spaceship, and the last flight of our heroes as a team.

What should have been a routine flight, turns into disaster, when our heroes encounter enormous space vessels, which together are able to destroy complete planets (similar to the Death Star in ‘Star Wars’ from 1977). Composer Michel Legrand enhances the menace of these weapons of mass destruction by accompanying the images with a repeated, uncanny electronic riff.

When intercepted by space ships, the Libellule crashes on the planet Apis, where Psi is captured by the very humanoids she had encountered in ‘Les anneaux de Saturne‘. While she is taken to the neighbor planet Yama, Pierrot joins a rebel group of humans fighting the humanoids, and two of them, Sylva and Gillio, join him and Metro on a journey to find one captain Murdock, the only one on Apis that owns a spaceship.

In ‘Les humanoïdes’ the mysterious ally of Cassiopeia, Yama, reveals itself. It turns out to be a whole planet of humanoids, controlled by a supercomputer. In fact, Yama is behind every robot-involved scheme in the entire series, as they will reveal later.

‘Les humanoïdes” is the first episode of the six-part mini-series within the ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ that constitutes its great finale. This finale in particular elevates the series above average, giving this series its extra grandeur.

Watch ‘Les Humanoïdes’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 21th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 20th episode: La revanche des robots (The Revenge of the Robots)
To the 22th episode: Un monde hostile (An hostile world)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: February 19?, 1983
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

La revanche des robots © ProcidisIn the opening scene of this episode Pierrot, Psi, Petit Gros and Metro are honored for their heroic deeds in a.o. ‘L’imparable menace‘.

Adventure immediately announces itself, however, when the planet Leto (see ‘La révolte des robots‘) asks especially for Metro to mediate in a new conflict between robots and humans. This time, the robots want Metro to fight two of their battle robots, generals Goldenbar II and III, improved versions of the giant robot Metro defeated in ‘La révolte des robots’. Metro wins both fights, but surprisingly, the robots regard these losses only as temporary setbacks on the way to success. The last six episodes show why…

Like ‘La révolte des robots’, ‘La revanche des robots’ is a highly enjoyable episode, with a star role for the matter-of-factly little robot Metro, battling two giant Grendizer (Goldorak)-like robots, with a rather improbable, but scary capability of duplication.

Watch ‘La revanche des robots’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 20th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 19th episode: L’étrange retour vers Oméga (The Strange Return to Omega)
To the 21th episode: Les humanoïdes (The Humanoids)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: February 12?, 1983
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

L’étrange retour vers Oméga © ProcidisIn the opening sequence of this episode the brave little robot Metro (who had been destroyed in ‘Les anneaux de Saturne) has been repaired and he joins Pierrot and Psi when they leave earth in a cruise ship called the Cosmopolitan.

Strange things are happening there, however, and our heroes are shadowed continuously. They discover that part of the crew has been replaced by robots…

‘L’étrange retour vers Oméga’ has a great mystery plot and together with ‘La revanche des robots‘ it forms a great prelude to the one-story-finale, which consists of the last six episodes.

Watch ‘L’étrange retour vers Oméga’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 19th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 18th episode: L’Atlantide (Atlantis)
To the 20th episode: La revanche des robots (The Revenge of the Robots)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: February 5?, 1983
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

L'Atlantide © Procidis‘L’Atlantide’ is the second episode that takes place on earth, after ‘Terre!‘.

It starts with Petit Gros’s departure. Old Maestro and Pierrot go visit some underwater cities, where they meet a strange captain, who appears to be from Atlantis. When confronted with Psi, whom he knows as his mother in a former life, he tells our heroes the story of Atlantis. This is another example of Barillé’s fondness of Erich von Däniken’s “the gods were cosmonauts” ideas, after ‘Les Cro-Magnons‘, ‘La planète Mytho‘ and ‘Les Incas‘.

Unfortunately, this episode is rather boring, except for the Atlantean’s account, which is a classic story of greed, strive and doom.

Watch ‘L’Atlantide’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 18th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 17th episode: Terre! (Earth)
To the 19th episode: L’étrange retour vers Oméga (The Strange Return to Omega)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: January 29?, 1983
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Terre! © ProcidisBecause they have saved earth from an impending doom in ‘L’imparable menace‘, Pierrot, Psi and Petit Gros are allowed to go on holiday on earth, where they’re received as heroes.

On earth, Maestro’s ancestor (from ‘Le long voyage‘) is their guide, and he takes our heroes to the countryside. Here he tells our heroes the history of earth from the 21st century onward. Barillé’s vision of the earth’s future contains some rather somber views on genetics, war, informatics and the climate.

In the second half of this episode, the old Maestro takes Pierrot and Petit Gros into space, showing a solar ring, a cemetery of spaceships, and even an amusement park called ‘Barillé’s Land’.

Because of its holiday theme, this short moves at a leisurely speed, and it is rather boring compared to the two episodes preceding it. However, even in this relaxed episode, there’s some conflict, when our heroes encounter a saboteur from Cassiopeia.

Inconsistent design have always tortured the Il était une fois… series. And in this episode, in certain scenes the drawings of our heroes are no less than terrible.

Watch ‘Terre!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 17th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 16th episode: L’imparable menace (The Unstoppable Menace)
To the 18th episode: L’Atlantide (Atlantis)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: January 22?, 1983
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

L’imparable menace © ProcidisIn ‘À Cassiopée‘ the hostile constellation of Cassiopeia had made plans to invade the earth. In ‘L’imparable menace’ it has become clear their plans have changed…

This episode starts with Cassiopeia firing a deadly rocket to Earth in order to make Omega surrender to Cassiopeia unconditionally. So now Omega itself is at stake, with Earth as a hapless pawn in interstellar politics.

Luckily for Omega, our heroes Pierrot, Petit Gros and Psi are still in the neighborhood of Jupiter, and they are the only ones who can stop the doomsday rocket in time. In fact, it’s the androids Psi encountered in ‘Les anneaux de Saturne‘ who had fired the rocket in the first place.

The whole episode is one race against time, which makes it one of the most exciting episodes of the entire series.

Watch ‘L’imparable menace’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 16th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 15th episode: Les anneaux de Saturne (The Rings of Saturn)
To the 17th episode: Terre! (Earth)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: January 15?, 1983
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Les anneaux de Saturne © Procidis‘Les anneaux de Saturne’ follows three boring episodes that rather stood on their own.

How different this episode is! Like ‘La révolte des robots‘, ‘Les anneaux de Saturne’ is no less than a key episode. With this episode starts the finale of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’, the long continuous saga that makes the series such a remakable effort.

Because Pierrot has to recover from his injuries he got on the Jurassic planet in ‘Chez les dinosaures‘, Psi is allowed to go on a holiday – alone. Together with Metro she wants to explore the asteroid belt of our own solar system, but near Mimas, one of Saturn’s moons, she’s intercepted by unknown spaceships. These appear to be from a secret society of humanoid robots, and General Le Teigneux’s mysterious allies. Psi and Metro are thus the first to encounter this new threat, which will dominate the episodes 19 to 26. In an attempt to escape, Psi and Metro crash on an asteroid, leaving Metro in shambles. Luckily, Pierrot and Petit Gros come to the rescue…

This episode is not only mysterious and exciting, but also educational on Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter and the asteroid belt.

Watch ‘Les anneaux de Saturne’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 15th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 14th episode: Chez les dinosaures (In the Land of the Dinosaurs)
To the 16th episode: L’imparable menace (The Unstoppable Menace)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: January 8?, 1983
Rating: ★
Review:

Ches les dinosaures © Procidis‘Chez les dinosaures’ is the last of three vaguely educational episodes. It’s also one of the weakest episodes in the series.

Pierrot, Psi and Metro now visit a planet inhabited by dinosaurs from the Jurassic period. Its educational value, however, is doubtful: Barillé’s theories on the end of the dinosaurs are no less than ridiculous, and the dinosaurs are designed and animated terribly.

Furthermore, one grows tired of all these earth-like planets, populated by the same creatures that have roamed the earth, too (such planets occur also in ‘La Planète verte‘, ‘Les Cro-Magnons‘, ‘La planète Mytho‘, ‘Les géants‘ and ‘Les Incas‘). As if everywhere in space the same history occurs over and over again.

Luckily, this was the last so-called ‘educational’ episode. With the next episode, Barillé would go back to the main story without leaving it again. Indeed, even ‘Chez les dinosaures’ contributes to it, as Pierrot gets injured during this episode, leaving Psi on her own in the next one, with dramatic results…

Watch ‘Chez les dinosaures’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 14th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 13th episode: Les Incas (The Incas)
To the 15th episode: Les anneaux de Saturne (The Rings of Saturn)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: January1?, 1983
Rating: ★★
Review:

Les Incas © Procidis‘Les Incas’ is the second of three adjacent episodes from ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ that are more educational than entertaining, and which have nothing to do with the main story.

This time, Pierrot, Psi, Metro, Legros and Maestro visit a planet on which the people live like Incas. Thus Barillé is able to tell us about the Inca society, which he does at great lengths. Only after three-fifths a story kicks in, when the friendly Inca society is about to be attacked by an unseen neighboring people, and our heroes refuse to help them in the battle. The Inca’s own Teigneux and Nabot trick our heroes to get hold of their weapons, but Metro once again saves the day.

This slow and tiresome episode also features an Erich von Däniken-like story about earlier visitors, Astronauts, who turned into Gods, just like in ‘La planète Mytho‘.

Watch ‘Les Incas’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 13th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 12th episode: Les géants (The Giants)
To the 14th episode: Chez les dinosaures (In the Land of the Dinosaurs)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: December 25?, 1982
Rating: ★
Review:

Les géants © Procidis‘Les géants’ is the first of three adjacent and vaguely education episodes that have nothing to do with the main story.

In ‘Les géants’ Pierrot, Psi and Metro visit a huge planet, which, like almost every other planet in the Barillé universe, is an exact copy of earth, this time only bigger. On this planet our heroes encounter huge animals, like a giant caterpillar, a monstrous spider and a very cartoony rat.

Most of the episode, however, they are trapped in a termite colony. Thus, Barillé is able to tell us more about these little insects, which he does mostly through a lecturing Metro. There’s practically no story, and most of the time Pierrot and Psi are trying to get out of the colony. This fact and the lectures render one of the most boring episodes of Il était une fois… L’espace.

It seems this and the following two episodes were made to sell the series as an educational one. However, ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ remains far less educational than the previous ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’ or indeed, the subsequent ‘Il était une fois… la vie’, and its charm lies mainly in Barillés story. Unfortunately, ‘Les géants’, ‘Les Incas‘ and ‘Chez les dinosaurs‘ are no part of that and form the low point of the entire series.

Watch ‘Les géants’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 12th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 11th episode: Les naufragés de l’espace (Shipwrecked in Space)
To the 13th episode: Les Incas (The Incas)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: December 18?, 1982
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Les naufragés de l’espace © ProcidisThis episode starts immediately where ‘La planète déchiquetée‘ has left off: the space vessel ‘Ursus’ has crashed on, luckily, an earth-like planet.

Unfortunately, its captain is ill, and our heroes have difficulties with the second in command, the skeptical and cowardly lieutenant Sanders. While Metro is used for all kinds of reparations, Pierrot and Psi go on two expeditions.

On the first they encounter strange lifeforms, like walking trees, spider-like aliens, green gorillas, and friendly little black people called Ptax. Like the lizards in ‘Les Sauriens‘, the Ptax are telepathic and they help our heroes against the green gorilla creatures.

On the second expedition, our heroes go searching for metal, but what they find is a military ship from Cassiopeia… Aware of the threat, Pierrot and Psi hurry back to the camp, only to learn the captain has died. Only when a riot breaks out between Pierrot and Sanders, Omega comes to the rescue.

The animation is painstakingly slow in this episode, and there’s more urge in the dialogue than in the action. Because of these shortcomings the episode is only half as captivating as it could have been.

Watch ‘Les naufragés de l’espace’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 11th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 10th episode: La planète déchiquetée (A Planet Blown to Pieces)
To the 12th episode: Les géants (The Giants)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: December 11?, 1982
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

La planète déchiquetée © ProcidisThe exciting episode ‘La planète déchiquetée’ undoubtedly is one of the highlights of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’.

It starts immediately where ‘À Cassiopée’ had left off. In this episode Cassiopeia leaves the galactic union, an act reminiscent of Japan’s resignation from The League of Nations in 1933. Like ‘À Cassiopée’ this episode starts with politics, with the absent-minded Maestro as a comic relief. Maestro also tells us how a sun explodes at the end of its life, thus adding a small educational touch to this episode.

A dying sun plays a major part in the political scheme of things, threatening a military base Cassiopeia is building nearby. When the sun does explode, Cassiopeia tries to save the material, leaving its own slave-like people behind, leaving them to be rescued by the allies.

Only after 20 minutes we meet our heroes, trying to save the last Cassiopeian people from the threatened planet. The time element and the contrasting goals of Cassopeia and Omega make this episode particularly thrilling. The suspense is supported by Michel Legrand’s exciting score.

At the end, the rescuing vessel The Ursus, with our heroes on board, crashes into another planet, leading to the first real cliffhanger in the series.

Watch ‘La planète déchiquetée’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 10th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 9th episode: À Cassiopée (In Cassiopeia)
To the 10th episode: Les naufragés de l’espace (Shipwrecked in Space)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: December 4?, 1982
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

À Cassiopée © ProcidisEpisode 9 of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ is closely tied to episode 10 and 11, constituting the first episode-exceeding story within the series.

It’s also one of the more political episodes. Indeed, its first half is about politics only. It starts with general Teigneux (Pest) reflecting on the past, how he failed to colonize planets because of Omega, referring to the events in episodes 2-6. Then consul Le Nabot (Dwarf) shows him the tapes from earth he had stolen in the previous episode.

The images of earth shows Barillé’s cynical view on the earth’s future: 30 billion people, many of which overfed, a lot of pollution, age-long traffic jams (reminiscent of those from Halas & Batchelor’s cartoon ‘Automania 2000′ from 1963), and a pride in producing weapons. After watching these images, Cassiopeia plans to invade earth.

After this long introduction, our heroes are sent to Cassiopeia to find out what their plans are, but they’re immediately captured and sent into prison. The second half of this episode consists therefore of a classic prison break, with a starring role for the rather matter-of-factly Metro. Our heroes eventually escape using the same meteor trick the Millennium Falcon did in ‘The Emperor Strikes Back’ (1980), one of the numerous influences of George Lucas’ films on Barillé’s series.

Watch ‘À Cassiopée’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 9th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 8th episode: Le long voyage (The Long Voyage)
To the 10th episode: La planète déchiquetée (A Planet Blown to Pieces)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: November 27?, 1982
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Le long voyage © Procidis‘Le long voyage’ is a nice episode about space travel.

Star of the episode is an ancient forefather of Maestro who, after a journey of more than a 1,000 years, awakes near Omega, only to be greeted by descendants of humans who had made the trip after him, with better, larger and faster spaceships.

This episode excels in beautiful backgrounds and designs, especially of the spaceships. Highlight, however, are the ancient Maestro’s fantasies about extraterrestrial life, just before he encounters the all too familiar inhabitants of Omega.

With ‘Le long voyage’ we firmly return to the main story of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’. The strange incident from episode 1 is mentioned again, and in this episode we learn that earth still exists, ultimately leading to our heroes visiting their mother planet in episode 17. It also contains an unclear mystery about a hijacked ‘train’, indicating more troubles to come. Moreover, this episode shows Psi’s psychic powers in full, saving Pierrot who has become adrift in space.

Maestro’s ancestor is a great character and he would return to the screen in episodes 17 (‘Terre!‘) and 18 (‘L’Atlantide‘).

Watch ‘Le long voyage’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 8th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 7th episode: La planète Mytho (The Planet Mytho)
To the 9th episode: À Cassiopée (In Cassiopeia)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: November 20?, 1982
Rating: ★★
Review:

La planète Mytho © ProcidisIn this seventh episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ our heroes Pierrot, Psi and Metro land on a planet, where the survivors of a stranded spaceship play Gods.

This episode toys with Erich von Däniken’s ideas about the gods having been astronauts (Barillé would revisit that idea in ‘Les Incas‘). The stranded people are like the gods of the ancient Greek, sharing their names and habits.

The commander of the ship, Zeus, is a strong and valiant man, but he is also selfish, autocratic, and paternalistic. He keeps the mortals, the original humans populating the planet, ignorant and miserable. Pierrot and Psi disagree with the commander’s choice, and secretly give the humans bricks, the wheel, the sail, music and fire, thus turning them into some Prometheus and Athena, and showing Barillé’s personal political view.

Unlike its predecessor, ‘La révolte de robots‘, ‘La planète Mytho’ is more or less a stand-alone episode. It is also vaguely educational, telling kids a little about Greek mythology, although this is much easier to understand and to enjoy by the educated viewer than by the intended audience.

Apart from the Gods, Barillé shows us three Greek myths: Peleus and Thetys, Pan and Syrinx, and Eris’s apple of discord. The bronze giant Talos is transformed into a robot.

Because of the use of Greek mythology, the overall episode is inconsistent, hard to follow and slow. One wonders what Barillé’s aim was with this entry: did he want to educate or did he want to tell about political ethics?

Watch ‘La planète Mytho’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 7th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 6th episode: La révolte des robots (The Revolt of the Robots)
To the 8th episode: Le long voyage (The Long Voyage)

Director: Vladimir Tarasov
Release date: 1988
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Pereval (The Pass) © Soyuzmultfilm‘Pereval’ (The Pass) is a science fiction film from the Soviet Union about three youngsters, descendants of some astronauts stranded on a strange, alien planet, who make a quest to the original spaceship.

The film is dark and moody and the atmosphere contemplative, even in the action scenes. Nevertheless, there is a weak comic relief in the form of an eight-eyed, elephant-like creature, which the youngsters encounter on their way to the ship.

In this film Tarasov uses a bold, realistic style with sharp contrasts: he juxtaposes stark shadows with monochrome yellows and reds to create a unique graphic atmosphere, reminiscent of the work by Frank Miller. The planet is portrayed as barren, disturbing and threatening. The images are often very surreal, and no attemption is made to give the backgrounds any sense of realism. This makes this film comparable to Laloux’s ‘La Planète sauvage‘, despite its difference in style. The spaceship, for example, looks more like an alien temple, and one gets the idea that the journey of the three is more symbolical than real. The mood is enhanced by a Dio-like hard rock song.

‘Pereval’ was the last animation film Tarasov made during the Soviet era. See the modest Wikipedia article to learn what happened to him after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Director: Roman Kachanov
Release date: 1981
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Tayna Tretyei Planeti (The Mystery of the Third Planet) © Soyuzmultfilm‘Tayna Tretyei Planeti’ (‘The Mystery of the Third Planet’, also ‘[Alice and] The Secret of the Third Planet’) is a delightful science-fiction film for children about the little girl Alice, who accompanies her father, a bespectacled scientist, and the melancholy captain Green on their trips to collect alien animals for the Moscow zoo.

On their way they encounter a mysterious professor, and learn about the illegal slaughter of ‘chatterers’, some kind of alien bird species. The one surviving chatterer provides the key to the mystery, leading our heroes to two heroic astronauts, who have been captured by pirates.

Despite the mystery plot, the overall mood of the film is optimistic, unhurried and relaxed. At no point there’s is any real danger or violence. Even when the villain commits suicide at the end, it turns out to be fake. The film’s delight is not as much found in its story as in its gorgeous designs, its alien images, its surreal backgrounds, Aleksandr Zatsepin’s wonderful soundtrack, full of electronic space-funk, and in its exuberant animation. Alice, for example, has the habit to pull back her hair continuously, while her dad keeps putting his glasses straight. Also featured is a comical alien creature, called Gromozeka, who possesses no less than six arms, which are all animated separately.

It seems that there were no budget problems at Soyuzmultfilm at that time, if animators could indulge that much in excessive animation. The results are gorgeous, but sometimes the elaborate animation slows down the action, especially during the action scenes, which are anything but fast. Nevertheless, ‘Tayna Tretyei Planeti’ is a gem of an animation film, and a feature that definitely deserves to be more well-known, even though it’s a short one, clocking only 45 minutes.

Watch ‘The Mystery of the Third Planet’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Vladimir Tarasov
Release date: 1978
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Contact © Soyuzmultfilm‘Contact’ is a good-humored short film in which a pipe-smoking, nature-loving hippie encounters a multicolored alien, capable of morphing.

First the man flees in horror, but then the two make contact through music, and in the end we can see them walking into the distance, singing together.

This Soviet film is surprisingly Western-looking and is drawn in a bold seventies style. In contrast with Tarasov’s earlier ‘Forward March, Time!‘ any Soviet association is lacking, and there seems to be some vague message about freedom. Tarasov shows his directing skills and is not afraid to use bold angles and extreme perspectives. The short contains a typical cartoon chase, accompanied by lively jazz music.

In 1979 Tarasov returned with the graphical equally original, but much more propagandistic film ‘Shooting Range’, proving that he was one of the most interesting Russian animators of his generation.

Watch ‘Contact’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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