Timeless stories won’t come as universally renowned as this, French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s lyrical novella The Little Prince has been given a do-over by Kung Fu Panda and Spongebob Squarepants director Mark Osborne. One of the best-selling books ever made and one that’s been translated into over 250 languages, I imagine you’ll have heard of this story one way or another, but here’s your chance. Thanks to Netflix, premiering one of two versions (obviously the American, the other being French) that undoubtedly performs as one of 2016’s most creative animated films.
A precocious young girl (Mackenzie Foy), shaped by her professionally-thriving alter ego mother (Rachel McAdams), discovers what it’s like to be young once introducing herself to her quirky older neighbour The Aviator (Jeff Bridges). A relationship strikes as he introduces her to The Little Prince and an extraordinary world where anything is possible, where imagination is the only tool to surviving life.
Living in a world with resignation and efficiency, this new adaptation desires a formidable new narrative as it creates a Pixar-like ensemble in regards to a young core character — one that undoubtedly resembles that of Riley from Inside Out. Where this play on Saint-Exupéry’s tale comes to life is the introduction of the story’s base player The Aviator, but shown in a older, future perspective. As the story relays back and forth between three, harshly-boxed animated dimensions to a modernised animated take, the story of The Little Prince and the many symbolisations encumbering this desirable family fable come to fruition. One thing’s for sure, this is intuitive and challenging enough for children as much as it is for adults.
In those lighter, teetering-on-the-adorable sections, in the real world if you will, where this little girl leaves her anally-obstuse life map drawn by her mother to create a path of self-discovery alongside this eccentric older man, typical lighthearted, family-centered tropes are used foremost to draw the attention of the target audience. Where the film thrives for the older target, however, is in this fantastical land of liveable astroids and wise creatures, where The Little Prince forms bonds with an untamed fox (voiced by James Franco), a vain but equally as adored rose (Marrion Cotillard, the only voice featured in both versions of the film) and a handful of other wisecracking sub-characters (voiced by Ricky Gervais, Albert Brooks and Benicio Del Toro) that all form the lesser-liked attributes of a personality that The Little Prince is proven to be incapable of having. Thus, like the Little Girl, discovers an adventure of his own as these metaphorical characters beacon as life lessons.
There’s a thumping, literal heart at the core of this journey; Saint-Exupéry’s life is mirrored in fragments of The Little Prince‘s story which is a charmingly ambiguous one at that, but what proves most relative is the ability to shape this meandering narrative into something personal. Ultimately, this would be lost on the younger fare if not for the enticing and gorgeously-rendered visuals, in real mode or story mode. But what is inescapable is this perpetually heartwarming relationship between girl and man and the discoveries that come with. Now that is universal.
Dir: Mark Osborne
Scr: Irena Brignull, Bob Persichetti
Cast: Mackenzie Foy, Rachel McAdams, Jeff Bridges, James Franco, Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, Albert Brooks
Prd: Dimitri Rassam, Aton Soumache, Alexis Vonarb
DOP: Kris Kapp
Music: Hans Zimmer, Richard Harvey
Country: France, Canada
Runtime: 108 minutes
The Little Prince is now available to stream on Netflix.