Disney’s Animal Farm
Monday, October 9th, 2000
Disney’s “Animal Farm”
Voice of Snowball………….Jason Alexander
Voice of Napoleon…………Danny De Vito
Voice of Farmer Jones…..Wilford Brimley
See also Disney’s 1984 and Disney’s Book of Revelations.
This cheeky animated adaptation of George Orwell’s anti-totalitarian novel eschews unmarketable political allegory in favor of idyllic scenes of animal harmony.
In order to make the story more palatable for children, the script deviates from the book’s political message in many critical ways. The novel’s violent animal uprising against Farmer Jones (symbolic of the Bolshevik Revolution against the Tsar) is whitewashed into the movie’s voluntary “vacation” for Farmer Jones. In an improbable scene, Farmer Jones (carrying a suitcase, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shades) appoints Snowball the pig (the novel’s Trotsky character) as leader in his absence. “Keep an eye on things, Snowy,” he helpfully advises.
Although the pigs do put the other animals to work (they sing the catchy “Work Is Freedom,” its tune a clear echo of “Whistle While You Work”), the pig’s dream of a Workers’ Utopia is eventually realized through the introduction of adorable, doe-eyed agricultural robots. These “AgriBots” (another blockbuster merchandising opportunity for Disney), are themselves given to frequent song (“Napoleon’s Got Semolians Now”), and dramatically boost crop yields and enable the animals to live a life of lemonade-sipping leisure.
The novel’s protracted power struggle between Snowball and Napoleon (often equated with Stalin) is reduced to the film’s climactic Oscar Meyer® Hot Dog Eating Contest. Here the two impossibly cute pigs eventually declare a sated draw, and embrace each other to the sounds of hearty belching. The other animals cheer, celebrating the hard-wrought bounty of the land. Even the “AgriBots” pause from their toil to look upon the final celebration, their eyes filled with an almost organic satisfaction.
Although readers of the book may be put off by the evisceration of Orwell’s message and the continuous presence of Archer Daniel Midland trucks on screen, rollicking songs such as “Four Pig’s Feet,” “Snowball in Heaven’s Chance” and “Work is Freedom” make it a good time for the kids—whose future reading of the book will forever be overdetermined by the indelible images of Disney animation.
Get the book! The Satirist - America's Most Critical Book (Volume 1)