Animal Farm (1954)

Animal Farm was the first animated feature film to be produced in England, by John Halas and Joy Batchelor. Animal Farm is based on George Orwell’s classic satire book based on the Russian Revolution and the problems with communism.

The film begins with an opening scene of a beautiful British countryside, but the mood quickly changes with the next scene when you are confronted with Manor Farm, a run down old farm instantly portraying far more sinister mood to the film. Animal farm is very much in the style of your typical Disney film, which are based on realism, you could also quite easily mistaken this film as one of those.

Beginning of Animal Farm, showing beautiful british countryside

Manor Farm owned by farmer Mr Jones

the story goes onto show the animals Manor farm being mistreated by the aggressive drunken farmer called Mr Jones. All this is too much for the animals of Manor farm, and leads to the animals to hold a secret meeting in the barn, chaired by their leader ‘Old Major’ a character based on Winston Churchill, as he talks about the the different hardships of the animals imposed by their owner.

Mr Jones the aggressive drunken farmer, owner of Manor Farm

Left 'Old Major' character represents Karl Marx and Lenin his voice is also based on Winston Churchill, Squealer's character represents Russian propaganda, Napoleon's character represents Stalin, and Snowball represents Leon Trotsky a progressive politician, opposition to Stalin

It is at this point you realise Animal farm is far from your typical Disney film, with an horrifying image revealing the pigs fate by showing dead pig carcass and butcher’s block.

Horrifying Image showing the Impending fate for the pigs of Manor farm

As ‘Old Major’ bring the meeting to an end, he dies leaving the animals without leadership. The next morning the animals rebel against Mr Jones, take control of Manor farm and chase Mr Jones from the farm.

Animals Revolt and take control of Manor Farm

Later Snowball tries to bring order and leadership back to the farm, with the successful efforts of the animals, Animal farm was a growing success, Snowball decides to spread the news to other farms to join the Animal Revolution. Unfortunately hardships fell on Manor Farm with inexperienced Managers brought shortages to the farm, while Snowball set his plan to improve the animals conditions with light, heat and luxuries for all but came at a cost, which would see the animals eating less and working harder much to the dismay of Napoleon who orders the dogs to chase him down and kill Snowball. Eventually the pigs take control with Napoleon as their leader and Squealer his second in command. They decide to protect their interests and make the decisions for the animals they order the animals to build the windmill, which was Snowball’s original idea to improve the conditions on Manor farm.

While the pigs are in charge of manor farm they abuse their powers, making life more difficult for the rest of the animals, as they impose more orders on the animals they begin to relax their own privileges altering the seven commandments to Animalism to suit their own greed and ignorance. The pigs eventually started trading with a human called Mr Whimper, benefiting both the pigs and Mr Whimper, the other farmers become jealous and march towards Manor farm to put an end to Animal farm, the Animals again fend off another attack, but with a disastrous consequence, as Mr Jones blows up the animals new windmill, which had to be built again increasing further hardship for the animals, at the same time the pigs were becoming lazier.

Mr jones blows up the Animals Windmill

With the building of the windmill, now the weak boxer became injured in which sees Napoleon sending him to the glue factory. After Napoleon lied to the animals about Boxers death, their suspicions grew each day, the Animals were growing more and more dissatisfied.

Animal Farm now resembling a concentration camp

Later with the uprising a distant memory, Animal Farm now resembling more like a concentration camp also shows the pigs adopting even more human traits which sees them walking on two legs. The final straw is when Benjamin reads the new revised law “ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS”

The Final straw for the Animals at Manor Farm

It is at this point where George Orwell’s book differs from the Animated film, as it is at this stage in the book depicts the animals looking through the farm window see the pigs dealing with men and the animals look from men to pig, to pig to men, the animals find it difficult to say which is which.

“The Animated film however takes up the theme of counter revolution this a surprising departure for a film that otherwise follows Orwell’s story so faithfully, might be explained by research that has recently come to light that suggest one source for the funding of animal farm may have been the American intelligence Unit, the CIA. Halas and Batchelor indeed De Rochemont where in all likelihood unaware of this, but if true does give a cogent reason for why at the height of the cold war such a change in Orwell’s story might have been seen as desirable”
Brian Sibley – Film Historian

The Animated film adopt the counter revolution theme with Benjamin peering through the window to see the Napoleon transform into Mr Jones and back to Napoleon, it is at this point all the animals start their counter revolution against the pigs.

This is where Benjamin see's Napoleon morph into Mr Jones

Unlike the Orwel's book the film follows a theme of Counter Revolution

On reflection I prefer the Animated ending as I feel this story needed resolution, also I would feel people maybe disappointed especially children who might not understand or be disillusioned by the animals suffering while the pigs carry on with their corrupt ways.


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