This weeks weekly inspiration is Rene Laloux, one of the best minds of French animation. Laloux was born in Paris and went to art school to study painting. He ended up working in a psychiatric institution which is where he got his first taste of animation(where else!). While there he created the animated short Les Dents du Singe(Monkey’s Teeth) with help from the people at Paul Grimault’s studio(another giant of French animation).
Rene Laloux created several shorts and three feature length animations throughout his life, all displaying his distinct style. It’s surprisingly hard to dig up information on Laloux, as he seems to have followed other animators in keeping to the background in a media recluse kind of way.
I first saw Rene Laloux’s work when I was about 11-12 years old. I was bored one sunday afternoon and my family were off doing other things, so I was sitting on the floor flicking channels on the television. I flicked to one channel which was half way through a subtitled French animation about little people in an alien landscape who were waging war on their captors, a race of psychic blue giants. I was mesmerized and watched the film to the end, but was soon distracted by other things. The vivid scenes and other worldly sound design stayed in the back of my mind for years until when I was about 15 and had my own computer with internet that I began searching for it. I found out that the film was called ‘La planète sauvage(Fantastic Planet)‘ and to this day it remains one of my favourite films. I also watched ‘Gandahar‘, Laloux’s final feature a few years ago. While it had interesting imagery I thought it lacked the depth of ‘La planète sauvage‘
Somehow I missed seeing Laloux’s second feature ‘Les maîtres du temps(Time Masters)‘ until this weekend. ‘Les maîtres du temps’ blew me away with it’s amazingly imaginative universe and simple yet powerful narrative. The art in the film was so intense that I was not surprised to find out that the late French comic genius Mœbius worked on the art design for the film. I could see easily see that animations like the ’91 tv series Aeon Flux took inspiration in the characteristics and design of Time Masters.
René Laloux died of a heart attack on March 14, 2004 at the ripe age of 74. His work and style will live on through those of us who consider him to be a strong influence. Please I implore you; find a spare couple of hours alone, turn the lights off and explore Laloux’s worlds!