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Netflix’s The Little Prince

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince is a book of philosophy as much as it is a story. Oh, things happen. An Aviator lands in the desert and meets a Little Prince who says he’s from another planet. The Prince tells him about his home planet, his journey among the asteroids, and the assorted characters he’s met; and encourages the Aviator’s imagination, which everyone else has been urging him to grow out of. It works great as a novella. But Netflix’s animated version (2016) wisely adds a frame story, giving it more structure and perhaps making it more accessible for modern viewers.

An unnamed Little Girl (voiced by Mackenzie Foy) is being forced to outgrow imagination faster than most kids — her Mother (Rachel McAdams) has every second of her life planned out. But when they move in next-door to the elderly Aviator (Jeff Bridges), the Little Girl ends up spending more and more time listening to his stories of meeting the Little Prince, which are shown in stop-motion animation as opposed to the computer animation of the rest. (Side note: it’s refreshing that this friendship between an elderly man and a child is treated so innocently; the Mother objects to some of his eccentricities and to his squandering of her daughter’s study time, but that’s all.) When the Aviator’s poor health catches up with him, the Little Girl does some aviating of her own. She travels to a businesslike world inhabited by barely recognizable versions of the Little Prince and other characters from the Aviator’s tales, but — spoiler alert — the world of the Little Prince could never stay boring and businesslike for long.

That’s a lot of newly invented plot. But nevertheless, a major theme from the book comes up again and again: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Grown-up characters in the movie talk a lot about what’s “essential”, about making sure everything and every activity serves a practical purpose. The Little Girl’s happiness comes from seeing that there’s much more to life than practicality.

And that belief is essential to The Little Prince in any format.

This is the first in a series of posts on the recent profusion of children’s book adaptations available to stream on demand; click on the tag adaptations on demand to read more. For more on Saint-Exupéry’s novella and subsequent incarnations, click on the tag The Little Prince.

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Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College.

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