Animal Farm (1954)

“No animal shall kill another animal. All animals are equal.”

Synopsis:
A group of farm animals rebel against their cruel owner and take over the farm themselves. But soon two head pigs (Napoleon and Snowball) are vying for leadership, and the animals find themselves back in dire straits.

Genres:

Review:
Most definitely NOT for little ones, this animated version of George Orwell’s classic anti-Communist allegory has been criticized as merely a serviceable adaptation of the novel (minus its downbeat ending), and viewed as most suitable for teens required to read the book in school. While there’s some truth to this (the translation is quite literal, and will likely be of most interest to those who’ve read the novel), this assessment isn’t quite fair, given that the high-quality animation throughout is consistently impressive, and the animators effectively utilize the medium to tell a tale it would undoubtedly be challenging to relate in any other format. (I haven’t seen the 1999 live version, so I can’t comment on this, but I’ve heard it’s even more disappointing.) Ultimately, as other critics have pointed out, the use of animation to tell this “fairy tale” (the novel’s subtitle) is actually appropriate — as long as viewers are prepared for a truly dark and disturbing narrative journey.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Creative animation

  • An appropriately dark adaptation of Orwell’s classic dystopian novel

Must See?
Yes, simply for its historical relevance as the first British feature animated (entertainment) film. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Animal Farm (1954)”

  1. A once-must, for its place in cinema history.

    (Perhaps not surprising that I was drawn to revisiting this after a revisit with ‘Judgment at Nuremberg’.)

    I’d only seen this once, many years ago, and had forgotten how impressive this accomplished work really is. Visually it’s rather striking, and it has a good rhythm. I recall reading Orwell’s book in high school and it seems to me that this animated version is a fine companion piece overall. One gets caught up in it rather easily; it’s as moving (i.e., the characters of Boxer and Benjamin) as it is, in its own way, shocking. (The film’s few scenes of delicately handled violence aside, perhaps the most shocking scenes – to me, anyway – come when the original rules set up for the inhabitants of Animal Farm – and painted on the side of a barn – are amended as ‘needed’ to excuse and justify corruption.) The most obvious influence of Disney comes in the snippets of humor (usually by way of light-hearted animal behavior) used to temper the story’s harsher aspects.

    Yes, quite dark in many respects (which is just fine by me), ‘Animal Farm’ is also a rewarding, satisfying film experience.

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