The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry, is a classic book which explores how the magic of childhood fades as people grow older and become focused on gaining material wealth and status. As children grow into adults, they forget to examine the world with their hearts. They forget to pretend. They begin to look at the world as cold and harsh and forget to see the fun imaginary world that exists just beneath the surface. In 2015, Paramount released a Netflix original film which, while it is based on the book, adds an entirely new storyline which modernizes the tale and helps today’s audience to connect with it in a new way. This movie is compelling because of the animation, characterization and plot which gives the story of the Little Prince an entirely new spin that allows both children and adults to understand its theme, which is the differences between the world of children, full of wonder and imagination, and that of adults, who have forgotten how to dream because they are too busy with material concerns.
The first way in which this movie brings a new spin to a classic tale is through animation. The movie is full of scenes of drawing which come to life, as at the beginning of the film (The Little Prince). It also portrays images such as the stuffed fox which can move an interact with its environment, such as when it launches itself out of the airplane to get the story page which flies away (64:00). This use of animation helps to highlight the importance of childhood imagination because it allows the audience to pretend with the main characters. The audience is encouraged to suspend disbelief and, at least for a time, to think that drawings actually could come to life and stuffed animals can actually move. The use of animation in this movie increases its dream-like qualities, helping to create an environment full of magic in which both children and adults can dream.
Another method the movie uses to point out its theme and make its story compelling is characterization. The events of the book are narrated by one of the main characters. The narrator of the book, the aviator, has someone to whom he can tell his story, in the character of the girl. The girl is an extreme example of the way in which modern children are expected to grow up too fast and leave childhood behind. Her mother, with the best of intentions, has made her just as focused on time and schedule as the adults in the movie. When her home is damaged due to the aviator’s plane, before her mother even gets home she has filed a police report and made an insurance claim (14:00). These are things which would normally be left to an adult, but her mother shows no surprise that she has done them, meaning that she is living in an environment where she is expected to act like an adult. This is also shown in the schedule that her mother forces on her. Every minute of every day is scheduled, even to the point of her mother saying that she has a half hour a week, between 1:00 and 1:30, to play with her new friend (31:30). She is acting just as the other adults in the story do, such as her mother, the businessman and MR. Prince. It is only with the aviator, once she is introduced to the Little Prince, that she can begin to act like a child and enjoy the world without always following a schedule. She can suspend the disbelief which prompts the torrent of questions she asks the aviator when she first goes to his house, (25:00), and accept the tale for what it is. So much does she learn from the Little Prince that at the end of the movie, she tells the old man that she will not forget. Her character changes from the beginning of the movie, when she is a sudo-adult, to the end when she has not only experienced the wonder of childhood, but promises to bring it into adulthood with her, making her different from the other adults in the movie. The fact that none of the characters are named allows the audience to see themselves in every character, and to learn how they, too, should do their best to remember the wonder of childhood and bring it with them into adulthood.
A third aspect which makes this movie a compelling retelling of the Little Prince is the plot. Rather than being a simple retelling of the plot of the original book, the movie uses that plot to explore how one child is able to leave the restricted world that her mother has built for her and become her own person. The movie does not leave the original ending of the book intact, but adds onto it, exploring how even the Little Prince can become a slave to the material needs of the adult world, and yet how bringing him back to the wonder of childhood allows him to remember what he has forgotten. Also, the fact that the plot of the book is a background to the girl’s story sets the movie into a recognizably modern setting which will allow people of all ages to relate to the story in a way which might not have been possible if the movie were only a retelling of the original. Because Mr. Prince is seen as a modern adult who is changed by the Girl who was in turn changed by his story, the audience can see that even people who have left the wonder of childhood behind them can regain that wonder if they only try. The additional plot added to this movie helps a modern audience to relate to this story because it sets the imaginary world of the Little Prince into a setting with which they can relate, and teaches them that it is not too late to regain the wonder of childhood.
If the Little Prince only set out to retell Saint Exupéry’s story, it would not be as good a movie as it is. The addition of the character of the girl, the animation which brings the drawings and the fox to life, and the additional plot details allow the watching audience to connect with the story in a whole new way. These aspects help the audience to relate to the story and the characters in it, and therefore help to teach the primary lesson of the original story. Through watching the movie, the audience will learn to remember the imagination and wonder they brought to the world as children and to bring that wonder into their adult lives.
- The Little Prince. Directed by Mark Osborne. Paramount Pictures, Jun 2015. Netflix. Accessed 20 Mar 2017.