Animation / Gandahar

In a thousand years, Gandahar was destroyed. A thousand years ago, Gandahar will be saved.

Gandahar (known as Light Years in English) is a 1988 animated film by the master of French arthouse animation, René Laloux, based on Jean-Pierre Andrevon's French Science Fiction novel Les Hommes-machines contre Gandahar (The Machine-Men versus Gandahar).

In the distant future and on a distant planet, the country of Gandahar goes by life in peace and harmony with nature and each other. The blissful existence is interrupted when Gandahar attacked by bizarre, man-machine enemies who capture the civilians and return them through the portal encased in metal and brainwashed. Queen Ambisextra and her loyal Council of Women choose Sylvain, a young warrior to scout out what could be causing this. He travels the land in search of the cause with young beauty Airelle, eventually falling in love on the way. Meeting mutants and the giant mutant brain Metamorphasis, Sylvain is caught in a troublesome Time Paradox.

The history of the movie is odd and star-studded. After the success of the equally bizarre Fantastic Planet, Laloux tried for many years to get the Gandahar project off the ground. He did not succeed until a North Korean animation studio unexpectedly offered to animate his movie for cheap. Harvey Weinstein picked up rights for the American release and had Isaac Asimov (yes, that Isaac Asimov) do the English translation. Definitely not a cartoon meant for the kiddies, Gandahar has been released in the "Masters of Cinema" series without any Region 1 DVD to date.

Tropes related to the movie:

  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Lots of blue people.
  • Animal Eye Spy: The tiny one-eyed mirror birds seem to serve as little organic security cameras.
  • Author Tract: Anvil dropped about why totalitarianism is bad.
  • Bald Women: Airelle stands out by virtue of having hair.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Completely averted, although some scenes change it in the English dub.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Gandahar is full of them.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Played with.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Seen all over in the mutant badlands.
  • Body Horror: The petrified gandaharians are being transported to the future where they are being drained dry of life, leaving only their decayed bodies behind.
  • Bowdlerization: The English dub is hated by most fans for cutting out and editing more objectionable parts of the movie. However, René Laloux thought that the translation was done well and never minded any of the changes.
  • Brain in a Jar: The Metamorphis is an extremely large one, but the building it's in still looks similar to a jar.
  • Brain Monster: The principal antagonist of the film is a giant brain, made by the people of the utopian city of Gandahar as a prototype organic computer. When the superbrain didn't work out as planned, it was dumped in the ocean and forgotten. Interestingly, when the heroes first encounter this giant brain, it seems docile, and even gives the heroes the tool for its own destruction.
  • Cephalothorax: Maxum. No distinct head, but a face on the front of his torso.
  • The Chosen One: Sylvain.
  • Convenient Coma: Basically, Metamorphis' "stasis" can be likened to it.
  • Deranged Animation
  • Did They or Didn't They?: By way of censorship. In the original, Airelle and Sylvain are seen together in bed the next morning and there's a shot of Sylvain taking his shirt off the night before, but the English dub cuts this so the exact nature of their relationship is far more ambiguous.
  • Fanservice: Some damn weird artsy French sort...
  • Future Me Scares Me: Metamorphis realizes the Metal Men come from his insane future self and orders Sylvain to kill him 1,000 years hence.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Marketing for the English dub called it "Isaac Asimov's Light Years" since he translated it, although certainly didn't write it.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The Men of Metal.
  • Mind Screw
  • Monster Is a Mommy: A huge reptilian beast frees Sylvain and Airelle from the Metal Men's transport... and proceeds to fuss over them as if they were her hatchlings.
  • Mutants
  • Nipple and Dimed: Averted in the original, hard. According to Laloux the North Korean animators had to be shown certain French magazines to draw all of the women, since law there restricts such resources harshly.
  • Lady Land: Society ruled by Queen Ambisextra and her Council of Women.
  • Scenery Porn: Bizarre but beautiful alien worlds lovingly explored through the animation.
  • Screw Destiny: Metamorphis' plan for Sylvain involves this.
  • Tag Line: "The Light Years" in the original French title, which was taken for the American dub's title instead of Gandahar.
  • Taken for Granite: The enemy's energy weapons petrifies the humans it hits.
  • Time Travel
  • Time Travel Tense Trouble: "In a thousand years, Gandahar was destroyed. A thousand years ago, Gandahar will be saved." It Makes Sense in Context.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: Totalitarianism?
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We don't see most of The Deformed escaping from the future. Maybe the leaders got killed off-screen, but we see some who were nearby that got away.
  • You No Take Candle: The mutants said everything in both the past and future tenses (example: "was will be" instead of "is"). The trope is played with because the mutants are trying to tell the main character that he needs to time travel.