The 2016 Santa Barbara International Film Festival finally arrived on Friday, Feb. 6. This year’s premiere opened with Paramount Pictures’ adaption of the classic French children’s novel, The Little Prince. Published in 1943 by author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the children’s book is adapted to several languages and it is widely recognized by millions of fans around the world.
The story of The Little Prince follows the adventure of the little boy from a distant planet who meets an elder aviator in the Sahara dessert. Together, the two companions seek out different planets before their final destination on their journey to Earth. However, the animated film directed by Mark Osborne is not a direct adaption of the book. Inspired by the story of the little prince’s world, the 2015 film creates its own plotline by introducing a set of new characters.
Before stepping into famous the role of the aviator, Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges had some hesitations about portraying the beloved character.
“I was concerned because it’s a wonderful book and I thought it wouldn’t be a good idea to just simply animate those classic illustrations,” the 66 year-old actor said. “That it didn’t ring right to me, and he [the director] said ‘no it’s not like that.’”
The director was able to win over the Academy Award winner using a very convincing object: “I notice he’s holding a suitcase, so I asked ‘what’s that suitcase’ then he said ‘well, I have something to show you,’” Bridges said. “He opens the suitcase and it sort of looked the suitcase little prince would have carried with him on his journey and all kind of magical things that let me know that his imagination was in the right spot,” Bridges said.
The film begins with the story of a young girl (voiced by Edward and Bella’s daughter in “Twilight,” Mackenzie Foy) and her mother (Rachel McAdams) as they prepare for the admission process of a strict education. The mother puts her daughter on a disciplined academic schedule for her to excel in school, but the agenda is interrupted when the little girl meets her next-door neighbor, a retired aviator. From then on, the aviator introduces the little girl to his story of a young prince whom he had journeyed with on different planets.
When asked about her favorite part of the book, Mackenzie Foy spoke of the scene where a hat was in fact an elephant inside a snake.
“As soon as I read it, I went around showing all my friends, asking ‘what do you see, what do you see? Is it a hat or a snake around an elephant?’” 15-year-old Foy said. “Before I did a session, I’d read the book, just to get a feel of it, that way, it’s easier to bring a feel to the movie if you know the book.”
Amidst their journey, the aviator and the prince encounter characters on different planets, including a Rose (Marion Cotillard) who becomes the affection of the Little Prince, a Snake (Benicio Del Toro) who is sly and cunning and a Fox (James Franco) who yearns to be tamed. In order for the prince to return to his planet, he must sacrifice himself by being bitten by the snake. Deeply enthralled and upset by the ending of the adventure, the Little Girl sets out to rewrite the story; she decides to find the prince (where he is now an adult working tirelessly away), returns him to his planet and helps him become the young boy he was once again. She eventually finishes the story for the aviator, and together with her mother, the two develop a greater, loving relationship with the help of the story of the Little Prince.
For director Mark Osborne, the film was a family affair (his son Riley voiced The Little Prince).
“I first read it when I was about 20 — my wife gave me her copy of the book,” Osborne said. “We weren’t married at that point, but we were just dating and now we’re married with two kids … the book really became a part of our life together, a part of our relationship.”
As for Riley Osborne, being the voice of the Little Prince was nothing more than a day at work with dad.
“It was kind of like hanging out with my dad. I was planning on helping him out … just being a temp for him,” the young star said. “But I guess I ended up being the little prince.”
The Little Prince opens in theaters nationwide March 18, 2016.