Ted meets the aged professor Gulliver in a deep, dark forest. Accompanied by Mack the dog, a toy soldier called The General, and the Crow, the two set off on a journey to the Planet of Blue Hope in their spaceship the Gulliver.
Gullliver's Space Travels is a kind of adaptation of Gulliver's Travels. It's done in a very disney-like style, being an early Toei Animation work, directed by Yoshio Kuroda.
Very simply, the plot follows Ted. A homeless boy, turfed from a movie of Gulliver's Travels. He finds, or perhaps is found, by an animated toy Soldier. Ted comments at this point that 'there is no fun in my life'. Soldier and Ted soon meet a homeless dog, 'pudge' in the dub. This trio then have fun adventures together. As a by-product of their jolly deeds they meet a now aged Gulliver, who of course Ted recognizes from
the film. More adventures follow.
From this short description, perhaps you can see the western fairy tale / fantasy feel of this anime. The art style is also cartoonish to be frank. This is not a problem at all, indeed the actual artwork is quite impressive, featuring futuristic dada influenced space-topia. If it were not for such surrealist aspects, you could almost swear it was the work of Maurice Noble.
Gulliver's Space Travels is not completely western in its approach though. A [stunning] soundtrack, with contribution from the later successful electronic musician Isao Tomita. It also includes many variations of Japanese children's songs. Indeed the soundtrack is way ahead of its time. Be warned however that the dub has a different soundtrack by Milton and Anne Delugg, though admittedly they did not do a bad job.
Another factor of how it's uniquely Japanese, are the themes. What becomes a main plot point are a race of alien robots. These alien robots built 'ultimate' robots, robots that could make other robots. And I translate directly from the anime 'how foolish we were that we thought we would be happy if we did not have to do any work anymore.' The anxieties of technology in Japan are thus keenly expressed by Gulliver's Space Travels. The nature of the lesser robots very much mirror sentiment about Americans within Japan too.
The ending is also uniquely Japanese. A Dallas-y conclusion, it's quite depressing if not for the fact that through the sustained adventures we have watched, we should be happy, and know that Ted will be happy if only in his dreams. It may be remarked that this choice of ending was actually brought up by Hayao Miyazaki who was working as an animation assistant, and Yoshio Kuroda agreed. So this may be why this type of ending may seem more atypical to the average anime viewer, in theory.
A sci-fi anime, we can count the number of previous sci-fi anime on one hand; astro-boy, tetsujin 28 go, 8 man, big x, and uchuu patrol hopper [also by Toei]. With its representation of space age technology, albeit amicably played with, and its commentary on robots, Gulliver's Space Travels makes an invaluable contribution to the genre, as well as being a solid kids film.
There is a dub available, unfortunately no subtitled version at the moment. The dub however, is meddled with, and the actual audio track is quite degraded and hell on the ears. There are also anomalies for the Japanese version however; for instance that Ted's voice actor, SOUNDS WAY TOO OLD. Unfortunately quite common for the time.
Overall, Gulliver's Space Travels is quite a romp. It's a good kids film, like other Disney films really. And it has invaluable contextual value. A critic could also enjoy themselves drawing unlimited conclusions from the rich cultural themes that are on offer.