AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Little Prince
Director: Stanley Donen (Dir)
Release Date:   1974
Duration (in mins):  88
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Cast: Richard Kiley  (The Pilot)
  Steven Warner  (The Little Prince)
  Bob Fosse  (The Snake)

Summary: As a six year-old boy, The Pilot sketches his impression of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant, but grown-ups misinterpret the drawing for a hat. Discouraged by the adults’ failure to appreciate his creativity, The Pilot grows to realize he is better suited to live in the air and becomes an aviator. Testing the speed of a new plane on a mission from Paris to India, The Pilot crashes in the Sahara Desert. While The Pilot repairs his aircraft in the desolate landscape, The Little Prince appears and asks him to draw a picture of a sheep. Shocked by the boy’s presence, The Pilot says he can only draw one thing and shows The Little Prince his rendition of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. Accurately identifying the image, The Little Prince says boa constrictors and elephants are of no use to him. When The Pilot says he is from Paris, The Little Prince asks if Paris is on Earth. After several attempts at drawing a sheep that are rejected by the boy because the animal appears too sickly or old, The Pilot draws a box and tells The Little Prince that the sheep is inside. Delighted, The Little Prince studies the drawing. Later, when The Pilot inquires where the boy is from, The Little Prince points toward the sky and The Pilot suggests his home is Asteroid B-612. As days pass, The Pilot continues to fix his airplane and The Little Prince asks if sheep eat baobab trees and flowers. Horrified by The Pilot’s response that sheep will eat flowers, even if they have thorns, The Little Prince argues that flowers are vulnerable and would never grow unless they knew they had thorns to protect them. The boy explains that a special flower lives on his planet and he is outraged by The Pilot’s lack of concern that it might be eaten by a sheep. Exclaiming that the stars will go dark if his flower is destroyed, The Little Prince runs away. Apologizing for acting like a grown-up, The Pilot chases after the boy, but The Little Prince vanishes. One night, The Pilot misses the boy and draws a picture of his likeness. As The Little Prince reappears, The Pilot admits that the boy’s concerns are important and offers a solution. He proposes to draw a muzzle for the sheep and a picture of The Little Prince’s planet so he can put a fence around the flower. Delighted by the plan, The Little Prince describes his solitary, tiny planet. He has three knee-high volcanoes, three baobab bushes for the sheep to eat, and a red rose. The Little Prince recounts the day The Rose, which embodied a beautiful yet demanding woman, blossomed. He says he lovingly tended to The Rose, but her insatiable needs made him unhappy so he decided to leave. The Little Prince reflects that it was wrong to abandon her, but he was too young to understand. Describing his journey, the boy says the first planet he visited was ruled by The King, who berated him for crossing borders without a passport. When The Little Prince inquired why The King needed borders on such a small planet, The King derided his ignorance and claimed he would be out of work without borders. Carried away by doves, The Little Prince landed on the planet of The Businessman, who was trying to calculate the number of stars in the universe. Explaining that he owned them all and wanted to know the extent of his wealth, The Businessman was unable to tell The Little Prince why affluence was important and chided the boy for being naive. Next, the doves took The Little Prince to The Historian’s planet, where the boy announced that he was searching for knowledge. Claiming to be renowned because his work was in print, The Historian gave The Little Prince a book from his immense library, but when The Historian revealed that his job entailed “making things up,” The Little Prince became discouraged by the man’s want of truth and floated away to The General’s planet. The General encouraged the boy to join his one-man army and promised that they would find an enemy as soon as they had amassed their troops. Disillusioned, The Little Prince asked for directions to Earth and the doves flew him to the Sahara. As The Little Prince ends his story with regret that he left The Rose, The Pilot admits he has never known such love and the boy suggests that he wasn’t looking for it. In the morning, The Pilot announces he has run out of water and fears for their lives. Insisting there is a well in the distance, The Little Prince heads into the desert and The Pilot follows. After a day, The Pilot argues that their mission is suicidal. Undeterred, The Little Prince says that if they die, he won’t have to find his friend, The Snake, but when The Pilot requests an explanation, the boy refuses. As they wake the following morning, The Little Prince discovers an oasis and they joyously revive themselves in the water. Returning to the airplane, The Little Prince tells The Pilot his story about The Snake, who was the first “person” he met on Earth. From his black, barren tree, The Snake took the form of a man and told the boy that sorrow is the only thing to be learned on Earth. He advised The Little Prince to leave, but the boy said that he was stuck on Earth because his birds flew away. The Snake counseled The Little Prince, telling him that his poisonous sting could send him to any destination, and vowed to wait for The Little Prince until he was ready to leave Earth. Upon hearing the boy’s story, The Pilot protests The Little Prince’s intention of returning to his planet by dying. The Little Prince then tells The Pilot about The Fox, his second acquaintance on Earth who also transformed into a human. The boy recounts how he met The Fox as he walked through a field of roses, noting that The Rose’s heart would be broken if she knew she was common. The Little Prince asked The Fox to play with him so he would not feel so sad, but The Fox was hunted and suspicious of humans. The Fox explained they could not be friends because he was not tame. He added that if The Little Prince tamed him, they would belong to each other and would never be able to function in the world as they once did. Despite The Fox’s warning, The Little Prince danced with the wild animal and they became friends. When The Little Prince decided to leave, The Fox told him “you always feel responsible for what you have tamed” and these words caused the boy to finally “understand everything.” He knew he had to return to The Rose because he had taken responsibility for her. As The Little Prince ends his story about The Fox, he says that his friend gave him a piece of paper containing a secret as a parting gift. When The Pilot inquires about the secret, the boy gives him the unopened note that reads: “It is only with the heart that one can see clearly. What’s essential is invisible to the eye.” In time, The Pilot repairs his airplane, but he realizes The Little Prince has disappeared. The Pilot runs through the desert to find the boy tied to The Snake’s tree. Barely conscious, The Little Prince says that they both must return home and asks The Pilot to keep his promise of drawing a muzzle for his sheep. As The Pilot begins to draw, The Little Prince reminds him to include The Rose’s fence and insists he is not afraid. Refusing to leave the boy behind, The Pilot carries The Little Prince back to his airplane. The Little Prince explains he will not really pass away, only desert the shell of his body, and promises The Pilot will hear his laugh again as a bell ringing from the stars. The next morning, The Pilot wakes to find The Little Prince gone and runs back to The Snake’s tree. Finding only the boa constrictor, The Pilot returns to his airplane and cries that the boy was never real. Looking into the night sky, however, he hears The Little Prince’s laughter among the stars and boards his plane to return home. 

Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures Corp.
Production Company: Stanley Donen Enterprises, Ltd.
Director: Stanley Donen (Dir)
  Eric Rattray (Prod mgr)
  Allan James (Asst dir)
  Al Burgess (Asst dir)
Producer: Stanley Donen (Prod)
  A. Joseph Tandet (Assoc prod)
Writer: Alan Jay Lerner (Scr and lyrics by)

Subject Major: Castaways
Subject Minor: Air pilots
  Air pilots, Military
  Airplane accidents
  Boa constrictors
  Dehydration (Physiology)
  Drawings and sketches
  Imaginary planets
  Paris (France)
  Sahara Desert

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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