In 1965 Toei Doga decided to do a new 80 minute animated sci-fi feature loosely based on Jonathan Swift’s GULLIVER’s TRAVEL’S titled GULLIVER NO UCHU RYOKO ガリバーの宇宙旅行 (GULLIVER’S SPACE TRAVELS). Hayao Miyazaki (MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, PONYO) was an in-between animator on this one. He also added many key changes in the script.
The story begins with a young homeless boy Ted getting kicked out of a movie theater he snuck into showing Gulliver’s Travels. Later Ted meets a talking wind up soldier (Colonel) and a stray dog Mack who cheer him up after his string of bad luck by going to an amusement park. The three ride on a giant firework rocket to escape from some carny security guards and crash into a desolate forest. They soon find an old house where they meet Doctor Gulliver and his pet crow, Kuro. The Doctor shows Ted a giant telescope where they view a planet called the Blue Star of Hope. The Doctor tells about his many travels like Lilliput, but for his last great adventure he wants to go to this distant star. They all leave for the planet in a rocket ship the Doctor built designed for deep space travel called the Gulliver.
They finally reach their destination but they are forced to land on a near by purple star instead. The inhabitants are a race of abstract looking robot people. They meet a beautiful princess that explains they were drove to this star by robots that their ancestors made and are frequently attacked by them. They now spend everyday searching for a new star to live on. The evil robots were originally servants that rose against their creators and mechanized everything. Soon they are attacked by the metal servants and the Princess and Mack are kidnapped. Ted and Doctor Gulliver fly to the Blue Star and find that water can dismantle the robotic demons, and are able to stop them. When they finally find the Princess she is unconscious. Ted uses a little water to try and bring her to, but instead her robotic shell splits open to reveal a beautiful human girl underneath. The sun rises and Ted says “The Blue Star will be reborn, just like you”. Ted then wakes up on Earth. Was it real or a dream?
Like all early Toei Doga theatrical features, Gulliver’s Space Travels takes you away to a surreal dreamland. The visuals, as always are breathtaking and atmospheric. You get hooked with the combination of a classic folklore legend and giant robots! Swift would have smiled seeing the all around beauty of the animation along with a respectful take on Gulliver in this sci-fi epic adventure. Several times through out the film, the main message sent to the viewer is to never give up and there is always hope.