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Cartoon Friday Watercooler: Gandahar


In a thousand years Gandahar was destroyed. A thousand years ago Gandahar will be saved and what can’t be avoided will be.

It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

Five deformed mutants assemble in the desert of Gandahar.

The Deformed demand a proper DVD or Blu-Ray release!

Gandahar is the creation of René Laloux, the French animator best known for La Planète Sauvage (Fantastic Planet). Not long after its 1988 release, Harvey Weinstein got ahold of Gandahar, translated and dubbed the film, and released it as the misleadingly titled Light Years. Science fiction grand master Isaac Asimov was the script doctor after its translation.

Andrew Borntreger on the B-movie website comments:

Strange landscapes and races are expensive to film as live action. Even with the burgeoning growth of CGI some visions are simply best realized by talented pen and ink. Light Years is not great animation, but it is good animation. Potent would be a fitting description. Like the marching blocks of Metal Men or the Deformed man, who does not have any legs, balancing on one arm to greet Sylvain with an open palm. Here we have a screenplay groomed by Isaac Asimov and delivered with all the fixings. Enjoy it.

To call Gandahar one of Laloux’s lesser works is more a credit to his talent than a comment on its quality. Gandahar is a film full of visual delights and weird ideas with a mind-bending time paradox at its core. Despite its confusing title (and whatever cuts the Weinsteins saw fit to inflict), it boasts a cast of talented, well known (and in one case somewhat ironic) voice actors.

Writing at the comic website Gates, Hef calls Gandahar An Epic Animated Film You Need To See:”

The plot is very intense and deals with relevant topics such as war vs. pacifism, the dangers of unchecked scientific experiments and the theory of time travel in relevance to the human mind and soul. It’s stunningly beautiful in artistic expression and just as well written.

The original version was directed by René Laloux, and was based on Jean-Pierre Andrevon‘s novel Les Hommes-machines contre Gandahar (The Machine-Men versus Gandahar). An English version of the epic science fiction film was produced by Harvey Weinstein, and renowned science-fiction legend Isaac Asimov made the revision of the translation from French to English.

It boasts a very impressive cast of voice actors in the American version. Among the actors were, Glenn Close, Jennifer Grey, Terrence Mann, Penn and Teller, John Shea, Bridget Fonda, David Johansen, Earle Hyman, Earl Hammond and Christopher Plummer. Plummer plays the villain in the film with cunning excellence.

I first saw Light Years in the late 1980s on a videocassette like the one used to create this YouTube video. The disturbing and psychedelic imagery, the twisty plot, and the unfamiliar presence of bare breasts in a cartoon all left a deep impression on my young mind. I’ve found myself revisiting this film multiple times since then. The UK’s Masters of Cinema series released an out of print DVD with a proper transfer and subtitling of the original film. Sadly, it’s never been available in a modern format in the USA.

What do you think of Gandahar? What are your favorite cartoons?

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Screenshot from Flickr.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and