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Monday, January 12, 2015

The Little Prince review: Book vs Movie

You know when I do these reviews, I try and look for the worst in the movie adaptations. Of the adaptations that I have reviewed, I have found the truly terrible to the surprisingly good. As an avid bibliophile, I love books, so much so that sometimes I prefer them over the movie or television adaptations that have come out.  But, I have also be proven wrong.

Doing these reviews I have learned a lot about storytelling, of how stories are told in movies, and thus how they are transposed into the visual medium. It has opened my eyes to the possibilities within stories. I can see when a movie fails at storytelling by telling, not showing. There is a greater appreciation for stories by view a story in print form, movie, TV show, musical, comic book, etc. Little Prince is no different. In fact, I can see how both the the book and the movie brings a different perspective to the people.

The Little Prince was a cartoon that used to watch when I was younger about a little boy (who was a prince) on a little asteroid B-615. I remember watching the cartoon on one of the Canadian stations in the late eighties.  I was not aware of the term anime and didn't know that The Little Prince was a book until I was older. IT was a simple pleasure. It was one of those things I watched and it filled me with a greater happiness. I wasn't always able to catch it, but when I did the Little Prince on a planet just big enough for him, 3 volcanoes, a small house (only in the cartoon version), and a rose.

The cartoon was created for Japanese channel, TV ASAHI in the late 70's, 1978 to 1979 and then aired in Canada and United States in the mid to late 80's. But it has also been a theatrical production, radio broadcasts, cartoon, movie, pop-up books, opera, and ballet. Quite a diverse collection of adaptations that a children's novella written by an exiled French aristocrat and pilot.

Did you know that Little Prince has been translated into 250 languages, including Braille? Impressive!


It has been a good ten years before I read the book that the cartoon was based (loosely) on. Now that I look at the story by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, I am left wondering what is the back story. The opening begins with the narrator alone in the Sahara desert after his plane has crashed. It is there that he meets the Little Prince, who wanders out of the desert asking that the narrator draw him a sheep. He learns about the Little Prince's home and the Rose he loves, but doesn't always appear to return his love. So, the Little Prince feels the need to leave and go out into the universe to learn.

It's a touching story of trying to find your way in the world, being lost because you don't understand any of it (because clearly adults are stupid), and realizing that what you knew as a child is just as important as what you know as an adult (maybe more). The book is pretty special, even though it was a sad and thoughtful story.

But, I cannot hate the movie adaptation of The Little Prince, it was made in 1974. It was a musical with cheesy songs (written by Learner and Loewe and the Snake Dance number choreographed by Bob Fosse), that told the story. I mean the songs were pretty silly, one is about  the drawing of a hat/boa constrictor that swallowed an elephant and what people think it is that is simply called, "I Need Air (It's a Hat)". To be fair, the singing voices of the all of the actors in the movie were spot on and in tune; and Gene Wilder is a born song and dance man, not just with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I totally have even more respect for him after watching this movie.

Also there is Bob Fosse, the master of modern dance and choreographer as the Snake; and Richard Kiley, who has performed as Don Quixote in Man of LaMancha and Caliph in Kismet, as the pilot/narrator. These are two super talented and maybe oddly placed performers, yet, Fosse is a snake personified and Kiley is very believable as a rejected artist, turned pilot narrator.

It is true that as I watched the 88 minute musical, I found that while I groaned at the songs, they truthfully told a story. A good story even. Maybe it was a bit repetitive to my adult mind, with the songs, but I could watch this all the way through and even watch it multiple times. The book is a poignant story about being made to be an adult and coming to terms with the youthfulness of the Little Prince, but also learning that you are responsible for the things you love and tame. The movie made the characters even more vivid.

I won't lie, I was crushed that they didn't include the Lamplighter planet, shifted the Snake and Fox's order in the story, and made the end a clear cut 'ending'. That is NOT a spoiler! But the movie/musical does include de Saint-Exupery's original drawings and much of the original Narrator's dialogue. That was a nice touch. Another down side, the snake used in the movie is a boa constrictor and NOT POISONOUS, while the snake referenced was a poisonous snake. Okay, that was probably due to logistics and safety. But really?

Did you know de Saint-Exupery was a pilot and ended up in exile in America, beginning in 1940 after France's defeat? He wrote The Little Prince in 1942 and combined his experience as a pilot and his time in the Sahara Desert and echoed his loneliness that his exile caused.

Both mediums have done a decent job representing the story of de Saint-Exupery. While the cartoon is only loosely based on the story, it also gives you an the innocence and the simplicity that is the Little Prince. I recommend give the movie a watch, it's cheesy and the songs are over the top, but it's awfully close to the original story. And it's good! The acting is actually good and the singing is excellent. But, I also suggest that everyone (who likes to read) should read The Little Prince anyway.


  1. I could not have said any of this any better. I did not know of the anime until I was well in adulthood, but the movie itself was, and has been, one of my three favorite childhood movies. And the was the very first book I bought for my children before they were reality. Even my youngest's name was picked because it meant 'little king'-the closest I could come to 'the little prince". :-)
    Well done review!
    Well done review!

  2. I liked the following article! Frankly speaking, I can't wait to read this book, and afterwards to watch a movie... Read this blog entry, and see what other people think!


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