Please don't disturb Judge Steve Evans. He's tending his magical rose.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's classic children's story comes to animated life in this gentle fantasy for all ages. Recommended by the National Education Association, The Little Prince adventures are now available on DVD either as a four-disc boxed set or on individual discs containing three episodes each. This review covers two of the individual releases, The Perfect Planet and The Star Gazer.
French pilot and philosopher Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was one of the pioneers of early commercial aviation. He flew mail and passengers across Europe and the Sahara, over the snow-covered ramparts of the Andes and, eventually, made transatlantic flights. During World War II he served in a French air squadron and disappeared over the Mediterranean in 1944 while returning from a reconnaissance mission. He was 44.
During his short and adventurous life, de Saint-Exupéry also wrote several novels and memoirs, of which Wind, Sand and Stars (1939) is especially recommended for its haunting depiction of early air travel. He also created The Little Prince in 1943 as a fable for children, with allegorical messages for adults—peace, love, and understanding chief among them. His premise and basic storyline formed the foundation for a series of Little Prince cartoons made for television in 1983. These are gentle and occasionally enchanting stories that little ones will enjoy. Each episode runs about 24 minutes, designed to fit in a half-hour bloc of television programming with commercials.
In de Saint-Exupéry's original tale, a World War I pilot crash lands in the Sahara desert where he meets the Little Prince and learns of his travels through space. Half a dozen film versions still exist, including a musical, although these sets of animated episodes are a good (and readily available) starting point for kids.
The Little Prince lives on distant asteroid B-612, cleaning volcanoes and tending his magical rose. Into this idyllic life comes a space bird named Swifty, who shows the Little Prince how to hitch a ride on passing comets. This allows the small boy to visit distant galaxies and make new friends. During his travels, the Little Prince learns about honesty, kindness, bravery, and other great life lessons.
I especially appreciate the gentle quality of de Saint-Exupéry's vision as adapted for these programs. My little Sophia, not yet 5, was captivated by the stories, which prompted thoughtful conversation between us when she was finished watching. That's a priceless benefit from a children's program.
A joint production of German and French film companies, with animation by a Japanese studio, these cartoons were obviously filmed on a wee budget. Backgrounds are either static or endlessly recycled, such as the travel scenes of the Little Prince traversing time and space on his way to new adventures. Characters often move in that herky-jerky way that is a sure mark of minimalist animation, where the illustrators try to get by with 18-20 drawings per second, instead of the standard 24 frames per second, which creates more fluid motion. So the real selling point behind The Adventures of the Little Prince is the gentle message at the heart of each episode.
Video and audio reflect a good quarter-century of age. The material is certainly suitable for kids, especially very young children; just don't expect reference-standard picture and sound. There are no extras on these individual discs.
The Perfect Planet Episodes:
• Visit to Another Planet
• The Perfect Planet
• The Wolf Pack
The Star Gazer Episodes:
• The Star Gazer
• Last Voyage of the Rose
• The Chimney Sweep
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Scales of Justice
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