Animal Farm (1954) Poster

(1954)

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9/10
A fine transfer of Orwell to the screen
Varlaam13 February 1999
I don't understand why critics in recent years have never warmed to "Animal Farm". They believe it's "disappointingly flat" (Leslie Halliwell) or "an illustrated study aid" (Time Out). I remember when I first saw this film a quarter of a century ago. I found the betrayal of Boxer, the horse, horrifying. The description, "an intellectual film, not an emotional one" (Time Out), cannot be reconciled with my own recollections. Are British critics simply holding a British film of a British novel up to standards they would not apply to a non-British production? The film already contains evidence of a Disney influence, from adorable ducklings to a musical score with echoes of Prokofieff's "Peter and the Wolf", and an expiating ending that's not in the book. Any more of that sort of thing and critics would have accused the film of losing all of the book's bite.

George Orwell wrote a fable about revolution betrayed, and laced it liberally with references to the Russian Revolution. Much of this dimension is still visible in the film. A wise pig, Old Major, proclaims the revolution before dying. Old Major is sort of a Marx figure, although, to me, he seems to be drawn to look like Churchill. Proclamation made, nothing happens. However Farmer Jones is drunk and the animals don't get their feed. The Tsar's mismanagement produced his revolution as well. Russian parallels continue. Counter-revolutionary farmers (capitalist states) attack Animal Farm but fail. One pig, Snowball (Trotsky), tries to spread revolution to other farms (world revolution), but is murdered by his associate, Napoleon (Stalin), who prefers to consolidate his power at home. The film also has Five Year Plans, industrialization programmes, forcible collectivization, showtrials with quick executions afterwards, and historical revisionism.

But I saw this film perhaps three times long before I understood anything much about the political parallels. I liked it as much then if not more so. Knowledge of that side does tend to turn the film into an intellectual experience, but viewers who have no prior exposure to the historical facts receive the raw emotional jolt which more politically astute critics maintain the film lacks.

Regardless of whether you know a lot about Russia and her Revolution, or nothing at all, Britain's first animated feature is a film with a strong story which adults and mature kids should find absorbing, maybe even "devastating", as The New York Times once claimed back in the days when Stalin was still lying warm in his grave, if not in anyone's heart.

As for a rating on "Animal Farm", the sheep say, "Four stars good, two stars b-a-a-a-d!"
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8/10
Orwell's political fable as 50s animation
didi-525 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Directed by Joy Batchelor and John Halas, and co-written by Batchelor from the renowned novel by George Orwell, this animated film benefits from a faithful rendering of the story and two talented voices - Gordon Heath narrates, while Maurice Denham does everything else (all the animals!).

The animals who were described in Orwell's text are all given cartoon form here - Boxer the horse, Napoleon the pig, the sheep, the chickens, and so on. The ending well-known from the book (where the pigs and humans join forces and you can no longer tell which is which) was changed for the film, but that's a small point when everything else is so accurate.

The atmosphere of the cartoon 'Animal Farm' is perfect - we see collusion, spying, killing, and a real sense of fear comes through as the animals' rules are eroded one by one by their chosen leaders, the pigs.
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FASCINATING
Katmiss19 May 2001
"Animal Farm" doesn't seem like a candidate for animation, but after seeing the lackluster live-action feature last year, this animated British film looks better and better each time I view it.

Oh, I've heard the complaints about it not being wholly faithful to the source material. I'm going to apply the same defense here that I gave to "Gulliver's Travels": the film is the last place to look for accuracy. A wholly faithful adaptation would have no doubt turned everyone off, but what they have left behind is fascinating: despite an upbeat ending, the flavor of the novel remains intact. How many films can you say that about? The stinging satire is there, the political parallels are there, but a certain entertainment value is there that wasn't in the novel.

The ultimate message of the film leaves the viewer somewhat sad, according to my experience. But that's a good thing, I think. The film was animated by the British animator John Halas, whose short subject "The Christmas Visitor" is widely available on public domain but hardly seen. He retains much of the same style as he did in his earlier short and makes a strong and honorable film.

The box and ads say "Not for children." I think enlightened children will enjoy this film on one level and adults will enjoy it on an entirely different one.

If there's one thing wrong with this film, it's the ending. Orwell wrote an ending that was biting and necessary. By giving the film an upbeat ending, it somewhat undermines a first rate film. But I can't ignore the power of the previous 73 minutes, so I'm still recommending it.

***1/2 out of 4 stars
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8/10
Still Relevant Animated Film -- Not For Kids
maxlebow25 February 2006
Animal Farm, based on a novel by George Orwell, is ostensibly about a group of animals who rebel against the drunken farmer who owns them, and abuses them. They begin running the farm themselves. Their revolution is corrupted into tyranny which eventually becomes worse than the human farmer's regime.

A not-so-veiled criticism of totalitarianism under Stalin, many events portrayed in the DVD correspond to real events that took place in the Soviet Union. However, the DVD may be understood as a critique of totalitarianism, no matter where or when it appears.

Maurice Denham, the Mel Blanc of England, performed the voices of all the animals in the film. It is worth seeing the DVD for that alone.
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7/10
Nice adaption of a seminal fable
Red-Barracuda26 May 2011
George Orwell's novel 'Animal Farm' was a fable that worked as a bang-on critique of the Russian revolution and Stalinism. In it a group of mistreated farmyard animals rise up against their owner and overthrow him. They then briefly form a Utopian society that quickly deteriorates into something very similar to the old system that was in place before.

Different animals represent different people. The wise old pig Old Major represents Karl Marx and the beginning of communist teachings; Farmer Jones is Czar Nicholas II and represents the old regime; Napoleon and Snowball the pigs are respectively the ruthless Joseph Stalin and idealistic Leon Trotsky; the pack of dogs are the secret police and violent state enforcement; Boxer represents the hard working peasants; Benjamin, the wise but powerless individual; the sheep the unthinking masses. While Manor Farm itself is Russia and Animal Farm the Soviet Union.

The format of the fable works extremely well in illustrating the story of the formation of the USSR. This cartoon version of it is in the main a pretty impressive adaption. While the ending goes against the Dystopian one favoured by Orwell, it's not really surprising that it does this, although it's unfortunate. But it doesn't really damage the film very much as it's central idea remains intact. The animation itself is good enough, and even though there is a lot of narration I didn't consider this to be a problem. I thought that all things considered this was a good stab at an iconic bit of literature.
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7/10
A Powerful Cartoon
caspian197819 November 2003
Not to degrade Animal Farm by calling it a cartoon, I am amazed that it was even made into an animated film back in 1954. Even though the story is a popular book in most junior high schools, it is a tough story to take, especially the ending. In this version, the ending is given a re-make. Having more of a positive ending with hope, Animal Farm doesn't end as powerful as it does in its original written version. Still, it is one of very few cartoons that address important issues and leaves its audience with a number of powerful images.

Dealing with dictatorship, communist theory, military warlords, the democratic process and political theories, Animal Farm throws so much at the viewer / reader that it is still a highly acclaimed story. Whether it is suitable for a young audience, that is up to the individual viewer to decide.
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A good story of course and thus worth seeing but the narration-heavy delivery makes it more like an audio book than a film
bob the moo2 April 2006
Fed up with the treatment from farmer Jones, the animals of Manor Farm gather in a meeting to listen to Old Major tell them of his hopes for a socialist revolution to improve their lives. Sadly, mid-song, Old Major dies of a heart attack but by then his message had been passed on. The next morning Jones is met with resistance and driven off his own land and, when he returns with friends to take it back, a great battle ensues that the animals win. Thus begins the new, fairer farm where all animals are equal and everyone shares the work as well as having a share of the profits. However this equality soon starts to have exceptions as leaders rise up from within the ranks.

There is no doubting the value of the story or the intelligence of the source material and the decision of the film to stick closely to Orwell's book is where its strength comes from. I love the story and always have, it is well written, sharply judgemental and a cautionary tale that is rightly used heavily in schools. The socialist system rises up but soon some want more rights than others and soon the leaders of the rebellion start emulating the habits of Jones and the, once proud standards are gradually watered down. The broad characters are well written and, although they don't have any depth, they fulfil the requirements of the story telling.

The animation looks dated but given that it is now over 50 years old this is no real surprise, nor a problem. No, the problem with the film is the delivery. Heath is the narrator while Denham does the voices of all the animals; now this sounds like Denham will be carrying the majority of the film but in reality he has little to do because the film is mostly delivered in narration. This is all well and good but it does make the film feel like it is more an audio book with pictures rather than a film. As a result there isn't the emotional impact that there should have been and, although you feel sorry for the characters it is more a general feeling rather than a genuine care for the "people".

Many reviewers have commented on the ending and they are right to do so because if even an ending felt tacked on to produce a "happy" conclusion then it was this one. I understand that no producer wants to try and sell a negative product but the end of the book was fine as it was – it made a firm point and left a memorable impression whereas this one just feels wrong. Overall though it is a good film that is worth seeing due to the source material but the narrative approach lessens its value as a film and made me think that I should have just reread the book.
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7/10
A Great Pity About The Ending
Theo Robertson16 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
ANIMAL FARM is the famous allegory about the Soviet Union written by George Orwell . It's a timeless fable that has outlived Orwell , Stalin and communism itself which speaks of humanity's fondness of the tale of the state versus the individual. Strangely though this might be down of humanity's fondness of animals rather than its reverence of Orwell . One problem with the narrative is that if you know anything about the history of the USSR then its roots are a bit too obvious with Jones being the Czar , Snowball being Trotsky , Napoleon being Stalin etc

Christopher Hitchens wrote a legendary criticism n Michael Moore's FARENHEIT 9/11 in which he stated it is clearly unwise to quote Orwell when you're clearly out of your depth on the subject of moral equivalence . This is an ironic problem with Orwell's work . He's a popular author at primary Catholic schools with an agenda that Christianity = good and atheistic communism = bad . But is communism really atheist ? Surely it's a philosophy merely seeking to replace a godly religion with a secular one ? Is the misanthropic view that gives birth for a need towards a classless utopia any different from Christians believing in the original sin of humanity ? By a bitter irony lost upon both believers and communists Orwell himself stated that both Catholic and communists are alike in that an opponent can not be more honest and intelligent than themselves

This is the problem with the animated version of ANIMAL FARM . For the most part it follows Orwell's narrative to the exact letter , then for dubious reasons changes the entire ending for something quite different . The reason for this change remains unresolved . Some claim it was because the financier of the film was the CIA hence wanted a " non communist " ending and some claim a happy ending would have appealed to a mainstream audience . Whatever the reason it does spoil what was a relatively effective adaptation of the novella . Of course it might a prophetic ending where the proletarian animals overthrow the pigs and impose their own perpetual revolution on Manor Farm that involves continually purging its leadership but I doubt if even Mao Tse Tung had come up with that concept yet never mind George Orwell
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a warning
Vincentiu15 December 2014
for a viewer from East Europe, it is not exactly only a good adaptation. it is not just a cartoon. but support for memories. and a warning. the book of George Orwell is always a must re-read. but the movie - piece from the Cold War is little more important than only animation film. convincing, in clothes of children movie, it represents in large measure a bitter parable who has new nuances, special force, more perspectives about the dark frame of dictatorship. in its case, the message is more important than artistic virtues. because it remains a powerful warning. not a decent/admirable adaptation, not an old film. but an useful tool for discover and understand the past and, maybe, for transform the future as better script.
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8/10
An animated version of George Orwell's classic
The-Sarkologist17 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This is an animated film based upon the book by George Orwell about a group of animals who revolt against the owner of the farm, throw him out, and then set up their own commune, complete with a constitution. This is one of those books that I never expected there to be a film made of it, however they have, and this particular one, despite the upbeat ending, is quite a good adaptation. Most of the film is narrated, though there are the occasional spoken parts, but they are very minor. It appears that the filmmakers have attempted to retain the nature of the animals.

A number of people have suggested that this is an allegorical look at the Russian revolution and the establishment of the Soviet state. They have even suggested that a number of the characters in the novel are similar to persons within the Soviet hierarchy, and then generally point to Sunshine being Trotsky and Napoleon being Stalin. However I am inclined to disagree.

The reason for this is that I have a feeling that there is a double allegory here. The reason I say that is because while the reader, who is versed in early 20th Century history, is going to immediately think Soviet Russia, when he reads the book, I have a feeling that Orwell was looking even further back when writing this novel. I do not think that he was writing about one particular revolution, but revolutions in general, and how in many, if not all cases, they end up going full circle. Russia is a prime example of this, which is why we keep on thinking of Russia when reading this book. The second revolution of 1917 installed the Bolshevik government, and after a period of war where the capitalists attempted to, but failed, to overthrow the Bolshevik government, the new rulers set about establishing a communist paradise. However that failed, and after Lenin's death, Stalin maneuvered himself into a position of power, and then proceeded to eliminate his rivals. Thus, but 1929 Stalin was in complete control of the country and Russia had returned to an autocratic state.

However, I would also point to over revolutions, not just the Chinese revolution which installed a communist government in China, but also the American and French revolutions. The reason I say that is because there is a clear focus on a constitution in this book, and when I think of constitutions, I immediately think of the American Bill of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man. I will focus on the French revolution here.

I do not think it is any accident that Orwell chose Napoleon to be the name of the antagonist in his story. In one way it represents Stalin, but in another way it represents his namesake, Emperor Napoleon of France. I do not believe Napoleon was anywhere near as much of a butcher as Stalin, but his autocratic rule in France is a clear indicator of what Orwell was on about. The French aristocracy was overthrown and executed. Then the allies of the aristocracy declared war against France. As a result, a government was formed to fight the war, and due to this war this new, democratically elected government became ever more autocratic. However, they were overthrown in 1795, and replaced by a more moderate government, which then resulted in the rise of Napoleon, who claimed the title of Emperor of France in 1801.

I could go on to the American system, but I do not believe I have enough space to continue. I guess what Orwell is demonstrating here is that revolutions do not necessarily ever turn out the way we want them to, and in the end, all that happens is that one autocratic government is replaced by a new autocratic government. However, I still got the feeling that Napoleon (in the film) reminded me a lot of Winston Churchill.
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10/10
Worthy of the novel.
Weather_lord_721 November 2006
Why it is that people call this rubbish and dumb, the world has yet to know. I thought it was one of the greatest (if not the darkest) animated film I've seen in my days. The movie stays true to the book written by George Orwell, except for the song and the ending, which I will not spoil for you.

For Britain's first animated feature, it seems to have made quite a success, well, almost. It seems that the CIA has taken over here, and well, I shouldn't go into detail. All I can say is this, a wonderful, dark, mature film. A word of warning though, this film is pretty dark and has some scenes of blood the kids might find scary. Overall, a good film.

*watches grimly as 0 to 1000 find this comment useful*
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7/10
Animal Farm: Hard but great viewing
Platypuschow18 September 2017
I read George Orwells classic about 20yrs ago but was quite frankly devastated by it. For that reason I had no interest in watching any film adaptation but recently gave in.

Animal Farm is as relevant today as the day it was written and perhaps for that reason it is very difficult viewing.

For those unaware the entire story is an allegory for the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then on into the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union.

It tells the story of the overworked animals on a farm who turn on their human master and make it their own only to watch the same thing happen again when one of the pigs becomes the very thing they had revolted against.

The animation style is that of the early Disney cartoons, it's over the top wacky and charming. The trouble is even though the movie is heavily comical and jovial it has several very alarming scenes and a very unnerving under current throughout.

Animal Farm is great viewing and devastatingly relevant across the world,if you're reading this then you are almost certainly experiencing it whether an overworked animal or maybe even a pig.

I rate Animal Farm a tad low perhaps, not because of the quality of content but purely because it's so hard hitting and not in a good way.

The Good:

Charming animation style

In places very sweet

Extremely well written and narrated

Powerful social commentary

The Bad:

Very difficult viewing

Things I Learnt From This Movie:

The animators went out of their way to make every humans nose look ridiculous

Mankind can make a movie to reflect society and how downtrodden most are, but still won't acknowledge it enough to act
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8/10
"All animals are equal… but some animals are more equal than others"
ackstasis24 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Eric Arthur Blair, who wrote under the pseudonym George Orwell (1903-1950), was undoubtedly one of literature's most insightful social and political commentators, and his unique brand of satire is most evident in his two famous novels, "Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)" and "Animal Farm (1945)." Cinema adaptations of the former, including Michael Anderson's 1956 film and Michael Radford's 1984 film, have been relatively competent, though none have yet to charm devoted Orwellians; Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil (1985),' while not a direct adaptation, arguably came the closest. "Animal Farm" proved equally problematic to translate to the screen. In the guise of a deliberately-straightforward children's fable, Orwell wrote a sharp and knowing satire of totalitarianism, particularly Stalinism, and the final result is obviously unsuitable for children. Stylistically, animation was clearly the most suitable medium for a cinema retelling of the story, but how does one tackle such mature and complex issues using a technique that is generally dismissed as children's fare? 'Animal Farm (1954)' has all the answers.

Manor Farm, despite the onset of spring, is struggling; it's drunken owner, Mr. Jones, has left the farm unproductive and its livestock ill-treated. One night, the venerable elderly pig Old Major calls a meeting in the barn, and he stresses the importance of revolution if they are to survive and prosper. Old Major dies shortly thereafter, but his ideals remain, and the farm animals band together to hound the drunken Mr. Jones from his farm once and for all. The most intelligent animals are, of course, the pigs, and a brave and idealistic pig named Snowball takes charge of the situation, decreeing that, in their new democratic society, all animals shall be considered equal. However, the dark and greedy Napoleon has secretly trained his own army of attack dogs, and he eventually unleashes them on Snowball, who is presumably mauled to death in the surrounding scrub. Napoleon steps forward as leader and dictator, and the other animals come to realise that their situation is now far worse than it had ever been.

Even by this brief synopsis, it's evident that young children should approach this film with caution. Like Martin Rosen's 'Watership Down (1978),' another marvellous animated film with mature themes, the story is purposefully presented in its most simplistic form, as a basic animal cartoon, so that we may easily interpret its ideas and extrapolate them into our notions of human society and nature. 'Animal Farm' was the first widely-released feature-length animated film produced in the United Kingdom, and elements of Disney, like the humorous little duckling, are quite noticeable, while still maintaining the generally-dark tone of the material. As an adaptation of Orwell's original novel, the film is largely very loyal. Having first read "Animal Farm" last year, my recollection of narrative details is broad, and so I was able to enjoy the adaptation without getting anxious over the most minor details, as is often prone to happen. The optimistic ending, of course, is the one major deviation from Orwell, but I'm relatively unbothered by it. In fact, I couldn't help thinking: which animal will next rise up to become Stalin?
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7/10
Remembering Animal Farm
mariana_manso3 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I saw Animal Farm, by the second time, two days ago. I must say that the first time I saw the film I was very young, certainly under 10. And I never forgot it. It was more than 20 years ago. So, this comment is intended to share my memories of the film, along with the feelings I felt when I remembered it. More like how a child can see the film.

I remember that I first saw it thinking it was just another cartoon movie with animals: nice pigs, nice ducks... But soon I was dealing with dark images and with an awful farmer, who represented mankind. I knew it was different than the other films I saw. Of course I didn't know, by then, who Geoge Orwell was, or what was the Russian revolution. All the politics in the film passed me by. But I was fully trapped by the atmosphere, at first admiring the union of the animals, then feeling sorry for the horse in the van, seeing how the animals were getting thiner, and being scared of the pig Napoleon, dressed in a suit, and his dogs. The conclusion is that what many people don't like about the end of the film was my good relief. At least I felt my tension disappear, because the evil of the pigs was destroyed. And it there was still hope in the future. I think that, even to a child, the film can "teach" values and feelings.

When I reviewed the film, I could see, of course, many more details and I could not forget the political part. But even then I was not shocked with the end. I will sort of write what was said in an extra, on the DVD: probably George Orwell would not like the end. But it kind of foretold what would happen in the future. We know now that the people managed to rebel against the communist regimes in most European countries. Finally, I must have a word to the music, which I found dark and hopeful, right according to the theme.
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5/10
A faithful adaption to Orwell's novel.. Except when it isn't.
neenahhh28 July 2011
"Animal Farm" is a story about how the animals in Manor Farm revolt against Mr. Jones- their owner. The animals have had enough of him and decided that they didn't want to serve humans anymore. The pigs of the farm leads the others barnyards animals a revolt against Mr. Jones. Together, all the animals fight against humans, in hopes for a better future. However, an unexpected tyranny occurs, led by one of their own kind.

First of, this is NOT a children's movie. It is very dark and touches upon some sticky topics. To be honest, this movie freaked me out. Well, the book did. Thinking about it, the movie felt very lacking for me. I don't think I would have understood the movie if I hadn't read the book first. If you really want to watch this film, I suggest maybe reading the book first.

I must say though, the movie was a very good summary of all the important parts in the book. However, I found that I missed the little details. I had wanted to see some characters, but was disappointed to see that they weren't included in the movie. For me, there felt to be no character/animal development. How sad. I also did not like the ending. Creative license or not, I still believe that they should have stuck to the book's original ending. The movie would have made more impact that way.

Viewed on: July 28, 2011
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8/10
Great adaptation, sans the ending
christopherborne1 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I love the animation style. It's so early Loony Toons. This film, unlike the 1999 film, realizes that the novel is an allegory. That is, one story is being told on the surface (Snowball and Neopolean), but another is being told below the surface (Trotsky and Stalin). As such, all of the film can be interpreted in those two ways. The ending, although not the same one from the back, is very near what happened to the actual Soviet Union. Considering this film was made in 1954, that's damn good. Of the two film versions of Animal Farm, this is the best, by far. The voice acting is good (and anonymous, unlike in the 1999 film). The book was a story of rebellion, revolt, and revolution betrayed but told in the manner of a children's novel. THe film is a story of rebellion, revolt, and revolution betrayed, shown in the manner of a children's cartoon. That alone makes this a good version. Fans of the novel should be pleased with this version, despite the ending change.
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9/10
An underrated adaptation Warning: Spoilers
Honestly, I just don't see why this great film keeps receiving so much unfair criticism. It is true that that it does change the ending of the book in which it was inspired, but for most part, it very respectful for its source material, keeping all the dark elements and themes from the novel.

In many ways, "Animal Farm" managed to be away too ahead of its time, being much mature than other animated films produced in the same decade. Even when the animation wasn't as polished as the Disney classics, it was reasonably well made, with appealing designs and a good level of quality from beginning to end.

But it was the marvelous plot from this movie what made "Animal Farm" a worth-watching experience. This movie was made in a time when animation was considered a medium that only kids could enjoy (A sad misconception which unfortunately still exist in the present) and yet, it managed to be just as complex and interesting like novel, without changing the plot in order to make it much more "family friendly" (Now, if you want to see a terrible desecration of Orwell's work watch the terrible "Animal Farm" live-action TV movie from 1999, which tried to turn the story into a "Babe" clone. Yes, it was that bad.)

"Animal Farm" is simply one of the most underrated animated films ever made, being a brave effort to show the possibilities that the medium had, predating the existence of masterpieces like "Watership Down" and "The Plague Dogs". I think that this movie deserves much more appreciation and recognition from viewers.
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8/10
Brutally honest and educational...
Cephyran13 September 2004
I saw this film in my senior Social studies class. It was intended to create a paradigm of our history and how politics can turn ugly.

It did the job very well. If nothing else can effectively demonstrate the failures of our past political systems, it is this film. The parallels drawn between past governments is brutally honest, and the outright indication of the evils of communism and such. This is not so much a movie for family or children; it is best to be utilized as an educational tool. I think it would be a critical work in any social studies program. I also think it's unusual that when the film was released, it got an x-rating for the mature subject matter. Better you learn this kind of thing sooner, and not contribute to repeating the mistakes of the past.
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8/10
Entrusting film-making to intelligence agencies makes about as much sense as entrusting intelligence work to film-makers
JamesHitchcock21 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The British film industry during the thirties, forties and fifties had a fairly varied output, but there were a few genres in which we were unable, or unwilling, to compete with the Americans. Westerns, of course, were the most obvious example, but we also produced relatively few musicals and, until 1954, no feature-length cartoons, even though Disney had led the way in this area with "Snow White" in 1937 and a number of other countries had followed suit during the intervening period.

We eventually broke our duck with "Animal Farm" (and even here we needed some help from across the Atlantic. More of that later). George Orwell's story is too well-known to be set out in any detail. It is essentially an allegory of the Russian Revolution. Inspired by the teachings of a pig named Old Major (Karl Marx) the animals of Manor Farm (the Russian people) rise in revolt against their cruel, drunken and incompetent owner, Mr. Jones (the Tsar). Led by the pigs (the Bolshevik party) they drive Jones from the farm, which they rename "Animal Farm", and proceed to run it on the basis of Major's philosophy of "animalism" (communism). Dissensions arise, however, between the two leading pigs, Snowball (Trotsky) and Napoleon (Stalin). Eventually Snowball is driven out and killed and Napoleon becomes a barnyard dictator. (The allegory is somewhat simplified; there is, for example, no figure who corresponds precisely to Lenin).

The style of Halas and Batchelor's animation is quite different from that of a typical Disney cartoon. The animals are drawn in a stylised way, but are far less anthropomorphic than most Disney cartoon animals. Unlike, say, Micky Mouse or Goofy they walk on two legs, not four. The main difference is that their faces are stylised to make it easier for them to express emotions. Whereas Disney cartoons are typically dominated by vivid primary colours, Halas and Batchelor make use of a much more muted palette, especially in depicting the English countryside which forms the backdrop to the action. These differences probably reflect the fact that the film was primarily intended for an adult audience (who would understand the political references) rather than a family one. Indeed, some of the scenes could be quite upsetting for children.

The one major discrepancy between the film and Orwell's original story is the ending. Orwell's book ended with Napoleon and his fellow-pigs still firmly in control of the farm, having become virtually indistinguishable from the humans who still run the other farms in the district. In the film, however, the pigs' tyranny and hypocrisy so enrage their fellow-animals that another revolution takes place, led by Benjamin the donkey, and the pigs in their turn are driven from power. (In the book Benjamin is a much more passive, pessimistic character; he can be seen as representing that part of the Russian population which neither actively supported nor actively opposed the Soviet regime). The reason for the change is that the film was funded by the CIA for propaganda reasons; they wanted to see a film which not only criticised Soviet Communism (as Orwell had done) but also predicted its downfall (which he had not).

Orwell ended the book on a downbeat note for two reasons. Firstly, he wanted to make the point (as he was to do even more forcefully in "1984") that dictatorships, once established, are not easy to get rid of. Secondly, he was using the book to make a prediction about Stalinist Communism, which he believed would eventually become indistinguishable from capitalism. As regards the Soviet Union, in fact, Orwell was not quite right; it remained an essentially collectivist society rather than a capitalist one until the system collapsed in the early nineties. As regards the other communist superpower, however, Orwell was spot-on, even though Mao's revolution had not yet occurred at the time he wrote the book. In recent years China has transformed itself from a left-wing Marxist dictatorship into a right-wing capitalist one, without a revolution or even a change in the name of the ruling party.

Orwell had died before the film was made, so we cannot know what he would have thought of it. My guess is that he would have disliked the change in the ending, which he would have seen as a distortion of his message. Yet in other respects this is a very good film. It is visually attractive, the story is told fluently and clearly and Maurice Denham copes well with the task of providing the voices for all the in the film. I think that Orwell would have liked the film's version of Napoleon, a particularly well-developed character, reducing Stalin from a fearsome dictator to merely the biggest pig in the barnyard. Without the CIA's involvement I might have given the film a nine or even one of my rare tens. It just goes to show that entrusting film-making to intelligence agencies makes about as much sense as entrusting intelligence work to film-makers. 8/10
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9/10
A masterpiece! More dark than light. Not for children.
Growlyted16 January 2007
Just watched this masterpiece again! It's a wonderful blend of dark & light. The ending might differ from the source material, but in the film it works. The first half contains some lighter moments like the antics of a cute duckling & animals improvising their own style of farm work. Don't be fooled though. This isn't for children. It contains several scenes of violence, both on screen & off, that young or sensitive children would find upsetting. I'm surprised at the Universal rating. It should be PG at least. The artwork is impressive & the narration, voice work & music is superb. The revolution is powerfully conveyed by the animals' song. Of course the plot is simplified from the text & only a few characters speak, but the transfer is a success. One of Britain's finest & an important work. 10/10
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8/10
exceptional movie, though a bit dated
MartinHafer7 February 2006
This movie, like Orwell's original story, was a brilliant metaphor for the Russian Revolution and Stalinism. There was so much brilliance in the original story that the film couldn't help but be excellent as well. The only problems are that this film OFTEN is shown to young children and the metaphorical aspects are beyond their ability to comprehend (this is NOT a kids' story) and the quality of the animation isn't great. However, this isn't to say the animation is bad, but compared to Disney or more modern sources, it does appear rather cheap and washed out--but in no way does that change the fundamental beauty of the tale. I use the film with my World History class when we discuss Stalinism--it provides a lot of great discussion material for my high school students.
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3/10
Disappointing rethinking of the Orwell classic.
Captain_Couth15 September 2004
Animal Farm (1954) was a very good read about the dangers of totalitarianism. How good ideals can be changed and distorted by those who are ignorant or rule with an iron fist and an empty head. Sadly this movie does not portray either of these. What we're shown is a propaganda piece with a lot of finger waving and pointing. The animation and the direction were good considering the budget and the time period but the very essence of George Orwell's novel is sorely missing.

If you're one of those who want to see how not to adapt a novel or are just interested in seeing an adaptation of this brilliant novelette then by all means watch. I just found this one to be somewhat mediocre. Just one man's opinion however.

The remake is a notch below but not by much.
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4/10
This is why books shouldn't be made into movies
flutters3330 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
First off, I have to say that I loved the book Animal Farm. I read it with my 9th grade class, and it was great. We also decided that watching the movie would be beneficial. The movie was so disappointing to me. The movie cuts out some characters, and misses a lot of the main points of the book. It skips around a lot, and doesn't explain anything in detail. If someone was watching this movie without having first read the book, they would be confused. The most disappointing thing in this movie to me, was the ending. The ending in the book was the most powerful, and in the movie, they changed it! It was supposed to be the pigs and men in an alliance and sort of "melting" together, but instead, the movie made it seem like the animals were going to rebel against the pigs. To sum up, I don't think that this movie captured the real meaning that Orwell portrayed in his book.
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8/10
It's not that bad!!!
Sylviastel7 October 2007
This animated film version of the classic George Orwell novel, Animal Farm, is faithful to the book's story. After reading Animal Farm, I watched this movie which was a colorized version of the story. This film is ahead of it's time in 1954 so you have to understand that the quality may not be that great and their are only two male voices offering to play all the roles which includes the wonderful Maurice Denham OBE. The story of animals who run a farm after chasing the evil, Mr. Jones away. The animals believe they can run the farm better than Mr. Jones. The problem is that Napoleon, the pig leader or big boar, takes charge and moves into Jones' house and begins breaking the rules that they were founded upon in Animal Farm. Slowly, we see the problems arose among the animals and the unhappiness, greed, and power-hungry of some versus the others.
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Manages to keep the Orwellian content and to avoid most Disneyan pitfalls.
Loplop-210 May 1999
Having heard about this movie for years, a few months ago came my chance to watch it on television. Now this is an excellent animation feature that stands up to Orwell as well as to animation in general, and I mean commercial animation by that. Although it places itself in the American tradition of Disney-ites, the political content alone sets it apart from any children's animation. Apart from that, the animation itself is flawless, the narration is pursued with vigour but not by letting anything drop by the roadside and the visualisation is imaginative. The film takes some liberties with the book's story, but does not water the message down. After all, Orwell was far from being a communist and his views on totalitarianism were in keeping with the general fear of bolshevism in the fifties. Nevertheless, the sympathetic views towards egalitarianism en dividing of property would have provoked less favourable reactions at the time, I suppose. Humour is provided for, too, although it leans heavily towards Disneyan cuddly ducklings-effects. Also, Good is very good (horse and donkey) and Bad is very bad (pigs, dogs, farmer), although the pig Snowball's character is refreshingly ambivalent in this respect. How many more animation features did we welcome from Great Britain since 1955?
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