UK, 1954 (MIFF 1956, Programme 5)
Director: John Halas, Joy Batchelor
This adaptation of George Orwell's famous political fable is the first major attempt to use the animated film as a means of telling a serious and adult story. As a considerable feat of animation &ndash: there are 750 scenes and some 30,000 drawings &ndash: the production must be deemed a landmark in the history of the British cartoon.
The story tells how, driven past endurance. the animals of Manor Farm, led by Napoleon and Snowball, two wily and intelligent pigs, rebel and set up an animal republic. A constitution is drawn up, the animals organise both the farm work and their own education, and all goes well for a time.
An attempt by the farmer to regain control is thwarted, and after liquidating Snowball, Napoleon sets himself up as dictator. The general conditions on the farm become slowly worse, although Napoleon and his fellow pigs continue to live in comfort.
The animals realise that the original aims have undergone a fatal change when the\ read the amended version of one of their Seven Commandments &ndash: "All animals are equal &ndash: but some animals are more equal than others." One night they march on the farm house, attack the pigs, and smash Napoleon's portrait to pieces. . . .
Orwell's narrative is followed with considerable accuracy, with the exception of the final episode. In the film the animals stage a counter &ndash: revolution where Orwell was content to end with a satirical comment on the growing likeness of both pigs and men.
In keeping with Orwell's realism, the style of drawing is representational, but is has some exciting pictorial effects. Some sequences, like the rebellion and the invasion, are remarkable for the dynamic movement achieved by quick cutting, and several of the longer scenes are notable for the animation, which is full of expression and individuality.
Only the pigs, destined to be humanised, talk. Belonging to the outside world, the human beings are most strongly caricatured, but, except for the martial bearing of the pigs, all the animal movements are natural and well-studied, and many of them are impressive as symbolic figures.