I am a little obsessed with The Little Prince. It is my favorite book of all time. Seriously, there is not a book on the planet (or any other planet) that I love more. I own several copies of the book (the pop-up book, a French version, and an English version). I even had a friend read a section of The Little Prince at my wedding (the fox section). So, yeah, you could say that I am a fan.
When I saw the ads for The Little Prince movie, I got excited. And a little scared. But I was mostly excited. Because the animation looked absolutely beautiful.
So, on Friday, I sat down to watch The Little Prince with great anticipation. I may or may not have even posted a status about it on my personal Facebook page.
I saw the film.
And I loved it.
The major problem was that the film didn’t trust its audience (a minor problem was that James Franco voiced the Fox–who made that casting decision?).
Spoiler Warning: stop if you have not read the book or seen the movie.
In a strange piece of fan fiction, the Little Girl randomly goes to another planet to discover that not only is the Little Prince alive, but he is now grown-up. There is a random fight scene with the Businessman, and then they fly off to the Rose’s planet to see her die.
Wow, there is so much to unpack here, but I think it can be best summed up by saying the director did not trust the audience. How does he not trust his audience, and how does it apply to you as a writer?
1. He did not trust the audience to watch a film without action.
I mean, you could argue that crashing into a desert and getting killed by a snake bite is a lot of action, but it is probably not enough by Hollywood standards. So the movie added a fight scene. That didn’t exist at all in the books. For those who love the book (which there are many), it felt like a cheap gimmick and vaguely insulting.
Lesson for you: Trust your audience to be entertained without cheap gimmicks or action scenes. Most people are patient with a story without fight scenes as long as it is well-crafted and entertaining in other ways.
2. He did not trust his audience to deal with ambiguity or sadness.
The whole point of The Little Prince is that you are unsure if the rose is alive or dead. And the Little Prince definitely dies of a snakebite. The director couldn’t allow the audience to be sad or live with that uncertainty. Oh no, he had to make children feel better by having the Little Prince live and resolve the rose issue by having her definitely die in the most saccharine way possible.
Lesson for you: Trust your audience to be able to deal with tough things. They are smarter and stronger than you know. Take risks. They can handle it.
3. The director did not trust the audience to pick up on the message.
The director used the rose’s death to bang his message over the viewer’s head. He had the Little Prince explicitly state the story’s themes of loss and love instead of letting the story subtly do it.
Lesson for you: Trust your audience to pick up your story’s message and themes from the narrative. If you do not trust that your audience can pick up on it through your story, it is revision time. Work on your narrative until it will be clear to the audience in subtle ways. Avoid hitting them over the head. Nobody likes a concussion.
Bottom Line: Trust your audience. They deserve your respect. Do not condescend to them through cheap tricks and obvious statements.
And do not cast James Franco as beloved childhood characters. But this is obvious.
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