Published: May, 2015
Rediscover one of the most beloved stories of all time. From Mark Osborne, Academy Award® nominated director of Kung Fu Panda, comes the first-ever animated feature film adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s iconic masterpiece, The Little Prince
At the heart of it all is The Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy), who’s being prepared by her mother (Rachel McAdams) for the very grown-up world in which they live – only to be interrupted by her eccentric, kind-hearted neighbor, The Aviator (Jeff Bridges). The Aviator introduces his new friend to an extraordinary world where anything is possible. A world that he himself was initiated into long ago by The Little Prince (newcomer Riley Osborne). It’s here that The Little Girl’s magical and emotional journey into the universe of The Little Prince begins. And it’s where The Little Girl rediscovers her childhood and learns that ultimately, it’s human connections that matter most, and that it is only with heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
A beautifully crafted animated film, inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved 1942 masterpiece, THE LITTLE PRINCE will be released in theatres around the world in 2015. One of the biggest animated movies to launch from Europe this year, this innovative project is directed and produced by Mark Osborne, who codirected DreamWorks’ Oscar-nominated movie “Kung Fu Panda”. The movie is produced by Aton Soumache, Dimitri Rassam and Alexis Vonarb, co-founders of On Animation Studios.
An international team of extremely talented animated feature film professionals was drawn to both Paris and Montreal to create the film, which features a stellar voice cast of international actors, including Jeff Bridges (The Aviator), Rachel McAdams (The Mother), Marion Cotillard (The Rose), James Franco (The Fox), Albert Brooks (The Businessman), Mackenzie Foy (The Little Girl), Benicio Del Toro (The Snake), Ricky Gervais (The Conceited Man), Paul Giamatti (The Teacher), Bud Cort (The King) and Riley Osborne (The Little Prince).
THE LITTLE PRINCE is a loving tribute inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s hugely popular and beloved 1942 novella, which has been translated into more than 250 languages and has sold over 145 million copies worldwide. The film centres on the friendship between an eccentric old Aviator (Jeff Bridges) and the very grown-up young girl who moves in to the house next door with her extremely grown-up Mother (Rachel McAdams). Through the pages of the Aviator’s book and his drawings, the Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy) learns the story of how he long ago crashed in a desert and met the Little Prince (Riley Osborne), an enigmatic boy from a distant planet. The Aviator’s experiences and the tale of the Little Prince’s travels to other worlds bring the Little Girl and the Aviator closer as they embark on a remarkable adventure together.
The screenplay for THE LITTLE PRINCE was written by Irena Brignull (“The Boxtrolls”) and Bob Persichetti based on a story conceived by Mark Osborne. The world of the Little Girl and her Mother are rendered in the very “grown-up” style of CG animation, used cleverly as a framing device for the classic story of The Little Prince, which comes to life in a very “childlike” technique of stop-motion animation, representing the eyes and imagination of the Little Girl. The film’s music is composed by Hans Zimmer. Paramount Pictures France will release THE LITTLE PRINCE in France on July 29, 2015. Paramount will also distribute the film in the United States. Warner Brothers will distribute in Germany and Japan. Entertainment One will release in Canada. Wild Bunch oversees film sales.
The Challenges of Adapting a Classic
The long, rewarding journey to adapt Saint-Exupéry’s classic work into a modern animated film began over eight years ago when French producers Aton Soumache, Dimitri Rassam and Alexis Vonard got the go-ahead from Olivier d’Agay, president of the Saint-Exupéry Estate, to develop a theatrical feature based on the property.
“We felt an enormous responsibility to do justice to this timeless novel, which is loved by so many people around the world,” says Soumache. “Anyone who reads the book has their own personal impression of the Little Prince and his world, so it’s not possible to do a straight-forward adaptation. I remember my father reading the book to me even before I went to school, and many people have a very strong personal connection to this work. So it was very important for us to find a director who could imagine a new way of approaching this book.”
Producer Dimitri Rassam points out, “Since the book is so well known and loved all over the world, we felt that we needed to find a director who would be very respectful of the property, but would be able to deliver an entertaining, bold vision as well. It was important that the creative team would be respectful of the book’s fundamentals but didn’t feel shackled by it.”
Both Soumache and Rassam believe that they struck gold when American director Mark Osborne agreed to helm the movie. “At first Mark didn’t want to even think about it because it was too important a work, but we knew he could do a great job,” says Soumache. “He had already directed DreamWorks’ “Kung Fu Panda” which featured two very crucial Chinese cultural elements—Kung Fu and the panda—and that movie was unanimously loved and praised in China. He had found a way to take that subject very seriously. When he agreed to think about The Little Prince, he went away and thought very hard about it. Six months later, he came back with a pitch that blew us all away.”
Osborne had created a new story around the original material, which allowed everyone to revisit The Little Prince through the eyes of the Little Girl next door. “We were very lucky to have Mark, who is a talented director with such a clear vision lead the way,” says Soumache. “The fact that we are able to tell the story of the Prince using stop-motion animation adds another wonderful layer to the film. We see the familiar illustrations by Saint-Exupéry come to life in a real, tangible way.”
“Towards the beginning of the movie, when the Little Girl discovers the Aviator’s book for the first time, we see this stop-motion world through her eyes, and it’s a very emotional moment,” notes Soumache. “You really get a strong connection between the CG-animated world of the Little Girl and the stop-motion universe of the Little Prince. It pays a wonderful tribute to the book.”
“First and foremost, Mark wanted to make a great movie, but the book and its message were both very close to his heart,” says Rassam. “I’ve seen the movie many times now, and it makes me cry every time. As a father of a three-year-old daughter, it really resonates with me, just as it did when my parents read the book to me when I was young. THE LITTLE PRINCE unites the family around a great story. I believe that is the heart of our movie.”
The Director’s Perfect
Pitch Mark Osborne recalls the day he first heard about the project from his agent. “Back in 2009, my agent asked me if I knew of the book, because two French producers wanted to make a big animated movie based on it,” he remembers. “I knew the book very well and that’s why my first instinct was to say no. I believed that there was no way you could do a straight adaptation. But I thought about it more and I realized that the material was just too good to say no to. It was the chance of a lifetime to build a story from this starting point; the themes of the book are so rich and resonate so much. Additionally, the opportunity to protect the book with the movie was something I couldn’t pass up. When I suggested we build a story around the book, to protect it instead of expand it, I was elated that this was agreeable to the estate.”
Osborne reveals that the book deeply affected him on a personal level when it was given to him by his wife years ago back when they were dating. The two were college students at the time and trying to keep their long-distance relationship alive. “The Little Prince brought us back together,” he admits. “I paid very close attention to it. It means so much to me and to everyone who has read the book, because it really connects you to the significant relationships and friendships in your life.”
The director says he approached the movie as a riddle to be solved. “The big question was how can you make a cinematic experience that parallels or equals the very deep emotional experience of reading of the book?” says the director. “I tested the boundaries by pitching my ultimate dream scenario to Dimitri over a lunch, which included the radical idea of mixing CG animation with stop-motion. My big idea was to explore the touching relationship between the eccentric older version of the Aviator and the Little Girl who moves in next door. I felt that ultimately it would need to be the story of the Little Girl learning to say good-bye to her friend, which would deeply parallel the book. It seemed like the right way to approach the very delicate material. But honestly, I never expected that it was all going to come to pass.”
Fortunately, both the author’s estate and the producers loved the director’s passionate pitch. In October of 2010, Osborne put together a small team of artists and writers in Los Angeles to brainstorm and create concept art and the first draft of the screenplay. Then Osborne moved with his family to Paris to begin work on the preproduction of the film. Once there, a team of storyboard artists, look dev artists, character designers and production pipeline experts was assembled to begin the process of making the dream of the movie come true.
The director says that during this time, not only was he pitching to artists and actors, he was also pitching the movie to distributors all over the world using a “magic suitcase” full of hand-made visual aids specifically create to communicate the tone and passion for the project. “Over the last four years I think I have pitched the movie close to 400 times,” he recalls. “An amazingly talented model maker named Joe Schmidt created this suitcase, which held the art book, and told the story of the movie visually, and it was wonderful to see how everyone was amazed by how we found a way to both honour the original book and tell a new story around it to protect it. Everyone involved took a lot of risks to help tell this story, and that has been a hugely fulfilling process for us.”
As it turns out, the journey to bring THE LITTLE PRINCE from the page to the screen also benefited from an unusual production history. The project, which began with Osborne and his small team in Los Angeles, then moved to Paris during the development and storyboard stages. For the final phases of the animation, production and lighting, the team moved to Montreal in order to maximize the tax benefits offered to a French-Canadian project (a co-venture between Onyx Entertainment in Paris and Mikros in Montreal).
“It’s quite different from making a movie at DreamWorks where you use all the in-house talent,” explains Osborne. “We hired everyone from the outside and established our own independent production company and developed our own animation pipeline based on what we needed. It provided us with a great opportunity because we weren’t tied down to any existing structures. On the down side, we were building the tracks while the train was running, so it was quite scary too.”
Osborne’s producing partner Jinko Gotoh (“Finding Nemo”, “Fantasia 2000”, “9”, “The Illusionist”) also believes that Osborne’s approach will resonate with general audiences as much as it will with lifelong fans of the book. “I’m hopeful that this movie will appeal to all movie audiences, not just animation enthusiasts. The book lovers will see that we’ve protected the book. And if you don’t know the book, the film will give you an insight into just how special it is. The mix of CG and stopmotion also adds a dimension to the visual storytelling that we haven’t seen before in an animated movie.”
Attracting All the Right Voices
Thanks to the director’s emotionally engaging pitch and the global popularity of Saint-Exupéry’s book, a perfectly matched group of A-list actors were able to be recruited to lend their voices to the film’s characters. As Osborne explains, “It began with Jeff Bridges. He was our first and only choice to play the Aviator, so after a great deal of time trying to get to him, I finally got the chance to go to his home in Santa Barbara to talk to him directly. He was blown away by the pitch, and it really put us on the road to assembling the perfect cast.”
As Bridges recalls, he was instantly drawn to the role of the Aviator. “Mark gave me this incredible pitch, brought this suitcase with him which showed me what the movie was going to be about,” recalls the actor. “We shared the same concern, which was if you simply just move around these iconic characters like the book, it might not do justice to the work. He had this great other story, which treated the book as almost another character in the movie. It’s a great way to pay tribute to this classic book, so I was excited and thrilled to be part of it.”
Bridges says the part of the Aviator was one that was very close to his heart. “I remember reading the book when I was growing up,” he says. “I can clearly remember the illustrations—especially the one of the hat or the elephant swallowed by the snake. I am not quite as old as the Aviator—I had to age up my voice a little bit, but I related to him very much. The Aviator and the Little Girl have some wonderful times together. I have three little girls myself, so it was easy for me to relate to him.”
In addition to the story and the strong visuals of the book, Bridges says both the original book and the movie have important messages about the importance of staying true to the child within and the powerful force of love and friendship. “There’s that one line from the book that stays with you,” he says. “The Fox says to the Prince, ‘It’s only with the heart that one can see rightly…what is essential is invisible to the eye.’ He’s talking about the heart there, and that is the message of the whole deal!”
The important part of the Little Girl who lives next door to the Aviator is played by the talented young actress, Mackenzie Foy (“Interstellar”, “Ernest and Celestine” “Twilight: Breaking Dawn”). “I had read the book in school a few years ago, and I loved it,” says Foy. “So when I heard about the movie, I immediately wanted to do it. The character I play is very smart, sweet, kind of quirky and incredibly nerdy. She has a lot of pressure from her mother because they just moved to this new neighbourhood, and she is expected to do really well in the new school. She is about nine years old, but she’s very mature for her age. Her friendship with the Aviator teaches her to be her childish self again. She goes looking for The Little Prince so that the Aviator doesn’t have to leave her.”
As young as she is, Foy understands the heart of the story and the values that the movie seeks to celebrate. “I think both the book and the movie really want to teach you that it’s important to enjoy the fun things about being a kid and not to grow up too fast. It also tells you that when you love someone, they will always live inside your heart. Just like the Fox told the Little Prince. The movie really has something great for everyone, whether you are grandparents, or parents or just kids. It has a great message and it also looks wonderful, so I think everyone will enjoy seeing it.”
Osborne says Foy really captures the unjaded quality that the Little Girl’s role demanded. “I knew that I wanted very innocent, sincere voices for the kids in the movie. I think child actors can sometimes try too hard. In the early stages of production, my daughter Maddie and son Riley helped doing the temporary scratch voices for the roles of the Little Girl and the Little Prince. My daughter got older and her voice began to change, so we were very fortunate to find Mackenzie to play the part, but we never found anyone who did a better job than my son Riley for the Prince. He was 11 at the time, and was very natural in the part so we kept him as the Prince!”
Riley Osborne is equally proud of the experience of working with his dad on the movie. “I had also read the book when I was nine, because my dad had mentioned it to me, so I already liked it,” he says. “To be able to work with my father and the rest of my family—my mother did the temporary voice for the Mother and my sister did the temporary tracks for the Girl—in Paris was a wonderful experience. We recorded those scratch voices in a small soundproof closet under the stairs in our place in Paris. Playing the Little Prince was a big treat, because he gets to go on these adventures and find out about all these worlds. One of my favorite scenes is the first time he meets the Aviator and asks him to draw him a sheep. That’s a classic scene from the book, and it’s animated in stop-motion in the movie. I think people are really going to enjoy it.”
To voice the complex role of the Little Girl’s Mother, the filmmakers approached popular actress, Rachel McAdams (“The Notebook”, “About Time”, “Sherlock Holmes”). McAdams says she recalls watching an animated TV series based on The Little Prince when she was a young girl growing up in Canada. “I read the book when I was in my 20s,” she notes. “A friend gave it to me as a present, and when I read the book it meant a lot to me. I think Saint-Exupéry’s book says different things to you at different stages of your life.”
THE LITTLE PRINCE marks the first time McAdams has lent her voice to an animated project. “I was so excited to be part of this movie, and I loved “Kung Fu Panda”, so I knew our director Mark (Osborne) was going to do a wonderful job with the adaptation. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to animation.”
McAdams says it was important for her to get out of her head and really connect with the material. “I play the Little Girl’s Mother, who is a working single mom. She has this massive, intricate life plan for her daughter and wants her to follow the rules to a tee. The Mother is a little high-strung, but she means well. She and her daughter are a real team until the Little Girl drifts away.”
McAdams believes that the film’s emotional intensity and the fact that it pays such close homage to the original book are two of its huge assets. “THE LITTLE PRINCE does a fantastic job of celebrating life’s mysteries. When we grow up, it’s easy to need an answer for every question. Just like the book, the movie pays attention to the importance of enjoying the journey and our relationships, and not necessarily understanding everything. It all circles back to the famous quote from the book, which is ‘What is essential is invisible to the eye’.”
Inspiring New Words and Powerful Images
One of the standout qualities of THE LITTLE PRINCE production is that it attracted both the crème de la crème of the animation industry in Europe as well as many talented veterans of the major animation studios in Los Angeles. The film’s head of story and writer Bob Persichetti has worked on features such as “Tarzan”, “Mulan” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at Disney, and “Shrek 2”, “Monsters vs. Aliens” and “Puss in Boots” at DreamWorks. He remembers the day he got a call from Osborne to join his team in the beginning of 2012. “I remembered Mark from DreamWorks, but we had never worked together on a movie, so I jumped at the chance to help out with the story along with a small team of storyboard artists.”
Persichetti says throughout the story process, they always kept SaintExupéry’s book by their side. “It was our guide whenever we were struggling with any aspects of the story. We would read a passage and were always stunned by the beauty and simplicity of it. The subtle details, the reactions, the lessons of the Fox, the tiny subtle elements were the important ingredients. Sometimes, you can get caught up with hammering away at the plot and the narrative drive, and all we needed to do was refer back to the book to get to the heart of the story, its gentle tone and all the characters.”
Persichetti says the creative meetings he had with Osborne and screenwriter Irena Brignull (“The Boxtrolls”, “I Capture the Castle”) were very useful in defining the major characters and crystalizing what was unique and special about each one of them. “That is the beauty of this process,” he explains. “You have this script and within that script, you have these raw nuggets about each one of the characters, so you refine and polish it, and with each reiteration, you get a clearer picture of every one of them. That’s how the best material rises to the top and you are able to be very efficient with your story as well as creating incredible characters that the audience will enjoy spending time with.”
This devotion to the heart and poetic tone of the book is also something of which Persichetti is quite proud. “It’s been a creatively liberating experience to work on this indie movie,” he notes. “We all have so much love for this movie, and we were given the freedom to represent the book in a true way. I don’t think the same kind of freedom would happen in a big studio, where there are so many hurdles that the book would be lost in the process.”
British screenwriter Irena Brignull echoes Persichetti’s sentiments. “Working with Mark on the screenplay for the movie was a wonderful collaborative process,” she says. “He is a very easy person to talk to and you feel free to bring up different ideas. Even if the idea is terrible, it can lead to a solution. When I met the artists in Los Angeles, we suddenly had so many voices with creative ideas which can be incredibly useful. We had the opportunity to include some of these ideas that we felt were improving the original draft.”
“When I was young, we had a copy of The Little Prince at home, so I remember the images and the drawings of the book quite vividly,” says Brignull, who also worked on the Oscar-winning film “Shakespeare in Love”. “The drawings were our first source of inspiration. Two main ideas of the book also emerged as the most powerful, one’s that what is essential in life is not visible to the eye, and the other is how to be grown-up and keep your childhood intact. We knew it would be a good idea to take one character and show how a book makes this huge impact on one individual child. That was our starting point. Once we began to see the artwork from the artists, it really helped us with our story ideas as well.”
One of the main artists responsible for creating the film’s unique look and production designs is Lou Romano, best known for his work on Pixar’s “The Incredibles” and “Up.” In addition to the source material, he welcomed the opportunity to work with Osborne, his former classmate at Cal Arts, where they had made several short films as students. “I love working with Mark and the story he pitched really interested me,” says Romano. “When I joined the project, there was already a wealth of wonderful design work, so Mark asked me to find a way to bring it all together and still find a way to bring my own ideas to it as well.”
As the film’s production designer, Romano helped establish the look and feel of the movie in terms of design, lighting and colour both in 2D and CG. “We had a solid framework to work with from the beginning, so we had an easier time fleshing out the lighting, the atmosphere and the mood of the movie,” he notes. “It’s been fun working with Mark, because although we worked long distance, I felt very connected, just like we were in school. We have this shorthand with which we communicate, and we’re in synch on a lot of things, especially in terms of design and overall tone.”
Although the story was constantly evolving, Romano says Mark was clear from the start on what the tone of each world needed to be. “The Aviator’s world is a warm and magical place, while the Little Girl’s world is rigid, cold and more about order. For me, it’s always important to design in terms of feeling and the emotions you want to evoke in the audience.”
In addition to the book, Romano says the filmmakers took a page from acclaimed French director Jacques Tati’s movies such as “Play Time” and “Mon Oncle”. “It’s that kind of a satire that is making fun of the adult world,” muses Romano. “He was a very visual storyteller, so you get his ideas very quickly. We also looked at many of the best stop-motion films from the past. You can also see the influence of modern design from the 1950s and ’60s in the real world and the Grown-Up Planet. They echo the same kind of modern streamlining and the simplicity of that aesthetic in contrast to the more textured, whimsical look of the Aviator’s world.”
Production designer Celine Desrumaux (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1”, “Astérix: Le Domaine des Dieux”) believes that the combination of CG and stop-motion allows the movie to offer a great mix of simplicity, beautiful visuals and a certain naïve, childlike charm. “I tried as much as possible to respect the original illustrations of the book,” she says. “Mostly all of the adaptations of The Little Prince have a blue sky and dark blue backgrounds. I wondered, ‘How can I make this different while being respectful to the original look?’ Then I thought of the book, and the first colour which came to my mind was white—Those white pages with all the drawings, the white space with the yellow stars and the watercolour effect on the white background. The white and yellow colours mean a lot to me and all of us on the team, because they represent the drawings of the book, the colour of the paper, the colour of the dunes in the desert, the sun, the stars: It’s everything we wanted — but above all they were our colours and our movie.”
For the film’s acclaimed character designer Peter de Sève, the film provided a great chance to revisit a book he had read as a teenager. “I don’t think I really understood the book back then, but I was deeply moved by it this time around. When I first got the call from Mark (Osborne), I have to say I was a bit intimidated by it, because I was being asked to redesign characters that are already imprinted in the minds of millions of readers all around the world. But Mark’s pitch was so compelling and he was so passionate about it that I knew we could do justice to the original source material.”
De Sève, who is best known for his well-loved character designs for the “Ice Age” movies as well as a string of other big studio animated titles such as Disney’s “Tarzan” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, DreamWorks’ “The Prince of Egypt” and Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life” and “Finding Nemo,” says although the characters are illustrated in the book, they are done in a very simplistic, almost childlike way. “There was a lot to interpret, but the trick was how specific I had to be to capture the essence of Saint-Exupéry’s drawings.”
To conjure up the film’s designs for the titular character of the movie, de Sève created as many options as possible for Osborne to select from. “The hardest character to design is often the lead,” he explains. “In this case, especially, everyone has an idea of who the Little Prince is and what he looks like. I would do 20 to 30 drawings and send them to Mark ahead of our meetings via Skype. He would point to different aspects of the Prince’s face, his proportions, his costume, etc. until we would get close to the ingredients we wanted. I always felt that there’s a little bit of sorrow and world-weariness about the Prince, something that you don’t usually see in an animated movie with a child as its lead. That’s why many of my drawings of him are a little bit melancholy, but at the same time, the Little Prince has a sense of wonder and enchantment about him. He also sees beauty in little things, so I tried to bring those subtleties in to my drawings of him.”
Boose, the film’s animation supervisor says one of the main challenges of the movie was mixing a certain poetic European sensibility with a more traditional narrative storytelling aesthetic. “It’s really an intimate movie,” says Boose, who has worked as an animator on Disney’s “Lilo & Stitch” and Pixar’s “Cars,” “Ratatouille” and “Up.” “This is such an intimate film, and we had to make sure that the relationship between the old Aviator and the Little Girl was believable. To convey their bond and slowly developing friendship on screen was a key challenge.”
Boose also believes that working on a smaller scale than his previous experiences at the studios had a very liberating effect on him. “We had a smaller crew, which resulted in a much more intimate experience. We got to be involved in many different aspects of the movie. The process is the same, but we worked with a ragtag team that felt very passionately about this movie. Mark has been amazing to work with because he directs the animators as if they’re actors. It’s all about being emotionally involved with these characters.
Boose points out that the movie is proof that animated films don’t always have to fit a certain mold. “They don’t have to be formulaic or be spoon-fed entertainment,” he observes. “You can have an animated film that is poetic and meaningful and still have people care about all the characters and the story. We hope we can prove what animation is capable of by transcending the definition of what an animated movie should be.”
Developing the Technical Magic
The film’s 3D character supervisor Hide Yosumi, who was a technical director for features such as Disney’s “Bolt,” Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph” and his team developed a new rigging system from scratch for “The Little Prince.” “We created this robust, flexible rigging system because we were very attentive to design and character in 3D,” he notes. “We never stopped improving the characters all through production. Our goal was to not lose a lot of time each time a director improves the characters, so that they can change the model for the character, and one hour later, they can put it back in the production pipeline.”
According to Yosumi, a key challenge for the CG team was adding that extra dimension to the 2D world first introduced in the book. “We were moving from the 2D world created by Saint-Exupéry to a 3D, CG world. It made everything different. When we created a character in 2D, we also needed a 360-degree view of this character, so we constantly had to check all the different angles and make sure the character was appealing on the big screen. The movie has its own language, but we needed a strong link to the world of the book. We also had to consider the link between the stop-motion sections of the movie and the CG parts as well. It couldn’t be realistic and also not too cartoony, but somewhere in between—a world that would also be believable for audiences who see it for the first time.”
Welcome to a Stop-Motion World
When it came time to find a team to deliver the stop-motion sequences of THE LITTLE PRINCE Osborne decided to call on the talents of Jamie Caliri, best known for the award-winning United Airlines “Dragon” commercial, and the credit sequences for “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” and “The United States of Tara.”
“I love Mark’s work and knew him from school, so when I found out that he wanted to use stop-motion animation for part of the film, I expressed my interest immediately,” says Caliri, who is also the creative director for Dragonframe software, used to shoot broadcast and feature animation around the world. “We were lucky to have Alex Juhasz (“The United States of Tara”, “The Babadook”) who has a great eye and a fantastic illustration style to work on the production concept sketches early on. We created some sculpts based on his illustrations in Ojai, California so I photographed them and sent them to Mark. Our approach was to shoot the material in a conservative and quiet style, because we wanted to focus on the simple beauty of the material.”
Caliri, Juhasz and stop-motion animation director Anthony Scott worked closely with Osborne to construct the world as filtered through the pages of the Aviator’s book. “We decided to use paper as our medium because Mark had constructed this story around the Prince…these pages of loose leaf book that the old Aviator has held on to all these years. It’s an obvious link to the story. So we go from the sequence that is made entirely out of paper in the beginning, then as it becomes more dimensional, we use a combination of paper and clay, which allows watercolour to be applied on top of the faces. We built it all in a theatrical way, but lit the sets in a realistic way.”
Caliri mentions that one of his favorite scenes in the movie happens early on in the project. “In our first sequence, we introduce this paper world through the eyes of the Little Girl,” he points out. “We move from the CG sequence to this paper world in stop-motion as she imagines it. The paper moves into a tunnel of paper that looks like clouds, and then they turn into sand dunes. This was done using simple painted cut paper, laid out on a 3D space, on a table basically.”
Anthony Scott, the film’s stop-motion animation director, also believes that the choice to make the puppets and sets out of paper really made their sequences stand apart. As far as specific challenges were concerned, he mentions the complexity of capturing the character of the Little Prince. “In terms of pure animation, one of my first thoughts had to do with the Prince’s scarf,” he recalls. “In the book, the illustrations usually show the scarf magically suspended in mid-air as if there is a steady wind. I wondered what Mark’s thoughts were about that, and it was decided that we would rate the level of the wind for each sequence. So the wind actually became another character in the film! Once this was decided, the animators had a guide to help them determine how to animate the scarf.”
The time it took to create each minute of stop-motion of the film often depended on the complexity level of each particular shot. “Two characters, walking slowly and talking will take longer to animate than a single character blinking and turning his head,” Scott explains. “So I would say an animator on our project would create an average of 5 to 15 seconds of footage per week depending on the complexity of a specific shot.”
Like most of the cast and crew members of the movie, Scott and his team went back to the book and its evocative illustrations many times to refuel their creative visions. “They were definitely the strongest source of inspiration for me,” he says. “Those illustrations have always been with me since I was a child, haunting me: the Prince tending to his planet, visiting other planets and their odd inhabitants, encountering the Snake in the desert. Bringing these to life in stopmotion really completed something in me.”
Music to Inspire the Inner Child
To create the music for THE LITTLE PRINCE, the filmmakers sought the expertise of Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer, the man behind the awardwinning soundtracks for dramatic films such as “The Dark Knight”, “Gladiator” and “Interstellar” and animated films including “The Lion King” (for which he received the Academy Award®), “Kung Fu Panda”, “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” and “Despicable Me”
The German-born musician says like he fell in love with Saint-Exupéry’s book when he was a young boy. After Osborne pitched his version of the movie to him (using his suitcase of colourful props), Zimmer was instantly moved to tears. “I’m pretty tough—I’m known for my work on “The Dark Knight” and “Inception”—but I found myself crying after Mark explained his idea for the movie. I thought hang on… this isn’t happening to me. It was such a moving story that I just couldn’t resist it.”
Zimmer, who had also worked on Osborne’s “Kung Fu Panda,” says the director and his team were clearly able to do justice to such a well-loved masterpiece. The melodist also reveals that the message of the movie really resonated with him. “Composers never grow up, so I think that’s why I really responded to the subtext of the movie. It reminds us that there’s a different way we can approach life. Mark was able to brilliantly bridge the world of the book with our modern world. The movie really invites you to dream bigger and be open to all the different possibilities that life can offer you.”
Osborne says he was quite amazed at how Zimmer and his collaborators were able to really deliver a perfect marriage between their music and the material. “Hans has this genius idea of bringing a distinctly French quality to the music, so he introduced us to the songs of French singer-songwriter Camille [Dalmais],” he notes. “He also brought in collaborator Richard Harvey, and together they came up with a truly unique sound for the movie. Hans refers to his wonderful, collaborative process as ‘putting a band together,’ and the music they created is both touching and perfect for the project.”
Looking back at the experience, Zimmer says he really enjoyed the collaborative process and the chance to work with so many great musicians, especially Camille Dalmais, who is best known as simply Camille in France. “A lot of the music came together thanks to Mark’s vision and the participation of Camille,” says Zimmer. “One of my favorite parts of the project was working with Camille, who’s truly magical. I was so thankful that I was able to research all her music on YouTube and introduce her to Mark who also embraced her music. She brought so much to THE LITTLE PRINCE.”
Osborne agrees. “Not only did Camille provide the songs we needed, her voice also appears along the orchestral score. She really links the universe all together. I was so thrilled when I first heard it because her voice was a charming representation of the inner life of the Little Girl that blossoms throughout the movie.”
Zimmer says the process of putting the music together for the movie was a very organic, creative effort. “We all responded to the film’s famous images by jamming together in one room,” he recalls. “Instead of just using the usual pop songs off the shelf, our music was tailor made. The soundtrack also took it cue from the authentic, handmade nature of the movie.”
Breaking New Ground
As THE LITTLE PRINCE makes its journey from the page to the big screen in 2015, director Mark Osborne and his team are hoping that their labour of love will introduce the timeless vision of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry to a whole new generation of book lovers. As Osborne concludes, “It has been an extraordinary journey,” he says. “It has been very fulfilling because we were able to approach this story with a truly genuine perspective—we wanted to find the best way to tell the story and best story to tell. Audiences deserve movies that take risks and those are movies that brave new ground. This has been about a team of independent artists coming together to achieve this impossible task, which was to translate this universally loved book. It could have been very difficult to tackle all these big, ambitious ideas through the usual studio system, which might have steered us away from taking these risks. . In the end, it became this miracle of a project that set out to preserve the delicate soul of SaintExupéry’s story.”
THE LITTLE PRINCE – CAST BIOGRAPHIES
Rachel McAdams, The Mother
Rachel McAdams’ transformative performances have established her as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after and respected actors.
McAdams recently wrapped production on the second season of Nic Pizzolatto’s “True Detective”. McAdams plays Sheriff Ani Bezzirades, a Ventura County Sheriff’s detective whose uncompromising ethics put her at odds with others and the system she serves. She stars alongside Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch, and Vince Vaughn. The series premieres in the US on HBO in June 2015.
Prior to that, McAdams wrapped production on two other projects, the most recent being Thomas McCarthy’s “Spotlight”, in which she starred alongside Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo. The film tells the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. She then shot Wim Wenders’ “Everything Will Be Fine” starring opposite James Franco, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Robert Naylor. The film is a story about a writer, Tomas (Franco), who accidentally causes the death of a child while driving and spends the next 12 years examining the effect of the tragedy on his life and that of Kate, the child’s mother. The film premiered at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival.
She will next be seen starring in Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha”, opposite Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone. The romantic comedy centers on a defense contractor who falls for an Air Force pilot after he is assigned to oversee the launch of a weapons satellite from Hawaii. The film is slated to be released in US by Sony Pictures in May 2015.
Later this summer, she will be seen starring alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Forest Whitaker in the Kurt Sutter-written drama “Southpaw”. The story centers around a fighter (Gyllenhaal) trying to recapture his glory and reconnect with a love he lost (McAdams). The Weinstein Company is set to release the film in the US in July 2015.
McAdams was last seen in Anton Corbijn’s “A Most Wanted Man” opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright and Willem Dafoe. The spy thriller, based on the popular John le Carré novel, is set in present-day Hamburg, Germany, where a mysterious half-Chechen, half-Russian man, brutally scarred from torture, surfaces in the city’s Islamic community, on the run and desperate for help. The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and was released in the US in July 2014.
McAdams starred in Woody Allen’s “Midnight In Paris” which earned McAdams a SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance By A Cast In A Motion Picture alongside cast mates Owen Wilson, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Marion Cotillard, Carla Bruni, and Michael Sheen. The film also earned Golden Globe® nominations for “Best Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy,” “Best Director,” “Best Actor,” and “Best Screenplay” and is Woody Allen’s highest grossing film to date. That same year, she reprised her role as Irene Adler in “Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows” opposite Robert Downey Jr.
Previous film credits include Michael Sucsy’s “The Vow”, opposite Channing Tatum, Richard Curtis’ “About Time” opposite Domnhall Gleeson and Bill Nighhy, Terrance Mallick’s “To The Wonder” opposite Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Brian De Palma’s “Passion” opposite Noomi Rapace, Roger Michell’s “Morning Glory” opposite Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford, Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes”, “The Time Traveler’s Wife”, Neil Burger’s “The Lucky Ones”, “Married Life” (Toronto Film Festival 2007 Premiere), “The Family Stone” opposite Diane Keaton and Sarah Jessica Parker, Wes Craven’s “Red Eye” opposite Cillian Murphy, “Wedding Crashers” opposite Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Christopher Walken, Nick Cassavette’s “The Notebook” opposite Ryan Gosling and “Mean Girls”.
In 2005, McAdams received ShoWest’s Supporting Actress of the Year Award as well as the Breakthrough Actress of the Year at the Hollywood Film Awards. In 2009, she was awarded with ShoWest’s Female Star of the Year.
McAdams was born and raised in a small town outside of London, Ontario. Involved with theater growing up, she went on to graduate with honors with a BFA degree in Theater from York University.