Legendary animator Jean-François Laguionie’s spiritual successor to his 1999 film A Monkey’s Tale, The Prince’s Voyage – which he co-directs with Xavier Picard – is a wondrous journey into a different world, an elegiac, stunningly animated tale marred only by its brevity. Reminiscent of the great works by French artists like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Mœbius, and Sylvain Chomet, it boasts its own style and tone, quietly immersing you into the artists’ distinct vision.
The aging, ape-like protagonist, Prince Laurent (Enrico Di Giovanni), wakes up in an unfamiliar hospital after “crossing the sea.” Though folks resemble him in appearance, they speak in a strange language he does not understand and intently study his every move. He meets young Tom (Thomas Sagols), who reminds him of a boy he once discovered in the woods and consequently educated back at his castle. Now the injured prince is the one being examined, by Tom’s professor dad Abervrach (Gabriel Le Doze), along with the rest of the boy’s family.
“…Prince Laurent wakes up in an unfamiliar hospital…”
Our two heroes quickly form a bond. Tom takes the prince out to explore the city. A marvel of technological and architectural achievement, it was built by Tom’s advanced civilization within six days but is now being reclaimed by the surrounding forest. Bureaucracy reigns supreme – strong allusions to communism abound – and Abervrach ends up having to present Prince Laurent to the court. The ending – involving an enormous tree and the discovery of a utopia – feels like an unfiltered dream, transferred straight onto celluloid from the minds of the filmmakers.
The Prince’s Voyage is eloquently written, with Enrico Di Giovanni’s poetic narration complementing the dreamlike narrative. It’s an allegory, an eco-parable about our relationship with Mother Nature and the importance of preserving Her habitats; a cautionary tale about the perils and pleasures of meeting and (mis)understanding other cultures; and even a politically-charged fable. The 81-year-old auteur and his younger co-director effortlessly convey volumes in under 80 minutes.
They also create a stunning retro-futurist world, one filled with nightmarish festivals and driverless trams that perpetually circle the city. The Prince’s Voyage never underestimates the audience’s intelligence, and while aimed primarily at an older crowd, it is bound to appeal to younger, more patient viewers as well. It certainly has that timeless feel to it. Jean-François Laguionie and Xavier Picard’s film is a splendid addition to Shout! Studios’ ever-growing roster of titles.
"…a wondrous journey...stunningly animated..."