What was that we were saying about great ideas? Well, sometimes they’re just quashed by the powers that be. In late 2011, Seattle artist Troy Gua combined his love for the outsize character of Prince and the surreal puppetry of “supermarionation” pioneer Gerry Anderson (Thunderbirds), and launched the Le Petit Prince project. He built a 1/6 scale version of the Purple One, sewed up some “tiny sets of funky clothes,” and shot the miniature Artist in some of his most iconic poses. Quite naturally, the photo series took off.
But as of Friday, November 16 at 4 p.m. PST, Le Petit Prince must be erased from the Internet. As Gua has announced via LPP’s Facebook page, the real Prince’s handlers have hit him with what sounds like a very unpleasant cease and desist letter. “I will, of course, comply with their demands, whether I agree with them as matters of artistic freedom or not,” he wrote, before this rather heartbreaking addition: “I simply do not wish to fight with my hero, and it is terribly disheartening to think that he may hold ill will towards me and this project.”
It should be noted that despite considerable demand, the dolls have never been for sale and, so far, the images have been distributed freely. He had plans for a photo book and exhibition, but all of that should’ve been protected by fair use, considering these are an artist’s interpretations of a pop icon, delivered as a combination of satire and tribute. However, in order to fund the project’s potential IRL outcroppings, Gua had begun to sell a Le Petit Prince calendar, a couple of Prince-inspired art prints, and a T-shirt made from one of those.
As an intro to the LPP section of his website, Gua had initially written: “There is ONLY ONE Le Petit Prince, and he’s NOT FOR SALE. As for the possibility of reproduction, I have no intention or desire to break any laws or piss off my hero, so without the express consent and cooperation from Prince himself, I will not be reproducing this artwork in doll form. I would love nothing more than to put Le Petit Prince in the hands of true fans, but without Prince, it can’t happen. Prince, if you’re out there, I’d love to hear from you.” Now … probably not so much.
He wrote that while he had originally intended to make only one outfit for his hairy little buddy, fans online began requesting looks from different eras, eventually resulting in the extensive collection of remade album covers and photo shoots found, for now, on the LPP site. Also found there: a testimonial from the world-anointed arbiter of cool, ?uestlove, who says, “Troy is a gifted artist with amazing vision and detail. The thoroughness in his works shines amazingly through. Truly in awe of his work and expect even more awesome things in the future.”
The Le Petit Prince calendar is still available, so get yours before it hits the black market. Here’s the full text of Gua’s announcement, which includes a couple of paragraphs from the letter he wrote back to Prince’s people. Sorry 2 C U go. But first, this:
It is with a heavy heart that I write this – I have been issued a cease & desist order from Prince’s attorneys. This means that the Le Petit Prince project has reached its untimely end and must be removed from the internet by Friday, November 16, 4pm PST. There are many points touched upon in the order, and I will, of course, comply with their demands, whether I agree with them as matters of artistic freedom or not. I simply do not wish to fight with my hero, and it is terribly disheartening to think that he may hold ill will towards me and this project. I wrote back to the attorneys and told them I would indeed comply, but wanted to address some of the issues brought up in their letter. I’d like to share these paragraphs with you, which contains sentiments that I hold dear and true:
“Any products sold are returning no profit to me – they are simply a meager means to fund and continue the LPP project, which is a work of fine art. And this funding, I would argue, is anything but “ill-gotten gains”. That term pains me, as I do not intend, nor have I ever intended to profit from Prince without his consent. I have, in fact, refused countless pleas to recreate the sculpture and make it available for sale because I felt that that would indeed be attempting to profit illegally. The recreation of album art and iconic imagery, on the other hand, I felt was within my creative rights as an artist. This is artwork that I have made as a loving tribute to an artist that has inspired me for decades, and has shaped the person I have become. And this tribute has grown into something that I never foresaw nor intended – a joyful and positive experience for many, many people around the world. It has, to my utter amazement, brought so much happiness to so many, building a following and a momentum that has demanded it endure and expand.
I have, actually, attempted through modest connections to Mr. Nelson, to contact him to no avail. He is not an easy person to reach out to. I, on the other hand, am very easy to engage, and was actually, perhaps foolishly, hoping for contact from him regarding this project in a much more congenial form. If I had any possible way of reaching Mr. Nelson to ask him his thoughts on this matter or to propose a creative business venture, believe me, I would have. I would love nothing more, and would relish the opportunity to do so, still.”
The words “thank you” could never adequately qualify the truly staggering gratitude I feel towards everyone who fueled the passion for this project with their words of support and praise, with their love and positivity, and with their all around good will. This project grew into what it became because of you. Although I am saddened beyond words that it has reached its end, and that it has ended this way, I am also deeply grateful and happy beyond words that I’ve had this rare opportunity to make so many new friends, to make so many people smile, and to make so many tiny sets of funky clothes.
I hope we can continue to be in touch in another corner of this great big universe somewhere. And I hope you had fun. I know I did.
For LPP, Troy Gua signing off…