Animal Farm (1954)
Reviewed on 2010 January 20
I’d seen this animated British adaptation of George Orwell’s political fable many moons ago, and forgot both how good and how dark it is.
Mr. Jones, never a kind man to the four-legged inhabitants of Manor Farm, is especially vicious after he’s had a few pints, and he spends a lot of time at the pub. His poor animals suffer in silence, until the oldest of them, Old Major the pig (all the critters are voiced by Maurice Denham), calls them to fight. Once they run him off the land, the animals have to figure out how to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, Napoleon, a vicious and greedy pig, decides he’ll dictate “what’s best” for the animals. All animals are equal, but some happen to be more equal than others.
I think they took great pains with this version. When the animals sing it even sounds a little like one of those old Russian propaganda film clips of “happy workers”. I read Orwell’s book and I think it’s great that teachers made us analyze it, but human nature being what it is, I wish they’d make students watch this thing too. I had a great history teacher say that “every democracy carries within it the seeds of its own destruction”. (Actually, that’s a paraphrase of a quote from Robert W. Welch, Jr., a co-founder of the John Birch Society. Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.) Maybe if they saw examples of how tyranny began, even through a cartoon, it would act as something of a weed killer. I loathed the pigs when I read the novel so long ago; seeing them made me despise them even more. And yes, I know the CIA fronted some serious cash to get this made. Normally that would make me queasy, but I can get past it here for the message.
Three chocolate morsels. And a little bacon, just out of spite.