Animated Movies, Indie-mation, Reviews

Indie-Mation Club Week 4: ‘The Little Prince’ Review

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The Little Prince is a hard movie for me to review. I love a lot of it so much; it is a magical and imaginative journey of self-discovery, the stop motion sections are beautifully animated, and the CGI sections look charming and feature far better CGI than many other non-‘big studio’ features. I really liked the characters, I felt for the little girl, I empathized with her mother, and I loved the old man.

However, as much as I enjoyed all these aspects of the film, at a certain point in the film, the entire thing just feels like it goes completely off the rails. Toward the end of the movie, the plot changes direction and becomes something that I honestly never expected. It feels completely foreign to what came before, and it takes far too long to get back to the plot I cared about. Yet, this is definitely my own opinion, and there will definitely be people that will not have the same issues as I did.

Let’s start at the beginning, where we are introduced to the protagonist of the film, a little girl who is being raised by an overprotective single mother. Neither of these characters are given names, and I actually don’t remember anyone in the movie being given a proper name. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing; honestly it took me over half the film to realize that I didn’t know anyone’s names.

The mother has scheduled the little girl’s days to the point where she has literally no freedom, as she is dead-set on getting her daughter into a prestigious academy. Unlike most stories with a similar plot-line, you are not led to believe that this mother is being a horrible controlling monster and that the little girl is an innocent helpless waif who needs to be rescued from her unfortunate plight. You get the sense that this mother and daughter really love each other, and they are trying their best to make their lives work, despite whatever happened to them in the past.

Their past is another plot-point, or rather, non-plot-point, that I appreciated. We are never told what happened in their past, we don’t know where this girl’s father is, and I don’t think we really need to know. It wasn’t relevant to this story, and I am glad they didn’t make it a big important part of the story. It just felt more real to have it be this mostly unspoken thing between the girl and her mother.

The girl and her mother move to a new home in order to be closer to the school that they are trying to enroll her in. Soon after they arrive, the girl meets their neighbor, an eccentric old man with an old airplane. He gives her a toy fox that he’s made himself and tells her stories about a little prince who lived on an asteroid.

He tells her that when he was younger, he was an aviator, and on one of his journeys, he met the Little Prince who had travelled to earth via a flock of birds. He tells her about the prince’s planet, and the prince’s journeys around the universe, visiting a random selection of strange planets, which were home to a strange variety of people.

These stories of the Little Prince are, hands down, the best parts of the movie. They are all done in beautifully designed stop-motion animation. The character designs are charming and unique, and the stories are beautiful parables about the human condition. As much as I did like the girl and the old man, I feel like this movie could have been an absolute masterpiece if it had only focused on the Little Prince. If it had only been a stop-motion fantasy film, instead of going back and forth between the stop-motion fantasy and CGI ‘real world,’ I could easily see this being one of my favorite animated films of all time.

Eventually the old man comes to the end of the story, which does not end the way the little girl wants it to, and she storms out of his house, and leaves him for the rest of the summer. One evening, as the little girl and her mother are coming home, they see that the old man is being taken away in an ambulance. In desperation, the little girl sneaks out of the house in the middle of the night, and takes the old man’s airplane, believing that she needs to find the Little Prince for the old man.

And here is where the entire film jumps the shark. As she climbs into the plane, the little toy fox that the old man had given her comes to life. She successfully starts the plane and uses it to fly to another planet, a city planet where everyone works in uniform offices and are completely miserable. In addition to the downtrodden office workers, everyone from the random planets in the stories about the Little Prince now live there too.

Eventually she finds the Little Prince on this planet too, except he’s now an adult, going by the name, Mr. Prince. He is oppressed by the businessmen who run the planet, and are collecting the stars to fuel the city. She convinces him to rebel, and the two of them flee the planet after setting all the stars free. She flies the Little Prince back to his home planet, before returning to earth.

Honestly, this whole section of the film is entertaining, and I actually love the little fox after he comes to life. The animation is great, the designs are great, and I love the music through the whole thing. However, narratively, it doesn’t make sense. Up until that point, I had believed that everything that happened in stop-motion was a fictional story. It sounded like a parable, everyone spoke like they were conveying deeper meanings, and there was just an overall feeling of depth and magic that the rest of the movie, the ‘real world’ was lacking.

Before that point, everything in CGI had been used to convey a sense of reality. Everything that was CGI seemed to be happening in the ‘real world.’ There was no indication that the Little Prince was a part of this ‘real world,’ or that there were all these fantastical planets out there that you could visit by catching a passing flock of birds.

The world of the little girl was seemingly grounded in reality, so when the stuffed fox came to life and she used a dilapidated airplane to fly across the universe, it just seemed to come out of nowhere. Had the little girl woken up the next morning, and the entire journey been a dream, I would have absolutely zero issues with it. Like I said, I enjoyed most of that entire section of the movie, however the fact that it was supposed to have happened in this ‘real world’ just did not make any sense, and kind of ruined it for me.

After the girl returns to earth, she and her mother go to visit the old man in the hospital. She presents him with a book she made out of all his drawings, and he tells her that she is going to make a wonderful grownup someday. Presumably the old man dies, and the girl and her mother become closer than they were before.

I loved most of this movie. It had wonderful music, great animation, beautiful stop-motion, and great characters. There was so much to love about this movie that I was very disappointed to ultimately leave with mixed feelings. The last third of the movie just came out of left field so hard that I was completely blindsided with how ridiculous it felt to the story that we’d been in before. I think if it had been entirely clear that this girl lived in a fantasy world from the very beginning, and that the story of the Little Prince was actual history that really happened in her world, I don’t think I would have had a problem with where the story ended up going.

Not everyone is going to feel the same way I feel though. I watched this movie with two of my cousins and, while one of them completely agreed with me, the other was completely fine with everything and couldn’t believe we were being that critical of it. She was totally willing to suspend disbelief and just accept everything that the story gave us. As long as you are willing to suspend that disbelief too, it’s very possible that you’re going to love this film from beginning to end.

In the end, I will still recommend this movie to pretty much everyone. There is so much about it that is wonderful, even if I personally didn’t like the direction the story ends up taking. Even if you take issue with parts of it the way I did, I still think you’ll find something to love about this film. It’s definitely not perfect, but it is magical.

To listen to the Animation Addicts podcast on ‘The Little Prince’ click here.

What about you? What are your thoughts about The Little Prince?

Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden

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About Jonathan North

Jonathan North is writer, photographer, video editor, and animation fan from Iowa. He studied advertising and design at Iowa State University, and also has degrees in multimedia and art. His favorite movie is Fantasia, and his favorite cartoon is Gravity Falls. Or maybe Steven Universe. He can’t decide. You can find more of his work on his blog, as well as his YouTube channel, where he reviews all manner things, including (almost) every version ever of Alice in Wonderland. His favorites are the 1999 version starring Tina Majorino, and of course, the 1951 Disney version. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, @jonjnorth.