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Western Animation / The Little Prince (2015)

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"Growing up is not the problem, forgetting is."
The Aviator

The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) is a 2015 film adaptation of the children's book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery directed by Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda).

Not an entirely straight adaptation, this movie adds a Framing Device where The Aviator, presumably the Narrator of the original story, presents his encounters with The Little Prince to a girl who just moved in next-door.

The movie premiered in May 2015 at the Cannes Film Festival, followed by a July theatrical release in France. It was planned for a United States release in March 2016, but it was canceled by Paramount just a week before its scheduled release date, with distribution given to Netflix instead. The film was released on Netflix on August 5th, 2016. Netflix's license to the film eventually expired in May 2021 and the film has since become available on other services.

Promos: French trailer, international trailer, Netflix trailer.

This movie adaptation contains the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The movie adds a Framing Device, and also the whole third act of the movie, which acts as a sort of sequel to the events of the book.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the original book, the Businessman and Conceited Man merely demonstrate the foolishness of creatively lacking adults (one claiming ownership of what he has no use for, the other asking for unearned praise from others). In the film, they have forced their idea of adulthood onto the now adult Little Prince, and actively try doing the same to the Little Girl.
  • Adapted Out: The Drunkard, Lamplighter and Geographer are all reduced to small cameos as illustrations in the Aviator's story. The Little Prince and the Girl pass by their planets later, and Mr. Prince even comments on them, but the inhabitants are absent.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: Yumi Matsutoya wrote the theme song for the Japanese release, titled "Kidzukazu Sugita Hatsukoi."
  • An Aesop: The Aviator states the story's moral outright: "Growing up is not the problem, forgetting is."
  • Agony of the Feet: The Little Girl stomps on the foot of the Conceited Man during the climax to escape from him. The Toy Fox also stomps on the foot of one of the Businessman's cronies, but as he is a stuffed toy, it doesn't do any damage.
  • Arboreal Abode: The Aviator's home is a mundane version of this. The huge tree in his front yard has grown to the point that it is wrapped around the house and branches are growing inside it.
  • Arc Word: "Essential." It is seen on the posters before the Werth Academy interview ("When I grow up, I want to be essential"), and the same idea is vocalized on the Businessman's planet. In that context, it is taken to mean fitting the mold of adulthood and placing importance on what is considered valuable (but is ultimately superficial). However, when the Fox tells the Little Prince his secret, he explains that "What is essential is invisible to the eye," turning the other uses of the word on their head to instead say that it is what's intangible that is ultimately most important.
  • Art Shift: The movie is mostly animated in CGI, while the narrated portion of the story is done in Stop Motion Animation with paper puppets.
  • Bittersweet Ending: More sweet than bitter; The Prince returns to his planet to learn his Rose has died, but accepts that she will always be an essential part of him. Meanwhile, the Girl gets into Werth Academy and manages to live a happy, less meticulous life with her mother, and although it's implied that the Aviator has passed away in the end, it wasn't before spending a little more time with the Girl.
  • Book Ends: Like the book, the movie begins with the Aviator recalling when he attempted to draw a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant, only for adults to mistake it for a hat. During the mid-credits scene, the Girl apparently begins a lecture presentation about the Little Prince's story by re-creating this drawing for her classmates, and explaining that it isn't really a hat.
  • Canon Foreigner: The new Framing Device brings several new characters with it, such as the Little Girl (who is the protagonist), her Mother, and the Academy Teacher.
  • Character Tics: The Conceited Man instinctively stops what he's doing to tip his hat whenever someone claps for him. When a crowd applauds him for catching the Little Girl on the Businessman's planet, he finds himself forced to let her go to bow to them.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The movie is full of these.
    • The plush fox that the Aviator gives to the Little Girl. It comes to life to help the Girl on her quest.
    • The Aviator's plane, though very crumbly and presumably unable to fly, does have a functioning parachute.
  • Child Prodigy: The Little Girl is very well read and loquacious, and she practices mathematics far beyond what might be typically expected of a child her age, likely the result of her Mother molding her into a miniature adult.
  • Children Are Innocent: Even as the Little Girl is being conditioned to act like an adult in a child's body, she still has a healthy imagination and connects to the childlike wonder of the Little Prince, and she grows to view other adults such as her Mother as "very odd," much like those the Prince meets.
    • It's also very telling that, while the Little Girl is incredibly smart and self-sufficient, she doesn't really understand concepts like death. When the Aviator tries to soften the blow of telling her he might die soon by telling her he "might leave soon," she thinks he means a trip, and plans to accompany him, and seems very upset when she's told he has to go alone. Such scenes are used to highlight that, for all the ways her mother has tried to mature her, the Little Girl hasn't been taught the essentials of maturity — one of which is dealing with death.
  • City Planet: The planet the Little Girl travels to is made of nothing but skyscrapers.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • The Rose withers and dies some time after the Prince leaves her in the film, while her fate in the original book is left up to the reader's interpretation.
    • The Aviator dies of old age after he finishes telling his story, while the book gave no indication of how old the guy was.
  • Demoted to Extra: The Little Prince plays a secondary role in the movie, with the Little Girl being the main character instead.
  • Disappeared Dad: The Little Girl's father is nowhere to be found. He is only referenced briefly, when his daughter compares her mother to him in an argument. She claims that he was always busy with work, and she saw him less and less until he vanished for good.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Mr. Prince says this after he traps the Academy Teacher into the machine, having distracted him so The Fox toy can help free The Little Girl so that they could distract the teacher before Mr. Prince could trap the Academy Teacher in the machine.
  • Drives Like Crazy: The Aviator had his driver's license revoked after four accounts of reckless driving (he drove off from the gas station with the pump still attached). The Conceited Man also knocks over several street lights in his police car.
  • Epiphany Therapy: It's implied that the whole third act is the Little Girl's dream of how The Little Prince ends, which helps her come to grips with the Aviator's inevitable death.
  • Foreshadowing: A lot. Almost any significant scene or part of the plot is hinted at or symbolized earlier.
    • The skyscraper snowglobes the Little Girl receives from her Disappeared Dad. They look just like the buildings that cover the Businessman's new planet. Their shape is also similar to the massive one mentioned below.
    • The vacuum case full of paper stars. It's identical to the glass case where the Businessman hoards the stolen stars to power his city.
    • Late in the movie, on the Businessman's planet, various "unessential" objects are turned into paper clips, so that they become "essentials." Indeed, they help the Little Girl and Mr. Prince escape twice.
    • The Conceited Man instantly becomes flattered and takes off his hat whenever somebody claps for him. The Little Girl uses this knowledge to escape from him once she arrests him.
    • The Aviator hangs a little spring-powered plane to a hook in his living room, and releases the propeller to make the plane spin in circles. The same scene happens on a larger scale when the Little Girl and the Prince spin in circles in the full-scale plane, suspended to a crane, around the Globe containing the Stars.
  • Framing Device: The bulk of the film follows a young girl's friendship with The Narrator of the original book, which is trimmed down and interwoven as stories he tells her throughout the film.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Despite not having one for the majority of the movie, the main antagonist of the third act is revealed to be The Businessman, who was a minor character in a book full of them.
  • Genre Shift: The last act of the film shifts from a coming-of-age story to a fantasy adventure where the Girl tries to save the now adolescent Prince from a planet ruled by grown-ups. Justified in that it could quite possibly be a dream.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Played with. Every adult besides the Aviator is depicted as a narrow-minded, work-obsessed loon. But as the Aviator discusses with the Little Girl, growing up isn't the problem; forgetting your childhood and creativity is.
  • Hartman Hips: The Mother has these.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Shortly before he gets sent to the hospital, the Aviator noticeably becomes more frail and comes down with a terrible cough.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: An old Aviator strikes up an unlikely friendship with an 8-year-old girl.
  • Ironic Echo: The Little Prince calls the adults he encounters on his journey "very odd". He later says the same to the Girl, a child, after he has become an adult. If you listen to Mr. Prince's dialogue carefully, he even says "I'm very busy with matters of consequence" and "You ask too many questions" to her at one point.
  • It's All About Me: The Conceited Man is so self-absorbed, he bows to any sound of applause, even when it isn't directed at him.
  • Jerkass Realization: The Rose genuinely loves the Prince, but doesn't realize how much she torments him with her vanity until it drives him away. The same can be said for the Mother, who tries controlling every aspect of her daughter's life and disapproves of her friendship with the Aviator until she sees how much the Girl cares for him.
  • Karma Houdini: The Businessman receives no punishment for his actions; the last we see him, he looks up and the freed stars and laments that it'll be very bad for business.
  • Lean and Mean: The Academy Teacher is very tall and very slim.
  • Mama Bear: After the Aviator and the Girl get into a car accident, the Mother is furious and goes to tell some harsh words with the former for placing the latter in danger and with the latter for lying to her and skipping lessons.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Gender and age-flipped: the old and eccentric Aviator is the one to convince the school-focused Little Girl to act her age.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Aviatior claims the events of the book are real, but we never see any evidence that proves or disproves them, and the subtle evidence we see might just be a part of the Girl's imagination. In an interesting play on the trope, it's not even clear if the Girl accepts them as literal truth or just accepts the truth of their meaning.
  • Meaningful Echo: "You're going to make a wonderful grownup." First said by the Mother to the Girl in the Werth Academy sense of the phrase, and later said by the Aviator to mean that the Girl will remember the important parts of her childhood.
  • Nameless Narrative: Like the book, none of the characters have any known names and are Only Known by Their Nickname. This even applies to Mr. Prince, which is just the name the Little Prince is given after he grows up.
  • Never Say "Die": The Aviator only says that someday he'll have to leave like the Little Prince left, though the way the Girl reacts to his story's ending suggests she understands his meaning.
  • No Name Given: No one's birth name is mentioned.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: The fantasy portion of the film takes place after the Little Girl falls into the Aviator's bushes in the night, but the movie never makes it clear if it's part of a dream or not.
  • Parents as People: It's apparent from the beginning of the film that the Mother is not an ideal parent. She's an emotionally stunted Control Freak who goes so far as to plan every minute of her daughter's life, and pushes the Little Girl's chance for friendship to the next year for the sake of said plan. However, her "all alone" comment during the introduction of the Life Plan implies that she had a tough time in the adult world, and wants to prevent her daughter from suffering the same fate. She genuinely loves and wants what's best for her child, but went about it in the worst way possible.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: After already being forbidden from meeting the Aviator by her mother, the Girl all but renounces her friendship with the Aviator when his story reaches an apparent Downer Ending, feeling it was a waste of time she could've spent studying. Then the Aviator falls (possibly deathly) ill and the Girl, feeling awful about it, decides the best way to make it up to him is to find the Little Prince.
  • Rage Against the Mentor: The Aviator tries to explain the meaning behind his story's supposed Downer Ending note  to the Little Girl, but she's so distressed that she writes off the whole story as a waste of time.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Played with. The Aviator sees the Snake as evil when it tries to bite the Little Prince, but the Prince says that it's the only way he can return to his planet.
  • Sadist Teacher: The Academy Teacher not only puts children through rigorous evaluations, but also switches out the final question they prepared for, which not only drives the Girl to have a panic attack, but the answer turns out to have been given on waiting room posters. He's much more frightening on the Businessman's planet, where he essentially tries to brainwash her into acting like an adult like the Little Prince.
  • Silent Partner: The Fox toy that accompanies the Little Girl to find the Little Prince never says a word.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: The adults that the Little Prince meets on his journey:
    • The King claims that he has control over anything, but only when "conditions are favorable" (for instance, he says he can only make the sun set exactly when it is time for the sun to set). He ends up becoming a lowly elevator operator who thinks his patrons are his subjects.
    • The Conceited Man demands praise for being the most important man on his planet, even though he is the only man on his planet.
    • The Businessman is a blowhard who counts the stars because he supposedly owns them. He takes this ownership to the next level by actually stealing them from the sky so he can power his business.
  • So Proud of You: Said by the Aviator to Little Girl "You're going to make a wonderful grown-up."
  • Star Power: The Businessman quite literally collects stars so he can provide energy to his business so his workers never sleep.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: The Mother looks like an older version of The Girl.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The English trailer gives away parts of the Genre Shift that occurs late in the movie.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: The Aviator heavily implies that he is going to die very soon when he says he has to "leave" and can't take the Girl with him, much like the Little Prince had to leave for his planet.