The Little Prince is a heartfelt adaptation of the beloved 1943 novella that utilizes a modern-day framing story about a girl at odds with her mother’s strict control over her life until she meets an old man with an unbelievable story about a little prince. Director Mark Osborne's film uses several forms of animation and a cast of talented voice actors to craft a version of this classic story worth sharing with your family. Paramount’s Blu-ray has an excellent A/V package with a featurette, a music video, and a Digital Copy to offer for special features. Recommended.
“You’re slowing down my productivity!”
When the entrance interview for the prestigious Werth Academy goes awry for The Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy) her overbearing but well-meaning mother (Rachel McAdams) takes measures into her own hands. She decides to move them across town into the school district to ensure they’ll have to accept her no matter what! The girl’s new room has an entire schedule for the rest of her life broken down my minute because as her Mom puts it “let’s face it, you’re gonna be all alone out there”. (Not so subtle cue to the absent father in the film.) Their matching Type-A personalities leave little room for anything except the “Life Plan” which covers the girl’s bedroom walls.
Their neighborhood is a geometric sprawl of gray boxes contained within a grid that is as lifeless as it is efficient. Next door lives The Aviator (Jeff Bridges) an eccentric hoarder with a dilapidated house surrounded by wild grasses, colorful flowers, and a busted airplane. He sends over a page from an unusual story that instantly captivates the little workaholic. The story (if you don’t know it already) is about a pilot who crashlands on a desert planet and meets a Little Prince who is curious about the motivations of grown-ups as he travels between planets searching for life’s deeper meaning. The two unlikely neighbors become friends. The Aviator tells her more of the incredible story while teaching her to let go of rigid thinking and embrace life through creativity and wonder.
What makes this adaptation of The Little Prince work so well is the involvement of the framing story. Crafting this as a film-within-a-film was a smart move as the philosophical musings of the source material can be a bit overcooked when heard on screen. Lines such as “What is essential is invisible to the eye” sound profoundly dreamy and thought-provoking but too much of this on-screen might test a child’s patience. The source novella from 1943 by author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has been adapted many times over including an animated series and numerous films including notably a 1974 film starring Gene Wilder that is an interesting take on the material. The trouble with most of these is that their literal adaptations of the book result in too much filler or musical interludes that are tiresome at best.
The voice performances here are key to the film’s success as well. Jeff Bridges nails this grandfatherly tone for The Aviator that is sweet and engaging. Rachel McAdams’ precision of The Mother’s dialogue and Mackenzie Foy’s innocent yet brave tone complement each other nicely. Benicio del Toro, Ricky Gervais, James Franco, and Paul Rudd provide excellent performances as well appearing as memorable characters while the Little Prince travels between tiny planets.
The different animation styles plus the framing story turn an otherwise simple tale of growing up into a handmade storybook film that never drops the ball visually nor allows the varying visual styles to ever feel out of place. The Little Girl and The Mother are a perfect contemporary realization to juxtapose the wandering boy’s journey. The use of cold and exacting CGI animation for the “real world” and paper stop motion animation for the Prince’s story brings the storybook sensibilities to life in an absolutely mesmerizing way. I can’t go without mentioning the music! All the music has this innate breezy and gentle vibe to it that would make for a perfect playdate playlist. When the real world and the storybook world collide in the third act expect Hans Zimmer’s contributions to speak up.
The Little Prince is a delightful film that I enjoyed from the start. Originally premiering on Netflix in 2015 this independent feature has gained quite a following. Having never read the source material didn’t affect my experience but rather inspired me to seek out the beloved book. Though the themes are strongly presented and some sequences are quite intense for younger audiences you’ll enjoy every wondrous second of the film but make sure to have some tissues ready by the end.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Little Prince arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Paramount Pictures. Housed in a standard keepcase with a digital insert slip the disc loads the Paramount logo before landing on the static Main Menu screen with typical navigation options.
The Little Prince arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC encoded image with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The brilliant HD image is clear and full of detail. The lives of our mother and daughter are bathed in grays and whites with color finally popping when we see the aviator’s home next door. Plenty of fine details abound from the textures on the calendar magnets to the subtle rosy shading on the girl’s cheeks. CGI looks crisp and clean allowing plenty of little details to emerge but absolutely nailing bleak color palettes and characterizations through the minute details.
The most striking elements of the visual presentation are the color tones and textures utilized for the different animation styles. Textures and detail abound during the stop motion scenes as we see the prince float from world to world or just sit in the sand waiting on his drawing of a sheep. While both the Aviator and The Little Girl live in the same world their individual lives are presented with the same juxtaposition as Dorothy walking into the Land of Oz. The Aviator’s home is full of color, depth, and texture while the strict architecture and color of the suburban life beside him contain a cold lifeless tone. Some brilliant work here from the animators. If you haven’t seen paper stop motion you’re in for a treat.
The included lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1 is full and confident as we jump through the mundane existence of suburbia to exciting worlds created only by imagination. Dialogue, as well as the daily Matters of Consequence announcements, come through clear and clean. Surround channels carry a plethora of ambient and atmospheric sounds throughout the film creating a consistent immersive experience. Pop, hiss, and any other sonic anomaly are nonexistent.
While slim on the special features, the making-of featurette is interesting enough for fans of the book and the process of animating the feature.
The Little Prince is a charming adaptation that smartly uses a modern-day framing story to update the tale. Parents and kids alike will identify with the struggles of the mother and daughter as they navigate their journey together. Utilizing the different forms of animation allows the multi-layered film to breathe into its story deeper and develop its characters fully. I had a wonderful time watching the film but I would shy away from introducing it to my young kids as some intense elements could be too much for them.
Paramount’s Blu-ray provides an outstanding A/V presentation for this charming story. A lack of bonus features isn’t a deal-breaker as the making-of featurette is interesting enough. Recommended.