'Little Prince'-inspired animation soars into Cannes

22nd May 2015, Comments 0 comments

A new animated film based on the best-selling French book "The Little Prince" was to premiere in Cannes on Friday, adding a touch of childhood magic to the red carpet of the movie festival.

The $63-million (57-million-euro) cartoon is the most expensive France has made, and its choice of a US director, Mark Osborne, who made "Kung Fu Panda", aims it squarely at the family market dominated by Pixar and DreamWorks.

Jeff Bridges, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, James Franco and Benicio Del Toro head the English-language voice cast.

The film is not a faithful adaptation of the book, which mixes swipes at selfish adults with accessible philosophising through the account of a stranded aviator conversing with a space-travelling boy-prince.

Rather it takes scenes and characters from the book and weaves them into a modern-day story that stresses the importance of imagination in a regimented world.

The main character is a studious young girl being brought up by her super-efficient single mother.

The child befriends a kooky next-door neighbour who spends his time star-gazing, trying to fix a tatty old airplane -- and writing the tale that becomes "The Little Prince".

As the little girl reads the neighbour's story, she changes, learning to trust in childhood flights of fancy and whimsy.

"I thought this was a beautiful way to present the story in a different way," Osborne told a news conference ahead of the premiere.

"The aviator becomes an embodiment of the Little Prince -- he's a very old man but he has all the wisdom of the Little Prince."

Making the nine-year-old girl a small adult who has to rediscover her inner child helped drive the story along while capturing one of the themes of the book, he said.

- 'Tough to adapt' book -

The original book, by writer-aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery, is "tough to adapt," said Dimitri Rassam, one of the French co-producers who secured the rights for the movie.

"It is intimate and fragile, and Mark Osborne's genius was to insert the book into a larger story," he said.

The fact that a US director helmed it, and that the modern settings look more like America than France did not distract from the essence of the story, he said.

"It's really a universal work," Rassam said, adding that he had "cried each time" he saw the movie.

Around 250 people worked to make the picture, which relies on two animation techniques: the smooth, computer-generated 3D images familiar from Hollywood cartoons and stop-motion sequences for scenes taken from the book.

The movie, which is not in the race for Cannes's Palme d'Or prize, won warm applause at its press screening ahead of the premiere.

It is to get its wide French release in late July, and is to move on to other countries in the months following.

© 2015 AFP

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