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Animal Farm

Animal Farm is a 1954 British-American animated drama film produced by Halas and Batchelor, based on the novel of the same name by George Orwell. It was the first British animated feature (Water for Firefighting and Handling Ships, two feature-length wartime training films, were produced earlier, but did not receive a formal cinema release).

The US CIA paid for the filming, part of the American cultural offensive during the Cold War, and influenced the presentation of Orwell's ideas. The CIA initially funded Louis de Rochemont to begin work on a film version of Orwell's work, and he hired Halas & Batchelor, an animation firm in London that had made propaganda films for the British government.

Maurice Denham provided the voice for all the animals and as well as humans in the film.


Manor Farm is a formerly prosperous farm that has fallen on hard times, while suffering under the now-ineffective leadership of its aggressive and drunken owner, Mr. Jones. One night, Old Major, the prize pig and the second-oldest animal on the farm, calls all of the animals on the farm together for a meeting, where he decries their abuse and unhappiness under Jones, encouraging the animals to oust him, while emphasizing that they must hold true to their convictions after they have gained freedom. With that, he teaches the animals a revolutionary song before collapsing dead mid-song, much to their horror.

The next morning, Mr. Jones neglects to feed the animals for breakfast, and they decide to break into his storehouse to help themselves. When Mr. Jones wakes up, before threatening them with his whip, the animals revolt and drive him away from the farm, eventually renaming it "Animal Farm". Several of Jones' acquaintances in the surrounding village rally against them, but are beaten back after a fierce fight. The animals begin destroying every trace of the farmer's influence, starting with the weapons used against them. A subsequent investigation of the farmhouse leads them to decide against living there, though one of the head pigs, an antagonistic boar named Napoleon, takes interest in the abandoned house. He finds a litter of puppies left motherless and begins to raise them in private.

The Commandments of Animalism are written on a wall of the barn to illustrate their community's laws. The most important is the last, stating that: "All animals are equal." All the animals work, but the workhorse, Boxer, and his friend Benjamin the donkey, who is also the film's protagonist, put in extra work. Meanwhile, Snowball attempts to teach the animals about reading and writing. Food becomes plentiful and the farm runs smoothly. The pigs elevate themselves to positions of leadership, and set aside special food items "by virtue of their brainwork".

As winter sets in, Snowball announces his idea for a windmill, while Napoleon opposes it. As Snowball defiantly swears to lower the animals' workdays, Napoleon has his dogs chase down Snowball and kill him. Afterwards, Napoleon declares himself the new leader, along with Squealer as his propagandist, and makes changes. Meetings will no longer be held, but instead, he will make the decisions. The animals eventually work harder because of the promise of an easier life, once the windmill is completed.

During this time, the pigs also decide to alter their own laws. "No animal shall sleep in beds", is changed to "No animal shall sleep in beds with sheets", when the pigs are discovered to have been sleeping in the old farmhouse. Before long, Napoleon's greed drives him to negotiate with a local trader named Mr. Whymper for a supply of both jellies and jams. The price is all of the hens' eggs. When the hens discover this, they attempt to revolt by throwing their eggs at the pigs during an attempted seizure by force. To instill fear, Napoleon holds a "trial" where a sheep and duck join the hens accused as traitors. They are taken outside and murdered by the dogs, with their blood used to add the words "without cause" to the end of the commandment "No animal shall kill another animal." Napoleon bans the revolutionary song, stating that the revolution is complete and the dream of Animal Farm has finally been realized. He then threatens to execute any animal caught singing it.

Growing jealous of Whymper's financial success due to his trading with Animal Farm, a hostile group of pirate farmers attack the farm. Mr. Jones, shunned for his failure and drunkenness, uses dynamite to blow up the windmill. Though the animals win the battle, they do so at a great cost of lives and Boxer is wounded. Boxer continues working until he collapses one night while working on rebuilding the windmill. Napoleon sends for a van to take Boxer away, which Benjamin recognizes as the "death wagon" from Whymper's glue factory. Afterwards, a supply of alcohol is secretly delivered. At the same time, Squealer delivers a phony speech, claiming to have been near Boxer's side at his deathbed, and states that his last words were to glorify Napoleon. The upset animals see through the propaganda and recognize how tyrannical Napoleon has become, but are driven away by the snarling dogs before anything can be done. That night, the pigs toast to Boxer's memory by consuming whiskey they bought with his life.

Years pass and Napoleon, through civilizing his fellow pigs, has expanded the neighboring farms into an enterprise. The Commandments are reduced to a single phrase: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". This change finally spurs the oppressed animals of the nearby farms to gather at Animal Farm to decide upon their future. Napoleon holds a dinner party for a delegation of outside pigs, who congratulate him on having the hardest-working and lowest-consuming animals in the country. Napoleon gives a toast to a future where pigs own and operate farms everywhere.

Benjamin, overhearing the conversation, briefly imagines that all the pigs have taken on the likeness of Mr. Jones. Realizing that their living situation is even worse than it was before the revolution, the animals storm the farmhouse to overthrow Napoleon and avenge the deaths of Snowball, Boxer, and their compatriots. Napoleon tries to summon his guard dogs, but they are too drunk to respond, while the pigs in attendance are too scared to face the invading horde. The animals trample Napoleon and the pigs to death before reclaiming the farm, with Benjamin standing in grim triumph at their head.

Differences between the film and the novel[]

  • Mr Jones is not married in the movie. Nor does he have any helpers.
  • Old Major's death happens during the song, instead of three days later in his sleep.
  • Snowball, Napoleon and Squealer are present at Old Major's meeting in the film. In the book, they are not introduced until after Old Major's death.
  • Several characters such as Clover and Moses, either have much smaller roles or are not in the film.
  • In the film, Snowball attempts to break open the supply shed by himself before requesting a group of cows to help. *In the book, it is one cow that breaks open the shed.
  • The battle between the animals and humans happens after they drive away Mr. Jones.
  • In the movie, Snowball sends many pigeons out to spread the message of the revolution to other farms. In the book, Snowball wanted to do this but Napoleon stops him.
  • In the book, Snowball reveals a flag called the Hoof and Horn to the animals which is said to represent animalism. *In the movie, there is no flag. But a yellow shirt that one of the dogs took from a human that took part in the Battle of the Cow Shed is used instead.
  • In the movie, a dog (presumably Jessie) dies in the battle between the animals and humans, leaving her orphaned puppies to be raised by Napoleon as his attack dogs. In the book, a sheep was the only casualty on Animal Farm's side, while Jessie dies during the time skip between Boxer's death and the ending.
  • In the movie, it is clear that the dogs kill Snowball after chasing him out of the farm. Whiles in the book, they just chase him away.
  • Napoleon states he will decide all aspects of the farm. Whereas in the book, he stated a committee of pigs would decide them.
  • In the book, several farmers started to trade with the animals. In the film, only one man (named Whimper) is seen trading with them.
  • Napoleon is the one who tells the animals that "Beasts of England" is now forbidden. In the book, it's Squealer who declares this rule.
  • Only the pigs and a few of the humans have dialogue throughout the movie, with the exception of the scene where the Sheep bleat the rule "Four legs good, two legs bad".
  • In the book, Napoleon has Old Major's skull dug up and placed on display. This doesn't happen in the movie.
  • In the film, Mr Jones dies while blowing up the windmill. In the book, he doesn't blow the windmill up and later moves to another county. And dies in an home for alcoholics.
  • Because of the Central Intelligence Agency's involvement in the film, the ending is changed drastically from that of the original book. At the end of the movie, the animals revolt against the pigs, while in the book, that doesn't happen.
  • The message in the book and film are quite different
  • In the book, Muriel died many years after Boxer. In the 1954 film, she was with the animals revolting against Napoleon and the pigs.
  • In the book, up to thirty-five pigeons fly back and forth and launch their dung on Mr. Jones and his men. That doesn't happen in the 1954 film.