Animal Farm (1954)

Animal Farm (1954)Synopsis: The Celebrated Animated Feature Film.

After enduring years of abuse from Farmer Jones, the animals decide to take over the farm. Old Major, the prize boar hog, holds a secret meeting and proclaims that “all animals are created equal.” They should be rewarded for their hard work, so Boxer the horse, Benjamin the donkey, and Snowball the pig band together with the other animals to overthrow the farmer and create a new society. They dictate a new social structure that seems to work until one pig goes bad. Witness the rise and fall of four legged power as political obsessions lead to revolt and repression on the Animal Farm.

May Not Be Suitable For Small Children

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Animal Farm (1954) 7.75

eyelights: its political metaphors.
eyesores: its barnyard songs.

“Four legs good, two legs bad.”

I have never read ‘Animal Farm’. In fact, I have not read ANY of George Orwell’s oeuvre. But his significance is certainly not lost on me: I’m familiar with some of the concepts discussed in his works (just not enough go on at length). In any event, in honour of George Orwell’s 113th birthday, I decided that I would watch a few movies based on his works.

The first is the 1954 adaptation of ‘Animal Farm’.

An animated film, it tells the story of the animals of Manor Farm who, after years of neglect and abuse, decide to revolt against their farmer, Mr. Jones. After expulsing him from the property, the animals rebrand it Animal Farm and set up new rules by which they will improve the quality of their lives significantly:

  • Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
  • Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
  • No animal shall wear clothes.
  • No animal shall sleep in a bed.
  • No animal shall drink alcohol.
  • No animal shall kill any other animal.
  • All animals are equal.

Under the leadership of the pigs, led by Snowball and Napoleon, at first they work in concert to run the farm and bring it back to prosperity. But the pigs begin to have delusions of grandeur and look down upon the others. Soon the rules discreetly and gradually get changed to benefit the pigs. The dream is over.

And it all goes to hell from there.

‘Animal Farm’ is a satirical allegory. Orwell wanted to comment on the state of affairs in the Soviet Union at the time, how communism promised equality and prosperity for all, but how select few corrupted and coopted the system for their own benefit, eventually oppressing the very people who had put them in power.

Personally, I feel that this picture makes his message brutally clear. It’s interesting to note, however, that the ending was changed in this version: You see, although the film is officially a British production, it appears that the CIA helped finance it – and they asked for the tone to be more critical of communism.

Quelle surprise…

The animation is rudimentary by today’s standards, consisting of painted background with cell animation, but it was rather good for its time. In fact, one can easily get lost in the story since it’s told so well. My only issue is that I didn’t always like the character designs – but that’s a small gripe, all things considered.

Interestingly, even though the film is far too violent at times for most children (and, in fact, it caused a stir as parents walked out, upset that it wasn’t a cutesy film for their kids to watch), it still caters to them by giving the animals a couple of annoying sing-alongs and giving them a cute duckling as surrogate.

So weird.

Well, irrespective of whether it was aimed at family audiences or not, this rendition of ‘Animal Farm’ serves up an intelligent deconstruction of human politics by using animals as doppelgängers. It’s a must-see for those who are unfamiliar with Orwell. In fact, for many, it might even be a gateway film.

See it. Discuss it.

Date of viewing: May 11, 2016

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