A rare example of mainstream animation being used to tell a highly political story, Animal Farm
retains its value as a vivid adaptation of George Orwell's classic novel. Characters were eliminated, certain elements of plot were simplified, and the book's gloomy ending was softened to offer a glimmer of hope, but Orwell's parable of the Russian revolution--retold as a revolt among not-so-equal barnyard animals--remains potently intact. As produced by the famous British animation studio run by John Halas and Joy Batchelor, this still-important 1954 film is anything but kiddie fare; it steadfastly avoids sentiment, and despite its slightly more upbeat ending this is still a story that involves exploitation, death, betrayal, and an inevitable uprising that goes a step beyond Orwell's pessimistic conclusion. With British actor Maurice Denham supplying all the voices and Gordon Heath providing newsreel-like narration, this economical, documentary-like telling of Orwell's tale was criticized for its "Disneyfied" style, but the animation is actually quite striking in its European influence and bold use of symbolism. It has aged, and some of its impact has been lost to the course of history, but it's an essential addition to any serious animation collection. Excellent commentary and a 30-minute "making of" featurette place this extraordinary milestone of British animation in proper historical context. --Jeff Shannon
Based on the classic novel by George Orwell, ANIMAL FARM tells the story of a group of farm animals who successfully revolt against their cruel human owner, only to be enslaved anew by the unscrupulous pig Napoleon, whose slogan is "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." Presented here in its 50th Anniversary edition, ANIMAL FARM combines superb animation, brilliant Technicolor, and a host of memorable characters to create a timeless fable.