Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s children’s book, The Little Prince, has been the inspiration for many adaptations on film and television since its publishing in 1943. This latest version, directed by Kung Fu Panda‘s Mark Osborne, may the most beautiful looking version to date, but its also the version that has taken the most liberties with the original subject matter. Osborne uses the Little Prince story as the centre of a different story, told from the perspective of the aviator from the original tale and that of a new character simply known as the Little Girl.
When a very business and career focused woman sees her daughter excluded from a prestigious and equally career focused academy after faltering during her entrance interview, she takes the drastic measure of moving into the neighbourhood to try and force her daughter’s acceptance into the school. Saddling the girl with a monumental task board (‘the life plan’)and a watch in order to time herself, the woman leaves her daughter for work each day in order to afford living in the higher end neighbourhood. The only reason why they can afford such a move is because the house is directly beside a dishevelled eyesore of house owned by a eccentric old man, who within a day literally crashes into the girl’s life. Enamoured by the girl, the Old Man (known as The Aviator) takes the opportunity to introduce her to the story of his friend – The Little Prince.
Osborne’s version of The Little Prince certainly is gorgeous to look at. The animation is flawless as it seamlessly integrates 2 different looks into the tale, with the main story being a more traditional computer animated tale and the Little Prince story at the core looking more like a paper storybook come to life. This not only allows the audience to keep track of where they are in both stories but also helps ground the more fanciful excursions of the Little Prince story. The voice work is stellar here too with Rachel McAdams as the mother and Jeff Bridges as the Aviator both doing excellent work. Osborne’s son Riley voices the Little Prince and actress Mackenzie Foy the Little Girl and both do good work as well.
If there is any drawback with The Little Prince it may be the running time. The film comes in at almost 1 hour and 45 minutes and while that may not be extremely long, with the film’s pacing the audience feels every one of those minutes. The story also takes quite a bit of time before we meet the Little Prince, and while most of the Little Girl’s story at the beginning is endearing, the film could have benefited from the prince appearing sooner in the story- though it should be noted that most of the kids at the screening we attended were completely engaged with the story. Also, those looking for a faithful adaptation of their favourite children’s book may be disappointed with the many liberties this cinematic version takes. The changes do manage to bring the classic tale into a contemporary setting very nicely though, and that should resonate with children.
While not necessarily destined to be a classic, The Little Prince certainly seems to be in the running for the best animated film this year with its stunning visuals and inspired casting. This may not be the Little Prince that children around the world grew up reading, but it modern styling will make it more accessible and hopefully engage children more directly. It won’t be a huge surprise to see this among the contenders for the Best Animated Oscar next year.