Get your English subtitles ready, boys and girls, and sit back for an evening of French animated bliss. Shockingly recent and even more shockingly unknown, April and the Extraordinary World and The Little Prince flew under the radar in their 2015 releases and continue to stun and delight the rare few audience members that get to enjoy them today. Representing drastically different artistic styles and plotlines, but similar touches of French thoughtfulness and charm, these two movies are well worth the watch. Plan your evening accordingly, because you won’t want to miss out on this French animated movie bonanza.
The Little Prince
If the title sounds vaguely familiar, you’re right to think you’ve heard it before. Mark Osborne’s 2015 The Little Prince is based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 The Little Prince, a French children’s storybook that is well-beloved even in America. The movie version is a 3D animated fantasy adventure that combines stop motion animation with computer animation for a marvelous visual experience. Fortunately for us, the movie is in English despite its French roots, and features talents such as Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, and Marion Cotillard.
The Little Prince outlines the story of a modern little girl who, with the help of her mother, has a strategic game-plan for life that organizes her time even to the very minute. A chance meeting with their neighbor opens the door for the little girl into her own childhood and imagination, as her elderly neighbor tells her the story of when he met “the little prince.” What follows is both a literal and a metaphorical depiction of the little girl reclaiming her hunger for a colorful life full of joy, creativity, and a little messiness.
Beautiful, touching, and witty, The Little Prince seamlessly blends humor with family drama in an unforgettably artistic landscape. The music is done by hugely talented Hans Zimmer in partnership with Richard Harvey. You’ll probably laugh and cry during The Little Prince, but most importantly it should leave you pondering the question of what being “an adult” really means, and what it means losing.
April and the Extraordinary World
Pixar-lovers will eat up The Little Prince like a starving gorilla, but those with anime leanings will probably be more easily transported by April and the Extraordinary World, or rather Avril et le Monde truqué. Co-directed by Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci and co-written by Franck Ekinci and Benjamin Legend, this animated French gem also stars Marion Cotillard, although in French and not in English. You’ll definitely need subtitles for this one, but listening to it in the original French is ideal anyway.
April and the Extraordinary World is set in an alternate universe with steampunk style. The story opens in 1870 with French Emperor Napoleon III visiting the lab of Gustave Franklin to see his work on creating super-soldiers. Disgusted with what Franklin had made, he tries to shoot his work, but fails and the prototypes escape. Fast-forwarding to 1941, we see descendants of Franklin’s family trying to recreate his work, amidst a catastrophic shortage of scientists caused by mysterious disappearances across the globe. Because of these disappearances technology has slowed to a halt and thus we have a steampunk universe in which pollution rules and scientists are accosted and forced to work for the government when found. April’s family, the descendants of Franklin, are the center of the plot, with April taking the lead.
Where The Little Prince focuses almost entirely on the bemoaned transition from childhood to adulthood, April and the Extraordinary World deals with more big-picture topics like pollution, technology, and human mortality. It’s thoughtful in the most important ways, offering humor alongside of statements that will leave you pondering. The family dynamic of the Franklins is fascinating and will make you, more often than not, laugh out loud.
French For the Win
Don’t be foolish and think that cartoons are “only for children.” If that’s your attitude about animated movies, be sure to start with The Little Prince on your animated movie bonanza night. But seriously, please do yourself a favor and treat yourself and a loved one to an evening of French animation splendor. These two movies represent some of the best storytelling, art, and ideology on the movie market, and that’s not just for animated movies. These are stories that will linger with you long after you turn off your TV screen, offering food for thought and charming characters that warm the soul- French or not.