By: Muneeb Arshid
Animations have always had the distinction of being the “kid’s movies” or “the cartoon-y movie for little kids”, but what many people don’t necessarily understand is that many animation films have subject material that may actually resonate more with the adults than the kids. The best situation occurs when the animation works for both kids and adults, in very different ways for the different audience types.
That is exactly what last year’s Academy Award winner for an Animated feature, Inside Out was able to accomplish by trusting that the subject of the film would have differing effects on the two subsets of the audience. The Little Prince comes from the mind of director Mark Osborne, he of the fame of Kung Fu Panda as well as many SpongeBob Squarepants TV episodes as well as the 2004 film adaptation. The Little Prince is a story of the extraordinary where a city girl learns to let loose and live her own life instead of fretting about the future at such a young age.
The thing with The Little Prince is that I don’t believe it exactly hit all members of the audience as equally as, say Inside Out did last year. This film definitely did not feel like it was a hit with the younger members of the audience, as it did not seem they were entirely engaged with the film. However, that could just have been me being totally engaged in the film and not really noticing whether or not the kids were enjoying the film or not. What I can tell, though, is that the crowd at the screening, comprising of mostly kids were rather quiet, which could be interpreted as a positive, as they were not getting restless of the film.
The film itself follows the story of a little girl (voiced by Mackenzie Foy) who has been brought up by her very diligent mother (Rachel McAdams) in preparation for the girl’s future as an adult. The small family moves out to the suburbs and closer to a school that the mother has wanted her child to go for a very long time. To achieve this, she sets a very strict schedule that the girl must follow during the summer in preparation for the beginning of her term. To those that have seen Anomalisa, there are striking similarities between the two in terms of how the main characters feel a sense of mundanity in their life, for two very different reasons of course. The girl, however, becomes acquainted with her neighbour, simply known as The Aviator (Jeff Bridges) who introduces the girl to all the wonders that the world can throw towards a young mind with a brain full of imagination. He introduces her to the story of The Little Prince and her adventure begins with The Aviator in search of the Little Prince and the reinvigoration of the imagination of both the girl, but possibly, more importantly, The Aviator. As wonderful as all these characters are, one gripe with the film that I had was the interaction between the Aviator and the girl. It seemed like a very odd pairing to start and some of their interactions seem to feel as though they would not be plausible in real life. However, as this is not real life, but an animation about imagination, I can let my imagination run that the premise would work, and in the context, it absolutely does work.
The film is based on the 1943 classic of the same title, so there is no need to recount the actual story of The Little Prince, but what can be said is that there are a lot of themes that are brought up in the story of the Little Prince which coincide with the feelings of The Aviator. This story has always been seen as being unfilmable, but by adding the story of the girl living a mundane life with her mother, it has added an element of reality which allows the audience to connect with the story. The actual story of The Little Prince is quite convoluted and can become quite a complex adventure for kids to enjoy. So the premise of a girl finding her imagination actually is quite plausible for the kids and what they may experience, but also, for adults, who may have gone through similar experiences. I don’t want to get into too much detail about the actual story since it should be experienced on the screen by each individual and they should be able to experience the emotions that the film elucidates upon the audience in their own unique way.
What I will get into is the actual animation and the beautiful soundtrack. The way The Little Prince is shot uses normal computer animation for the world where the girl lives and her adventures with The Aviator. However, when she is exposed to the story of The Little Prince in print and we move to the world of the Prince, the animation changes to stop-motion animation, where the characters are actually made out of paper (the medium on which the story is presented to the little girl). What this brings is a dichotomy of realness to both aspects of the story creating two different worlds that the viewer is able to distinguish from one another, not only just for the movie itself, but also to distinguish the themes being presented and how they affect the girl and The Aviator in the “real world”. Apart from the story, one of the last things that people will remember about the film is the beautiful and mesmerizing score composed by the wonderful Hans Zimmer. The music complements the story in a way that makes you wonder about the themes and accentuates the underpinning deepness within said themes. It is a melodious combination of happiness and sorrow using an orchestral score, the way that only Zimmer would be able to utilize to its full potential. There’s always the adage that the final memories and moments of a film are what resonate with the viewer. In The Little Prince, this could not be any truer with a final musical piece playing during the credits that the audience, as they were walking out, were bobbing their heads to or humming along.
Director Mark Osborne and his team deserve a standing ovation for bringing this seemingly unfilmable story to life on the big screen. A story of creative imagination and ultimately being a kid at heart and living your life as though your childhood has never escaped you even after you’ve entered adulthood. The Little Prince deserves its grade of a solid A- (8.5/10).