But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart.

Artful and heartwarming retelling of the popular “Little Prince”

It is no wonder that the quote “What is essential is invisible to the eye” is known all over the world. The book “The Little Prince” has been translated in more than 300 languages and is, apart from religious writings, the most translated book of all times, selling around 140 million copies. Working at night, Antoine de Saint- Exupéry wrote down his own experiences of an air crash in the Sahara and the story of the little prince came to life, night after night. That was back in 1943. Since then several plays, movies, ballets and many other adaptations have been produced. With that in mind, one might ask if it’s even possible to create something totally new with regard to this extraordinary story, something which no one has ever seen before.

Mark Osborn, also known as the director of Kung Fu Panda, gave it a try and succeeded. The 3D animated fantasy adventure and family drama brought in 97.6 million dollars on a 77.5 million dollar budget and became the most successful French animated film export of all time. After the development and the storyboarding took place in Paris, the completion was done in Montreal. Because of the book’s popularity Osborn managed to gain a group of well known actors as the character voices, for example Rachel McAdams and James Franco. In the beginning of the project Osborn’s kids temporarily provided the voices of the little girl and the little prince. His daughter’s voice was changed later on to Mackenzie Foy , whereas his son Riley remained the voice of the little prince.

His decision to include a female protagonist was based on the gender disparity he saw in animated films. To make the little girl the main character was seen as quite revolutionary, he argues. In her role she represents “the spirit of adulthood”. Osborn refers to the handmade visual aids, which were specifically created to create the tone and communicate his passion for the project, as his “magic suitcase”. The pages of the book which are shown in the movie are part of this suitcase and are mock-ups of the original manuscript by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which forms a key plot point.

A little girl lives with her over-organised and over-ambitious mum who wants her to go to the famous Werth Academy. After Plan A fails she decides to go for Plan B and they move to the catchment area of the school. While her mother is at work, the little girl gets to know her eccentric neighbour when fragments of his old airplane crash into their architectured house, leaving a big hole behind. He introduces her to his extraordinary world and that of the little prince, whom he met when he was still flying. The exceptional friendship teaches her that life is not just about making plans and growing up as fast as possible. An allegory for young and old.

Music by Hans Zimmer and Richard Harvey, featuring Camille, supports the storyline in a moving way and goes hand in hand with the stop motion technique used for the story of the book and the computer-animated framing narrative. It is not surprising that the movie won the César Award in 2016 for ‘The Best Animated Feature Film’ and the Annie Award in 2017 for ‘Outstanding Achievement, Music in an Animated Feature Production’ and was also nominated for a lot of other prizes.

Even though the little prince and its many adaptations are familiar to many, Osborn creates a whole new world with this first adaptation as a full-length animated feature. Not only are the characters likable, but the coming together of different film animation techniques is also impressive. The various storylines woven together create a new whole, which is amazing. Nevertheless the story loses some tension right in the middle, but picks up again right afterwards.

The retelling of the little prince has something about it that won’t leave any heart untouched. Everybody, whatever their age, can draw a conclusion for themselves from it and should bear its message in mind long after watching it. Do not close your heart to this fantastic film because, as we all know: What is essential is invisible to the eye – and the little prince’s magic is just that.

Julia Lied