Wednesday, July 27, 2016

DVD: The Little Prince

One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes.

The movie The Little Prince is based on the popular novel of the same title by Antoine de Saint-Euxpery who was a famous French poet and aviator. The novel was published in 1943 and tells the story of a pilot stranded in the desert where he meets a young prince who has travelled to Earth from a small asteroid. The book's main themes explore the forgotten innocence of childhood by adults and how we must look beneath the surface to see what is real.

The movie opens with a little girl waiting with her mother just before she's interviewed for entrance to the elite Werth Academy. Determined her daughter will gain admission, she prepares her daughter to answer what she believes will be the crucial question, "Are you Werth Academy material?" However the question the girl is asked is "What will you be when you grow up?" Completely unprepared to answer this question the girl starts to give the answer she prepared rather than answer the unexpected question. She stops, and faced with the realization that she's unable to answer, she faints.

With this failure, her mother devises a new plan. They buy a new house near the Werth Academy. It is a non-descript grey house like every other house around them except for the one next door. It is a ramshackle house with a wooden observation deck in the back.

The girl's mother organizes every minute of every day of every month for the next 53 days calling it her "life plan". However, things don't quite go according to plan. On the first day home alone, after her mother has left for work, the girl's house is badly damaged by their next door neighbour who attempts to start his plane. The plane's propeller flies through the backyard fence and into their house. The elderly neighbour retrieves the propeller as the girl watches in astonishment. The girl calls the police who come to the neighbour's home. The elderly man, an aviator, gives the little girl a huge jar of pennies. When she tells her mother that evening what happened, her mother tells her they will call a contractor in the morning and "forget the old man exists". Later that evening while studying, a paper airplane flies in through the window and lands on her desk. The little girl discovers it is a page of a story sent by the elderly aviator. She tosses it into the waste paper basket. The little girl goes through her morning routine until lunch when she decides she will begin rolling the pennies in the jar. While doing this, she discovers an odd collection of items amongst the pennies: a nail, a green marble, a sea shell,a red paper rose, a little metal airplane and a tiny figure of the little prince.

Recognizing the figure is the same as in the aviator's story, the girl retrieves the story from the bin and begins to read. At this point the movie portrays scenes from the story as the little girl reads, in stop motion animation. The story tells of a pilot who flew everywhere until he crashed in the Sahara Desert. One day a little boy appears asking the pilot to draw him a sheep. The pilot reluctantly agrees but his efforts are not acceptable to the little prince who tells him the sheep are too old, sickly and one is a ram. Tired, the pilot draws a rectangular box with holes and tells him the sheep is inside. The boy needs a sheep because where he comes from is very small.

The movie now switches back to the girl who is so intrigued with this beginning that she decides to go into the aviator's backyard. There she finds a yard crammed with eclectic pieces of machines including a decrepit red plane. The girl tells the aviator she found the story strange and begins asking him questions because the "facts" don't make sense to her. He begins to explain the story to her - for example telling her that the little prince comes from a very small asteroid called B-612 and that the sheep is needed to eat the Baobab sprouts which threaten to overrun the asteroid. While the aviator finds more pages of the story for her to read the little girl discovers a toy red fox which she immediately likes. Once more the movie switches to stop-animation. In this part of the story the Little Prince continues to keep his asteroid clean of the Baobab plants until one day a new seed sprouts. This seed, under the care of the Little Prince grows into a beautiful rose, cherished by the boy. They love each other but the rose begins to torment the Little Prince with her vanity and filled with doubt, the prince flees.

The little girl listens to the story and later watches the beautiful night sky with the aviator. Having lost track of time, the little girl rushes home with more story pages and the red fox. She admits to her mother that she did not finish all her planned schoolwork but that she read alot and made a knew friend. As the girl reads the pages she has brought home, the movie once again switches to stop animation.

As the little girl's friendship with the elderly aviator deepens she comes to see the world in a whole new way. And the message of the aviator's story becomes more and more apparent to her in her own life.


The Little Prince is a simply wonderful film that exquisitely showcases the story of The Little Prince written by French author, explorer and aviator  Antoine de Saint-Euxpery. Directed by Mark Osbourne the movie captures the essence of the book, that there is mystery hidden within everyone and everything in the world - that "what is essential is invisible to the eye". This message is first hinted at in the opening pages of the book when the narrator states that as a child, he drew a object that people thought was a hat but really it contained an alligator.  Osbourne and his crew of screen writers wanted a story that could serve as a vehicle for de Saint-Euxpery's Little Prince. They came up with the idea that the aviator never had his story published. He was someone who had trouble connecting with others but who has a message to share. Instead his story remains as separate sheets of paper scattered around his house. But then a little girl shows up in the house next door and the aviator who "Thought I'd never find anyone who wanted to hear my story." suddenly has that someone. Although it is curiosity that drives the little girl to seek out the aviator next door so as to question him, she soon becomes very captivated by his story. Using the little girl, viewers experience the story through her eyes.

Osbourne used two mediums to make The Little Prince. The book is portrayed in the film using stop-motion animation while the larger story of the little girl and her relationship with the aviator who tells her his story of the Little Prince is told using CGI.

The stop-motion animation scenes were made using paper - representing the paper medium of the book. The beautiful illustrations in the Little Prince come alive with the stop motion animation. Many of the scenes are three-dimensional. For example, the heads of the characters were sculpted out of paper clay. The figures were also left with a textured appearance so that they appeared more realistic. Since the book's illustrations were done in water colour, vibrant water colours were used for the figures to capture the emotion and setting of the story. The director felt that the use of stop motion animation with it's imperfections made was reminiscent of childhood in comparison to the more mature and finished look of CGI.

The story of the aviator and the girl was told through the medium of CGI. This medium allowed the little girl's very scheduled adult world to be shown in sharp contrast to the warm, imaginative world of the aviator. The little girl's world is fully of greys and whites with little colour. Her mother wears a grey pant suit, their home is muted greys and their lives are scheduled down to the minute with routines. The girl is a miniature version of her mother. In contrast, the aviator's world is full of rich colours, greens, reds and yellows. This is best demonstrated when the little girl enters the aviator's backyard and is mesmerized by the deep green grass, the red airplane and the colourful parachute. He's filled with wonder about the world around him - a world that the little girl and her mother have never taken the time to notice.

At the start of the movie the little girl is more like an adult than a child. This is demonstrated in the opening scenes when she is interviewed by the Werth Academy. In the adult world she lives in, she is prepared to answer by memory, the question her mother believes is essential to her gaining admission. While in the waiting room, they fail to notice the world around them and in doing so miss the question plastered on the walls, "Que serez-vous quand vous serez adulte?"  This is the question that is asked in the interview and is a foreshadowing of what the fox will tell the Little Prince later - that what is essential is invisible to the eyes. They miss what is essential because they are not looking. Her adult-like character continues when she meets the aviator who sends her the first page of his story. Although she's fascinated by it, the little girl cannot relate to it because the facts don't line up. The child in her is buried so deeply she cannot enjoy the story and becomes bogged down with the incongruity of the "facts" .

In contrast to the little girl is the aviator who is like a little child. With his story and his wonder at the world and he helps her to rediscover the child within her. After reading about the Little Prince's journey's to the various asteroids populated by "odd" adults, the little girl begins to see her mother as an odd adult. This leads the little girl to question whether or not she wants to grow up but the aviator tells her "Growing up is not the problem, forgetting is." That is, forgetting how to look at the world through a child's eyes.

The juxtapositioning of the two stories - the first of the little girl as her friendship with the aviator develops and the Little Prince as he befriends a red fox is beautifully instructive. The Little Prince asked the fox to play with him but the fox tells him he cannot until he tames him - that is until they form a friendship, a bond. Otherwise he is just like any other fox to the Little Prince. The Little Prince finally understands what the fox has been trying to tell him when he finds a garden full of roses. Disappointed by what he believes is a lie his rose told him (that she was the only one in the universe) and that she is only a "common rose", the fox explains that the rose at home on the asteroid is special because of the time he has devoted to her. The roses in the garden are simply other roses with no special connection to him.  When the little girl reads this passage she is concerned that the fox and the little prince will not be together, but the aviator tells her that their connection will remain because the Little Prince will remember their times together just as he now remembers his times with the rose. The little girl worries now that she will lose her special friend, the aviator,whom she now recognizes she needs.

The little girl's deception is exposed to her mother when she and the aviator go for a drive to get pancakes.  Contacted by the police the little girl's mother realizes that her daughter has not been following her life plan but instead spending it with the aviator. Here in these CGI scenes we see how the current adult world often doesn't recognize the specialness of childhood, instead overplanning every single moment. The little girl accuses her mother of not caring but her mother tells her she cares about her and her "life plan" represented by the board. However, the little girl tells her mother the board is not her life plan but "just a wooden box with magnets" and that this is her mother's plan for her life. The mother after reading only a brief part of the aviator's story tells the little girl she must focus on what is essential. She destroys the pages of the story and gives her an (adult) deadline.

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly."

The next time she sees the aviator he hints that someday he will be gone, which greatly upsets the little girl. But he tells her that if she looks with her heart he will always be with her just as the the Little Prince is with his rose. Not understanding and deeply upset, the little girl returns home and focuses on getting into the academy. But when the aviator is taken to hospital the little girl's biggest fear is that she will grow up and forget the aviator. The story of the Little Prince and the girl merge when she flies the aviator's plane to find the little prince. From her adventure she comes to realize the truth of what the aviator told her. Just as the Little Prince who upon returning to his asteroid finds his precious rose dead, can see her in the morning sunrise, the little girl realizes that she will always remember the aviator when she looks at the stars. She will look into her heart and remember him.

This delightful movie will help children and adults alike the beauty of the novel The Little Prince set in a story about a little girl who rediscovers what it means to be a child.

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