As I sit to write my review for Netflix’s The Little Prince, there is currently a roiling mass of beanie babies sprawled across my living room floor with no other purpose than to mock my current financial situation. Taking a look at eBay, one of the most popular Beanie Babies (the Princess Diana bear) is selling for as much as $500,000 or…$12. The word “disparity” doesn’t even come close. “Mind-fuck” is only slightly closer.
There is no sharper sting then the realization of how much wasted time and effort went in to hording a child’s toy with the hope of future value. During the mid to late 90s, Ty’s beanie babies were seen as a worthwhile investment. Why? As with most things in this life that require your time and dedication, it was to make someone else incredibly wealthy.
H. Ty Warner, billionaire creator of the original beanie babies (and narcissistic piece of shit), designed his own (pseudo) scarcity in the plush toy market, reminiscent of the way diamond companies make a shiny rock seem valuable. Retiring “old” designs for the toys as soon as they started to become popular (and hoarding the rest in a 370,000 sq ft warehouse) drove the price up based on consumer demand. That, mixed with the tiniest (read: appalling) amount of greed created an almost mythical appeal to these toys. At their height, you could trade an original “retired” Ty beanie baby for almost as much as a semester at a nice college. Today, they’re worth about as much as screaming “BUY! BUY! SELL! SELL!” to the giant bull outside of the NYSE.
Now, why do I bring this up? Is it to create an ad for my stock in pre-owned animal shaped hacky-sacks? Yes, actually, please take this festering pile of beans out of my life. In reality though, it has more to do with my cynical view of all things nostalgic. Nickelodeon, Pokemon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, Sunny D.
I’m sorry 90s kids (and 80s kids and 70s kids and kids in general), but to put it in a more recent colloquialism, your childhood materialism trash. “Remember When…?” isn’t just a phrase for hacky stand-up comedians and the beginning of the Mad-lib Buzzfeed uses to title half their articles, it’s also a clarion call for salivating ad executives with a deadline. Every decade it seems, all of your childhood memories are rolled out onto an assembly line, molested by a team of toy manufacturers, television and movie executives and food processing corporations and sold back to you or your very, very naïve children who will begin the process anew in roughly 20 years. It’s a revolving business model that works very well and all of us will happily buy in to it because it’s better than any of the shit that’s going on in our lives now. We’ve grown-up and our rose-tinted glasses aren’t just smudged, they’re slightly cracked and one of the prescription lenses is falling out.
That’s what made it so hard for me to sit down and watch The Little Prince. The movie is based on my (and apparently the entire world’s) favorite children’s book, Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. If you have to know its basic summary, fuck you, go read it. Most versions are 120 pages or less. Don’t speak English or French? Good news, there’s over 250 translations. Don’t have eyes? It comes in braille.
Again: the entire world’s favorite children’s book. I read it, as many people do, around the time they become confused by the adult world and its many constant demands on what you are supposed to be and do. I had vivid recollections of The Businessman claiming to own the stars he counted when I learned that a massive corporation got their hands on this beloved child’s classic. Catastrophe! That combination has rarely if ever bode well in the past, but as I researched further, I learned my fears were entirely misplaced.
Beginning as an obsessive passion project for director Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda) in 2010, The Little Prince combines new-fangled CGI to tell the story of the main protagonist, The Little Girl, and good ol’ stop motion animation for the world of the Little Prince. It sounds like it may be jarring, but the integration is seamless as the stories intertwine. To pitch the film to various art directors, actors, distributors and the author’s estate, Osborne collaborated with Joe Schmidt (Coraline) on what he described as a “Magic Suitcase”.
The “Magic Suitcase” was full of hand-made visual aids specifically created for the film. When opened, a constellation of tiny stars and planets lit up with a giant art book that displayed the tone he wanted to convey. When he would flip a switch, a one way mirror slid away to unveil a yellow-paged recreation of Saint-Exupery’s original manuscript. This (and the constant twinkles in Osborne’s eyes I imagine) is the reason for the amazing star –clustered cast that joined the production. Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais and Albert Brooks are just a few of the smattering of people who were touched by Osborne’s ardent dedication to making a movie that conveyed the same heart as the original source material. There is a deep love in this project, a rare commodity in film nowadays.
As I come to a close, the beanie babies have been put back in the garage to gather dust for another decade or two until I’m again reminded of the money I can scrounge from my past. All except for one that is. It’s a little frog that now sits on my alarm clock.
He isn’t worth much to the collectors, but he was the one I played with the most as a kid and that’s worth much more to me. Nostalgia should never cross the realms in to the financial sector of our adult lives. That’s like breeding a puppy to bark out NASDAQ tips. Like, yeah, that’s pretty cool, but it’s missing the point. The reason these toys, these things, are important is because of what they make you remember. Being a kid. Most grown-ups forget that. To put it in the immortal words of the fox, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
The Little Prince is currently streaming on Netflix and is currently playing on a loop in my house. Watch it!
Brandon totally didn't cry at all while watching The Little Prince. Honest. Call him a liar on twitter.