On May 23rd, Netflix announced that it had picked up the distribution rights for the latest film adaptation of the well-loved children’s book, The Little Prince. However, this was no ordinary announcement. After premiering successfully at the 68th Cannes Film Festival, the 2015 animated film was scheduled to hit the U.S. market in March 2016, but was surprisingly and without explanation dropped by it’s distributor, only to be saved by the popular streaming network. There have been nearly fifteen TV and film interpretations of the adored classic, and with so much going on, I didn’t want you to miss, what looks like the best iteration yet. So what makes this newest adaptation so unique, and more importantly will it be able to tame you?
Originally published in 1943, The Little Prince, is a charming allegorical tale told from the perspective of a stranded aviator, after his plane crashes in a desert, and his unique eight day encounter with a mysterious and inquisitive boy, a young prince, who has journeyed to Earth far from his home on the tiny asteroid B-612. This singular book, is widely celebrated as one of the most successful works of literature ever published. In fact, the book, written by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is so well-loved, it’s been translated into 250 languages or dialects and you’re almost certain to find the novella being prominently displayed or lining the shelves in the children’s section of any bookstore.
It’s easy to see why The Little Prince is so appealing not only to children but also to grown-ups. On the surface, the book presents a beautiful and poetic narrative which can be easily understood by all ages, juxtaposed alongside quirky, but beautifully watercolored illustrations by the author himself which compliment the written word, and at nearly one hundred pages, it’s quick bedtime reading. Goodnight! However, hidden between the words, lies a deep philosophical message, which Saint-Exupery invites readers to reflect upon. So, what exactly makes The Little Prince so magical and endearing to countless generations? At its core, the book explores a number of themes including: truth, exploration, and innocence and how we gain and lose our perspectives at times. But the main theme, is the one the Little Prince himself learns and teaches the aviator and ultimately all of us, from his time spent with the fox: looking beneath the surface to see the uniqueness of the things we love and also to cultivate meaningful relationships with those things. This simple message (if we choose to) allows us to experience the essential things in life such as real love, thus providing meaning to our existence. Otherwise, we spend our lives lost and alone much like an aviator stranded in a desert.
Having already premiered overseas, both critics and audiences alike have embraced the adaptation and praised it as a wonderfully animated film with a great message. Rotten Tomatoes has even given it a 95% rating. By the looks of it, U.S. audiences both young and old will instantly fall in love with Netflix’s latest offering too for a variety of reasons including: the animation, an all-star cast and a fresh take on the seventy-two year-old story. Despite being visually appealing, the real question is will the film capture the novella’s central message? Anytime you take source material, especially one as recognizable and cherished as The Little Prince, there’s going to be changes, and this film is no different. Rather than keeping the film traditional to the book’s storyline, the writers have reinterpreted the celebrated book giving audiences a new twist on an old but relevant tale, particularly in the third act of the film which could leave some book devotees scratching their heads. Possible spoiler alert coming, be warned. Let’s start with the obvious, the film, directed by Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda) is visually stunning. The animation is the first thing you notice, and it pops off the screen, crossing back and forth into Pixar-esque CGI for it’s modern storyline and into a paper-mache stylized animation for the flashback/traditional story scenes.
We see a little girl, voiced by Mackenzie Foy (Interstellar) being groomed to grow up quickly under the loving but overbearing shadow of her overprotective mom played by Rachel McAdams (The Notebook). Her sheltered and structured world begins to change when she meets and later befriends a neighbor, the aged Aviator, voiced by Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski), who ignites her curiosity by sharing the lessons he learned during his time with the Little Prince of asteroid B-612 who is voiced by Riley Osborne, the director’s own son. The Little Prince leaves his planet and his beloved rose, played by Marion Cotillard (Inception) to understand his place in the world. In his journey around the universe, he encounters a number of curious individuals who are preoccupied with various so called “important” things including: The Conceited Man voiced by Ricky Gervais (The Office), The Business Man played by Albert Brooks (Finding Nemo), and The King voiced by Bud Cort (Harold and Maude). All absorbed with worldly things like: self-admiration, status, immense wealth, power and even work, rather than life’s essential things such as: beauty, love and friendship which he learns from the earthly fox voiced by James Franco (Freaks and Geeks).
Readers of the book will recognize the Little Prince’s fateful and symbolic relationship with the riddle speaking Desert Snake voiced by Benicio Del Toro (Usual Suspects). However, (SPOILER ALERT) aficionados may not remember the film’s biggest plot deviation from the original source material which is the creation of a grown-up Little Prince voiced by Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) who has sadly also forgotten the essential message he learned as a boy.
Despite the changes, it appears that the newest film adaptation of The Little Prince is something to cherish, but prepare yourself for all the feels. I believe the film will be a success for two reasons. First, like so many others, the novella has had a profound impact on my life, before and especially after I had children of my own. Because the book allows you to reconnect with what is essential in life, when sometimes, like many of the characters in the book and film, we lose sight of that. So anyone who covets the book’s core message, should be excited to reconnect with this latest retelling, in spite of the slight deviations in storyline. Conversely, those who fall in love with this animated film, but who are unfamiliar with the original tale, may be so emotionally moved, that it causes them to seek out a new relationship with the book (and others) which has served as a guide for generations. The Little Prince will be waiting for you on Netflix, on August 5th.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe someone is cutting onions.