It’s not that we don’t have the option of expanding our animated palette outside of Disney and Dreamworks, but rarely does an alternative come along in the West that brought as much intrigue as The Little Prince. After initial buzz from Cannes last year and a mysterious disappearance from the American theater circuit, Netflix picked up the rights to the film and we the public finally got a chance to see it. With my interest peaking early it was safe to say I had high hopes for this one.
With no name to describe her, the little girl that stands at the centre of this story finds herself leading a life that has been carefully planned out by her mother. Smart and prestigious, the little girl seems mostly content playing the system in order to please her mother, however plans seemingly get put to the aside when she begins an unusual friendship with an old man next door, who ignites her imagination with tales of the little prince and brings into question the life laid out ahead of her.
The moral of The Little Prince is staring you in the face from the get go. Many of us will be able to share the feeling of spending much of your childhood preparing for adulthood. The way most education systems are designed is to test you constantly from an early age and begin to point you in the direction of career as soon as you can contemplate one. To quote the great Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it”. The Little Prince is trying to make sure we spend our childhood enjoying our childhood.
The way The Little Prince does that is through the power of imagination. It draws a lot of comparisons from Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro, how the adult population are oblivious to the creativity and vibrancy of imagination which is left to the children. The only difference here is that there is an exception to that in The Little Prince, with the old Aviator friend of the little girl being the one to open her eyes. Their relationship grows quickly as they share in stories of the little prince and it’s warming to see. The stories themselves provide a beautiful contrast to the usual 3D animation of the modern era as they are told through stop motion set pieces that brought me back to loving memories of James and the Giant Peach.
Though the visuals of the stories of the little prince were gorgeous, the tales themselves didn’t pull me in quite as much. I’m not familiar with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry or his novella The Little Prince and thus have no affinity to it, so other than providing me some contrast to usual artistic styles I wasn’t drawn to those scenes. The tales of the prince didn’t add anything to the film for me and other than providing characters that were later referenced in the little girl’s ‘reality’ they weren’t all too interesting. I’d even be tempted to say they over complicated things at points.
Over complication was a recurring theme unfortunately which superseded some of the more humanistic moments of the film. When the film comes to its climax there is a bit of a blur between imagination and reality that I didn’t quite understand whether it was a metaphor for the little girl’s use of imagination to escape the difficulties in her life, or whether her reality was actually akin to imagination. It appeared to be more of the latter as the film went on but initially I was left stranded trying to grasp that. Though maybe that was my adult not accepting it.
Undoubtedly The Little Prince is a good film, but it’s hard to say that it does anything to makes it stand out from other animated films of recent times. It’s a shame really because as appropriate as the moral is, it sometimes relies too much on that imagination side of the story and loses out on some of the humanistic moments that are touched upon ever so briefly. The key one for me is the little girl’s lack of father and career driven mother that leaves her seeking escapism through stories and comfort through the aviator. Those subtleties make that character special and more than just a little girl. However, it’s the little prince that hogs the limelight.