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I don't understand why critics in recent years have never warmed to "Animal
Farm". They believe it's "disappointingly flat" (Leslie Halliwell) or "an
illustrated study aid" (Time Out). I remember when I first saw this film a
quarter of a century ago. I found the betrayal of Boxer, the horse,
horrifying. The description, "an intellectual film, not an emotional one"
(Time Out), cannot be reconciled with my own recollections. Are British
critics simply holding a British film of a British novel up to standards
they would not apply to a non-British production? The film already contains
evidence of a Disney influence, from adorable ducklings to a musical score
with echoes of Prokofieff's "Peter and the Wolf", and an expiating ending
that's not in the book. Any more of that sort of thing and critics would
have accused the film of losing all of the book's bite.
George Orwell wrote a fable about revolution betrayed, and laced it liberally with references to the Russian Revolution. Much of this dimension is still visible in the film. A wise pig, Old Major, proclaims the revolution before dying. Old Major is sort of a Marx figure, although, to me, he seems to be drawn to look like Churchill. Proclamation made, nothing happens. However Farmer Jones is drunk and the animals don't get their feed. The Tsar's mismanagement produced his revolution as well. Russian parallels continue. Counter-revolutionary farmers (capitalist states) attack Animal Farm but fail. One pig, Snowball (Trotsky), tries to spread revolution to other farms (world revolution), but is murdered by his associate, Napoleon (Stalin), who prefers to consolidate his power at home. The film also has Five Year Plans, industrialization programmes, forcible collectivization, showtrials with quick executions afterwards, and historical revisionism.
But I saw this film perhaps three times long before I understood anything much about the political parallels. I liked it as much then if not more so. Knowledge of that side does tend to turn the film into an intellectual experience, but viewers who have no prior exposure to the historical facts receive the raw emotional jolt which more politically astute critics maintain the film lacks.
Regardless of whether you know a lot about Russia and her Revolution, or nothing at all, Britain's first animated feature is a film with a strong story which adults and mature kids should find absorbing, maybe even "devastating", as The New York Times once claimed back in the days when Stalin was still lying warm in his grave, if not in anyone's heart.
As for a rating on "Animal Farm", the sheep say, "Four stars good, two stars b-a-a-a-d!"
Animal Farm, based on a novel by George Orwell, is ostensibly about a
group of animals who rebel against the drunken farmer who owns them,
and abuses them. They begin running the farm themselves. Their
revolution is corrupted into tyranny which eventually becomes worse
than the human farmer's regime.
A not-so-veiled criticism of totalitarianism under Stalin, many events portrayed in the DVD correspond to real events that took place in the Soviet Union. However, the DVD may be understood as a critique of totalitarianism, no matter where or when it appears.
Maurice Denham, the Mel Blanc of England, performed the voices of all the animals in the film. It is worth seeing the DVD for that alone.
Fed up with the treatment from farmer Jones, the animals of Manor Farm
gather in a meeting to listen to Old Major tell them of his hopes for a
socialist revolution to improve their lives. Sadly, mid-song, Old Major
dies of a heart attack but by then his message had been passed on. The
next morning Jones is met with resistance and driven off his own land
and, when he returns with friends to take it back, a great battle
ensues that the animals win. Thus begins the new, fairer farm where all
animals are equal and everyone shares the work as well as having a
share of the profits. However this equality soon starts to have
exceptions as leaders rise up from within the ranks.
There is no doubting the value of the story or the intelligence of the source material and the decision of the film to stick closely to Orwell's book is where its strength comes from. I love the story and always have, it is well written, sharply judgemental and a cautionary tale that is rightly used heavily in schools. The socialist system rises up but soon some want more rights than others and soon the leaders of the rebellion start emulating the habits of Jones and the, once proud standards are gradually watered down. The broad characters are well written and, although they don't have any depth, they fulfil the requirements of the story telling.
The animation looks dated but given that it is now over 50 years old this is no real surprise, nor a problem. No, the problem with the film is the delivery. Heath is the narrator while Denham does the voices of all the animals; now this sounds like Denham will be carrying the majority of the film but in reality he has little to do because the film is mostly delivered in narration. This is all well and good but it does make the film feel like it is more an audio book with pictures rather than a film. As a result there isn't the emotional impact that there should have been and, although you feel sorry for the characters it is more a general feeling rather than a genuine care for the "people".
Many reviewers have commented on the ending and they are right to do so because if even an ending felt tacked on to produce a "happy" conclusion then it was this one. I understand that no producer wants to try and sell a negative product but the end of the book was fine as it was it made a firm point and left a memorable impression whereas this one just feels wrong. Overall though it is a good film that is worth seeing due to the source material but the narrative approach lessens its value as a film and made me think that I should have just reread the book.
"Animal Farm" doesn't seem like a candidate for animation, but after seeing
the lackluster live-action feature last year, this animated British film
looks better and better each time I view it.
Oh, I've heard the complaints about it not being wholly faithful to the source material. I'm going to apply the same defense here that I gave to "Gulliver's Travels": the film is the last place to look for accuracy. A wholly faithful adaptation would have no doubt turned everyone off, but what they have left behind is fascinating: despite an upbeat ending, the flavor of the novel remains intact. How many films can you say that about? The stinging satire is there, the political parallels are there, but a certain entertainment value is there that wasn't in the novel.
The ultimate message of the film leaves the viewer somewhat sad, according to my experience. But that's a good thing, I think. The film was animated by the British animator John Halas, whose short subject "The Christmas Visitor" is widely available on public domain but hardly seen. He retains much of the same style as he did in his earlier short and makes a strong and honorable film.
The box and ads say "Not for children." I think enlightened children will enjoy this film on one level and adults will enjoy it on an entirely different one.
If there's one thing wrong with this film, it's the ending. Orwell wrote an ending that was biting and necessary. By giving the film an upbeat ending, it somewhat undermines a first rate film. But I can't ignore the power of the previous 73 minutes, so I'm still recommending it.
***1/2 out of 4 stars
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Directed by Joy Batchelor and John Halas, and co-written by Batchelor
from the renowned novel by George Orwell, this animated film benefits
from a faithful rendering of the story and two talented voices - Gordon
Heath narrates, while Maurice Denham does everything else (all the
The animals who were described in Orwell's text are all given cartoon form here - Boxer the horse, Napoleon the pig, the sheep, the chickens, and so on. The ending well-known from the book (where the pigs and humans join forces and you can no longer tell which is which) was changed for the film, but that's a small point when everything else is so accurate.
The atmosphere of the cartoon 'Animal Farm' is perfect - we see collusion, spying, killing, and a real sense of fear comes through as the animals' rules are eroded one by one by their chosen leaders, the pigs.
Not to degrade Animal Farm by calling it a cartoon, I am amazed that it was
even made into an animated film back in 1954. Even though the story is a
popular book in most junior high schools, it is a tough story to take,
especially the ending.
In this version, the ending is given a re-make. Having more of a positive
ending with hope, Animal Farm doesn't end as powerful as it does in its
original written version. Still, it is one of very few cartoons that address
important issues and leaves its audience with a number of powerful images.
Dealing with dictatorship, communist theory, military warlords, the democratic process and political theories, Animal Farm throws so much at the viewer / reader that it is still a highly acclaimed story. Whether it is suitable for a young audience, that is up to the individual viewer to decide.
Why it is that people call this rubbish and dumb, the world has yet to
know. I thought it was one of the greatest (if not the darkest)
animated film I've seen in my days. The movie stays true to the book
written by George Orwell, except for the song and the ending, which I
will not spoil for you.
For Britain's first animated feature, it seems to have made quite a success, well, almost. It seems that the CIA has taken over here, and well, I shouldn't go into detail. All I can say is this, a wonderful, dark, mature film. A word of warning though, this film is pretty dark and has some scenes of blood the kids might find scary. Overall, a good film.
*watches grimly as 0 to 1000 find this comment useful*
"Animal Farm" is a story about how the animals in Manor Farm revolt
against Mr. Jones- their owner. The animals have had enough of him and
decided that they didn't want to serve humans anymore. The pigs of the
farm leads the others barnyards animals a revolt against Mr. Jones.
Together, all the animals fight against humans, in hopes for a better
future. However, an unexpected tyranny occurs, led by one of their own
First of, this is NOT a children's movie. It is very dark and touches upon some sticky topics. To be honest, this movie freaked me out. Well, the book did. Thinking about it, the movie felt very lacking for me. I don't think I would have understood the movie if I hadn't read the book first. If you really want to watch this film, I suggest maybe reading the book first.
I must say though, the movie was a very good summary of all the important parts in the book. However, I found that I missed the little details. I had wanted to see some characters, but was disappointed to see that they weren't included in the movie. For me, there felt to be no character/animal development. How sad. I also did not like the ending. Creative license or not, I still believe that they should have stuck to the book's original ending. The movie would have made more impact that way.
Viewed on: July 28, 2011
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
ANIMAL FARM is the famous allegory about the Soviet Union written by
George Orwell . It's a timeless fable that has outlived Orwell , Stalin
and communism itself which speaks of humanity's fondness of the tale of
the state versus the individual. Strangely though this might be down of
humanity's fondness of animals rather than its reverence of Orwell .
One problem with the narrative is that if you know anything about the
history of the USSR then its roots are a bit too obvious with Jones
being the Czar , Snowball being Trotsky , Napoleon being Stalin etc
Christopher Hitchens wrote a legendary criticism n Michael Moore's FARENHEIT 9/11 in which he stated it is clearly unwise to quote Orwell when you're clearly out of your depth on the subject of moral equivalence . This is an ironic problem with Orwell's work . He's a popular author at primary Catholic schools with an agenda that Christianity = good and atheistic communism = bad . But is communism really atheist ? Surely it's a philosophy merely seeking to replace a godly religion with a secular one ? Is the misanthropic view that gives birth for a need towards a classless utopia any different from Christians believing in the original sin of humanity ? By a bitter irony lost upon both believers and communists Orwell himself stated that both Catholic and communists are alike in that an opponent can not be more honest and intelligent than themselves
This is the problem with the animated version of ANIMAL FARM . For the most part it follows Orwell's narrative to the exact letter , then for dubious reasons changes the entire ending for something quite different . The reason for this change remains unresolved . Some claim it was because the financier of the film was the CIA hence wanted a " non communist " ending and some claim a happy ending would have appealed to a mainstream audience . Whatever the reason it does spoil what was a relatively effective adaptation of the novella . Of course it might a prophetic ending where the proletarian animals overthrow the pigs and impose their own perpetual revolution on Manor Farm that involves continually purging its leadership but I doubt if even Mao Tse Tung had come up with that concept yet never mind George Orwell
George Orwell's novel 'Animal Farm' was a fable that worked as a
bang-on critique of the Russian revolution and Stalinism. In it a group
of mistreated farmyard animals rise up against their owner and
overthrow him. They then briefly form a Utopian society that quickly
deteriorates into something very similar to the old system that was in
Different animals represent different people. The wise old pig Old Major represents Karl Marx and the beginning of communist teachings; Farmer Jones is Czar Nicholas II and represents the old regime; Napoleon and Snowball the pigs are respectively the ruthless Joseph Stalin and idealistic Leon Trotsky; the pack of dogs are the secret police and violent state enforcement; Boxer represents the hard working peasants; Benjamin, the wise but powerless individual; the sheep the unthinking masses. While Manor Farm itself is Russia and Animal Farm the Soviet Union.
The format of the fable works extremely well in illustrating the story of the formation of the USSR. This cartoon version of it is in the main a pretty impressive adaption. While the ending goes against the Dystopian one favoured by Orwell, it's not really surprising that it does this, although it's unfortunate. But it doesn't really damage the film very much as it's central idea remains intact. The animation itself is good enough, and even though there is a lot of narration I didn't consider this to be a problem. I thought that all things considered this was a good stab at an iconic bit of literature.
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