By Michael Roddy
CANNES, France (Reuters) - The creators of the animated film "The Little Prince", which had its world premiere at the Cannes festival on Friday, knew they had to take extra care in adapting one of the most cherished works of 20th-century French literature for the screen.
To that end, American director Mark Osborne ("The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie") has created a story within a story in which a Little Girl, voiced by Mackenzie Foy (the 10-year old Murph in "Interstellar") is introduced to poet and novelist Antoine de Saint-Exupery's classic by an elderly aviator (Jeff Bridges).
He lives in a rundown but fantastic mansion with a wrecked plane in the backyard, next door to the soulless modern home where the girl and her mother, who wants everything to be done on time and to perfection, have moved in.
He reads her The Little Prince, which he says he has written, and opens her mind to how she is missing out on the wonders and fantasies of childhood.
Other characters from the book, which has been translated into 250 languages and sells about 2 million copies a year, include The Fox voiced by James Franco and The Rose voiced by Marion Cotillard.
The film uses stop-motion animation to re-create and expand upon the watercolors that Saint-Exupery painter for his novella, a fantasy tracking the relationship between an aviator who crashes in the Sahara and a small boy, the "Little Prince", who says he is from an asteroid and tells the story of his life.
Computer-generated images are used for the story about the Little Girl's friendship with the aviator, and its consequences.
Saint-Exupery fled the Nazi occupation of France and wrote the book in New York in the early 1940s but returned to join the French Free Forces in North Africa to help fight Nazi Germany.
He disappeared while flying a reconnaissance mission over the Mediterranean in 1944, shortly after the book's publication.
Osborne said he had done everything in his power to retain the book's Gallic flavor, and said he had won plaudits from Saint-Exupery's family when he gave them a rundown of his plans.
"I pitched everything and they applauded it and they said, 'You have our full support' and I burst into tears," Osborne said after a media screening.
"It was like a huge moment because for me it's really important for us to have that sort of seal of approval."
The film will be released in France in July, with U.S. plans as yet unannounced.
(Editing by Louise Ireland)