Britain’s first feature-length animated film ended up being an adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Now, I’ve never read Orwell’s original book, so I can’t compare or make note of how well an adaptation this is, but for what the film is worth, I enjoyed it. Sure, it was very rugged with its animation, which was apparent more often than not, but it told its tale, and it told it concisely; the film was scantly over 70 minutes long, and didn’t feel like it needed to be any longer.
If you don’t know the story of Animal Farm, it is a satirical allegory for the Russian Revolution and later Stalinist era of the Soviet Union, but told with animals instead of humans. The animals, who revere an old boar named Old Major, listen to a sermon by him decrying the human owners of the farm as parasites and rallying them to overthrow their owner, before he passes in the midst of teaching the animals a revolutionary song. In his wake rise Snowball and Napoleon, two very different pigs with two very different visions for the post-revolution Animal Farm, with Snowball taking the initial lead, creating seven rules for animal life and encouraging the animals to fend for themselves, which works for a while, until Napoleon makes his move, and the farm quickly devolves into a regime with the pigs at the top of the ladder. First off, if you’re expecting a professionally done animated film, even to the standards of Disney in the 1950s, Animal Farm will likely disappoint you; it’s not crudely animated, but it is very basic, so don’t watch this for the animation quality. Don’t watch this expecting a happy-go-lucky kids’ animation film, again, a la Disney; this is pretty dark, for both the humans and the animals involved, and it’s a fairly good example (at least an early one) of what animation can do for storytelling for adults as well as children.
Now, there’s a few things to not like about Animal Farm. For one, probably 70-80% of the story is told through narration, which seemed like a somewhat lazy decision. For another, besides the narrator, there is only one voice actor for all the animals that do speak, and the animation that follows his speech is not all that good; probably another reason why the narration ends up being the primary vehicle for telling the story. Still, even with its foibles, this was pretty enjoyable, and a nice way to knock out an hour or so of time. Again, though, I can’t make any comparisons to the actual book by Orwell, so I don’t know how well the story is told in that medium compared to this one, but this got the job done for me at least.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10