Title: Animal Farm
Director: John Halas/Joy Batchelor
Length: 72 Minutes
Oh boy! Animal Farm! I remember having to read this book in High School. A major part of my 10th-grade year was spent analyzing this book in English class (along with other classics like Macbeth and Lord of the Flies). I don’t think there is anyone out there who didn’t have to read George Orwell’s Animal Farm in school. I’d be very surprised if someone told me they didn’t read it at some point in High School. Shocked even. This was a fun blast from my past as I haven’t even looked at anything Animal Farm related since those days, so my memory is a little faulty. I can’t say if this was a good adaptation or not as I barely remember details of the book, but as far as the overall story and main plot points are concerned, the film definitely did a good job of staying true to the original story. A quick Google search can give you all the differences between the two (some unimportant, one glaringly big (the ending was changed) and some sad (like the exclusion of Clover)).
This feels like the perfect companion for students reading the book in class. Actually, for the most part, this film comes across more like an educational film than a film for pure enjoyment. I am sure there are people who love to watch this film, the YouTube comments definitely give that impression, but the way the film is portrayed and executed it comes across heavily as a classroom companion piece to the book more than a cinematic experience. Any student looking for a visual aid to go along with their classroom reading have to look no further than this version of the film. It definitely helps as putting pictures to words can help most students who might have difficulty following a book (some are just visual learners) and I think this should be necessary viewing for every classroom with Animal Farm on its curriculum, at least for those students who might have more difficulty following along.
That being said, it’s inclusion on this list should not be overlooked as it was one of, if not, the first animated feature to come out of the UK. The animation is also fantastic, with intricate detail put into every character and design. It’s very clear right from the first sighting of each character who they are and how evil they are. They made no subtle effort making Napoleon look like an evil bastard. Any children watching could identify who the good guys and bad guys are purely with imagery and it was a smart decision as it does come across as more of a children’s flick than an adult’s. Even the details that went into the Farmer’s look, the darkened colours, desaturated and low to really show off characterization without words. It paints a clear picture and it’s a real testament to the talents of the artists working on the film. They put a lot of time and effort into this and it shows. Story-wise they manage to capture the main feelings of the book, from the triumphant take-over of the farm to what I still consider one of the saddest moments in literature and film, Boxer’s death. It was heart-wrenching in the book but the film managed to capture that feeling perfectly. Hearing Benjamin’s honks of sadness tugs at your heartstrings every single time. I especially like how they made Benjamin into such an amazing character. From the start to end he’s like the viewer’s best friend, loyal and caring, and is the one who decides enough is enough and rallies the animals to overtake the pigs. Benjamin is the best and it’s so satisfying to watch him get what he rightfully deserves, a metaphorical medal of honour.
This film is very old school in it’s approach to animated film (which makes sense seeing how it came out in 1954). The film is heavily narrated with only a small number of characters voiced (all by one performer). It does feel more like storytime at the theatres as most of what you’re seeing is being narrated back to you, as if descriptive video had been turned on. The film expertly uses sound throughout, from the animal sounds that emphasize particular emotional moments, and the sweeping score that feels more epic than it needs to be, supporting every dramatic moment to a satisfying end. I always admired how old school animations used sound to their best advantage and this is no exception to that rule.
If you’re currently reading Animal Farm and want a Visual Aid to help guide you through it, then 100 percent I suggest watching it. Unless you are a student or just really love Animal Farm I don’t know if this movie will do much for you. The animation is superb but I can find a lot of people being turned off by the style of narration and it’s not the most engaging of films out there. It’s a nice little piece of animation history but outside of Academia, I don’t find it offers much to a regular viewer looking for a cinematic viewing experience.
Photo Credits: Distributors Corporation of America, 1954