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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Interview With Laurent de Brunhoff

Aired October 19, 2003 - 09:52   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: For over 70 years, Babar the elephant has captured the attention of kids of all ages. In his latest adventure, the lovable elephant is showing his artistic side. Author Laurent de Brunhoff joins us from Washington to explain.
Good morning. Thanks so much for being with us. I understand, of course, that you carry on your father's legacy, that you have 33 Babar books behind you. And now this is a new one. Tell us about the new book.

LAURENT DE BRUNHOFF, AUTHOR, "BABAR'S MUSEUM OF ART": That's right. My father was the creator of Babar in '31. But he died very young. And when I was in my 20s, I wanted Babar to live again. And I have done that for 50 years now.

MALVEAUX: Now, I understand your new book, Babar's museum of art, you were -- you're a trained painter as well as your father, both of you attended the same art school, I believe. Tell us about some of the pieces that you did, and what was behind the idea of putting Babar the character, the family in some of those works that you had done before.

DE BRUNHOFF: Well, the suggestion of a Babar museum was from my publisher, but the idea was very exciting to me because to make copies of all these paintings that I loved all my life, with elephants instead of humans, was a challenge and it was fascinating. I loved it.

MALVEAUX: I understand that you styled some of these after Van Gogh, Cezanne, many famous artists. And it's very interesting; it's fun. This is a "Scream" we have up now, then you actually incorporate the character, and you have the stories of the elephants who appreciate this art. What was behind that?

DE BRUNHOFF: Behind -- what do you mean?

MALVEAUX: What was behind the idea of actually using the artwork as well as the characters? I know that before there were human figures, then you put in Babar and his family. Obviously it must bring a great sense of joy to children. They know the characters, but they don't necessarily know the paintings.

DE BRUNHOFF: No. For me, it was just the joy of making those pictures with elephants. I didn't think so much of children when I was doing this.

MALVEAUX: And tell us, what was the most rewarding aspect of this book? You have 33 behind you. What did you get out of this one?

DE BRUNHOFF: I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.

MALVEAUX: You have 33 of these books before that you had done, and I understand that this is particularly special to you. Can you tell us why?

DE BRUNHOFF: Yes. I always enjoy doing Babar books this one was special because it is not a storybook. It was just showing off with elephants. And that was really my pleasure.

MALVEAUX: And last question, how was it that your father came up with the original idea? What was behind that? Obviously it's such a rich history and so many children have enjoyed these books over the years. How did it start?

DE BRUNHOFF: The start, very start of Babar was a bed story from my mother. And my brother and I, we loved the story. We went to my father's studio and told him about it. He started to make a book for us. After the first book he made another one and another one. And he -- he just discovered himself, I think.

MALVEAUX: Well, Mr. Brunhoff, thank you very much for your time. I had the pleasure of actually being able to read the last book and enjoyed it very much. We appreciate your time here this morning. Thank you.

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