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Animal Farm
Tt0204824.jpeg
Theatrical poster
Based on Animal Farm by George Orwell
Written by Alan Janes
Martyn Burke (teleplay)
Directed by John Stephenson
Starring Kelsey Grammer
Ian Holm
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Patrick Stewart
Julia Ormond
Paul Scofield
Pete Postlethwaite
Peter Ustinov
Theme music composer Richard Harvey
Country of origin United States
United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
Production
Producer(s) Greg Smith
Robert Halmi
Cinematography Mike Brewster
Editor(s) Colin Green
Running time 91 minutes
Distributor Hallmark Films
Budget $23 million
Release
Original network TNT
Original release 3 October 1999 (1999-10-03)

Animal Farm is a 1999 British-American television film directed by John Stephenson and written by Alan Janes. Based on the 1945 novel of the same name by George Orwell, it stars Kelsey Grammer, Ian Holm, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Patrick Stewart, Julia Ormond, Paul Scofield, Pete Postlethwaite and Peter Ustinov. In the film, a group of anthropomorphic animals successfully revolt against their own human owner, only to slide into a more brutal tyranny among themselves.

Plot

As a bleak scene unfolds, a group of animals are seen struggling through the mud during a thunderstorm as Jessie, an elderly Border collie (and the narrator of the story) reflects on the events that led them to their current situation. The film flashes back to the 1940s years earlier.

As the cruel and rarely sober farmer, Jones, struggles with debt to his fellow neighbor Pilkington, Old Major, the prize Middle White boar of Manor Farm, holds a meeting with all the animals in the barn. Major tells the animals that humanity is their enemy, for they serve and provide for mankind without reward. All the animals then start singing an anthem created by Major, but is interrupted when Jones hears the singing (all he hears is just animal noises), only for him to slip in mud while investigating the sound, accidentally firing his shotgun which indirectly hits Major, causing him to stagger backwards and fall to his death from the top of the barn. Jones would then later use Major for meat by cutting up his body into joints. That night, when Jones later neglects to feed the animals, Boxer, a strong and kind-hearted shire horse, leads the animals to the food shed, eventually resulting in the pigs leading a revolution against Mr. Jones.

Now under the rule of animals, Manor Farm is renamed "Animal Farm" by a young boar named Snowball. Snowball paints on the barn doors what he calls the Seven Commandments of "Animalism". Meanwhile, Napoleon, a Berkshire boar, takes away Jessie's newborn puppies from her so that he can raise them himself, claiming that it is best for them to receive an education from him. When confronted by the other animals about the disappearance of the farm's milk and apples, Snowball confesses that he and the other pigs have taken the milk and apples for themselves. Napoleon's loyal subordinate Squealer explains that the pigs' well-being takes priority because they are the brains of the farm. Jessie is the only one who is unconvinced. Having learned that Jones has lost control of his farm, Pilkington leads an invasion into Animal Farm with other local farm workers led by Frederick so they can claim the farm for themselves. Snowball has planned for such an invasion and successfully leads the animals to victory, causing the humans to retreat. Defeated, Pilkington considers working with the animals instead.

Snowball proposes that the animals build a windmill to improve their operations, but Napoleon opposes the plan. When the animals show support for Snowball, Napoleon summons Jessie's puppies, now fully grown dogs trained to become Napoleon's private army, to chase Snowball out of Animal Farm and leaving his fate unknown. Napoleon lies by declaring Snowball a "traitor and a criminal" and Squealer claims that the windmill was Napoleon's plan the whole time; leaving the animals unaware that Napoleon is evil and is, therefore, the real traitor, with Squealer secretly working as Napoleon's accomplice.

Napoleon declares that a "special committee of pigs will now decide all aspects of the farm" and the animals begin constructing the windmill with Boxer's help. When Pilkington begins to trade with the pigs, Boxer remembers Old Major mentioning that animals were not to engage in trade with humans, but Napoleon explains that "Animal Farm cannot exist in isolation". Napoleon has Old Major's skull placed in front of the barn to oversee the Farm's progress and has a statue of himself erected nearby. Jessie confesses to the other animals that she witnessed the pigs living in the farmhouse and sleeping in the beds. Squealer explains that no commandment has been broken. He had, in fact, "altered" the commandment, "No animal shall sleep in a bed", to "No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets."

Jones and his wife sabotage Animal Farm by blowing up the almost-complete windmill with dynamite in which Napoleon frames Snowball for the sabotage. The pigs consume more food, leaving the other animals with little to eat. Napoleon declares that Snowball is causing the food shortage and that the hens will have to surrender their eggs to the market. When the hens oppose, Napoleon declares that the hens are all criminals and that no food will be given to them (and that any animal caught giving food to a hen will be punished by death). The pigs produce propaganda films using Jones' filming equipment. While celebrating Napoleon as a leader, the films show the deaths of animals that have broken Napoleon's rules. It is revealed that the commandment, "No animal shall kill any other animal", has been changed to "No animal shall kill any other animal without cause." The commandment, "No animal shall drink alcohol", is also changed to, "No animal shall drink alcohol to excess" after the pigs begin to buy whiskey from Pilkington.

After Boxer collapses from being overworked, Squealer informs Jessie that Napoleon will be sending Boxer to the hospital. However, Benjamin, a wise donkey, notices that the van that comes for Boxer is marked with the words "Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler", but Boxer is taken away to his death before the other animals can intervene. As Jessie and Benjamin plan to flee from Animal Farm, Napoleon is paid by Pilkington for selling Boxer to the glue factory in exchange for more whiskey, and Squealer's latest propaganda film assures the animals that the van was actually from the hospital, but had previously been the property of a horse slaughterer.

That night, Pilkington and his wife dine with the pigs in the farmhouse. While proposing a toast, Napoleon announces that the farm's name will revert back to its original name Manor Farm. Watching through a warped glass window, Jessie sees the faces of Pilkington and Napoleon distorted in such a way that she can't tell the difference between them, and Pilkington is overheard bragging to his wife that he made money selling second-rate farm equipment to Napoleon. Muriel the goat and Benjamin notice that the final commandment, "All animals are equal", has been extended to include "but some animals are more equal than others." Jessie, Muriel, Benjamin and a few other animals escape the farm before things can get any worse. Later, Napoleon is seen before a crowd of cheering animals, wearing Jones' clothes and standing upright on his hind legs. He declares that the farm will devote itself to making weapons and building walls for the protection of themselves and their way of life. He shouts that the revolution is over and all animals are now free.

The film returns to the present day, where Jessie and her companions return to find Manor Farm unattended and in ruins. Napoleon, Squealer, and all the other animals that remained in Manor Farm have died, but Jessie finds some dogs who had survived and realizes they are her own puppies. In response, the puppies recognize her as their mother. Jessie sees Napoleon's statue now collapsed, and remarks that she knew that one day, Napoleon's evil, cruelty, and greed would bring about his ruin.

Sometime later, a motorcar arrives with a benevolent farmer, his wife and children, the new owners of Manor Farm (although the whereabouts of Jones and his wife are unknown). Jessie remarks she will not let this family "make the same mistakes" of the neglect of Jones or the abuse of Napoleon, and is aware the small remnant of animals will now have to work alongside their new human masters to restore Manor Farm so they will finally be free at last.

Cast

  • Pete Postlethwaite as Jones, the original owner of Manor Farm who is overthrown by the animals due to his attitude and behaviour towards them. He represents Czar Nicholas II.
  • Caroline Gray as Mrs. Jones, Jones' wife.
  • Alan Stanford as Pilkington, the owner of Foxwood Farm and neighbor of Jones who later works for Napoleon. He represents the British ruling class.
  • Gail Fitzpatrick as Mrs. Pilkington, Pilkington's wife.
  • Gerard Walsh as Frederick, the owner of Pinchfield Farm. He represents Adolf Hitler.

Voices

  • Julia Ormond as Jessie, a wise and virtuous Border collie who's the narrator of the film. She represents one of the oppressed masses under Stalin or under any other dictator.
  • Patrick Stewart as Napoleon, a greedy Berkshire boar and the oppressive ruler of Animal Farm after Snowball's banishment. He represents Joseph Stalin.
  • Ian Holm as Squealer, an intelligent Tamworth pig who is Napoleon's assistant and the minister of propaganda. He represents Vyacheslav Molotov.
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Mollie, a young mare who is obsessed with ribbons and Boxer's daughter. She represents the petit bourgeoisie that fled from Russia a few years after the Russian Revolution.
  • Kelsey Grammer as Snowball, a noble boar who is in charge of Animal Farm after Old Major's death and the exile of Mr. Jones until he is overthrown by Napoleon. He represents Leon Trotsky.
  • Pete Postlethwaite as Benjamin, a wise donkey who is a close friend of Boxer and is the oldest of all the animals. He represents the Menshevik intelligentsia. Postlethwaite also played Mr. Jones in the film.
  • Paul Scofield as Boxer, a kind-hearted shire horse and the strongest of all the animals who is later made into glue. He represents Alexey Stakhanov.
  • Peter Ustinov as Old Major, a benevolent Middle White boar who is the original chief of Manor Farm until his death. He represents Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.
  • Charles Dale as Moses, a dim-witted humorous raven and the former pet of Mr. Jones who is later in cahoots with Napoleon. He represents organized religion.
    • Dale also plays Pincher, a Rottweiler who becomes Napoleon's bodyguard.
  • Jean Beith as Muriel, an elderly Saanen goat.

Differences between the book and the film

Flag of Animal Farm (film version)
Hoof and Horn flag used in the film.
Animal Farm flag (film version) (vertical)
Second version of the flag seen at the end of the film.
  • In the movie, there is an implication that Pilkington might have been the cause of everything, from refusing to help Jones with his money problems to persuading Napoleon to be more dictator-like. In the book, the cause of the Jones' downfall was his drinking and neglect. No mention in the book was made of financial problems aside from Jones "having becoming much disheartened after losing money in a lawsuit."
  • In the movie, Jessie is set as the main character and the events are told from her point of view. There is no central character in the book. She could possibly be taking over the role of Clover the horse, who is not in the film, though a black horse seen several times is presumed by people to be her.
  • Like the 1954 adaptation of the film, Jessie's mate, Bluebell was not seen nor mentioned. Pincher, however, is in the film and works as Napoleon's bodyguard.
  • Jones's drinking is scaled down in the movie.
  • In the movie, Jones cheats on his wife with Pilkington's wife. This never happens in the book.
  • There are only four pigs in the movie (Old Major, Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer). While in the book, there are several who begin to run the farm and to oversee the work done by the other animals.
  • Old Major dies of old age three days after his speech in the book and is buried. In the movie, he dies after getting accidentally shot and falls; his body is then cut up into joints which were discovered by the other animals when they look around the house.
  • The animals' rebellion takes place during midday in the book, while in the movie, it takes place during the night.
  • In the movie, it was Boxer the horse who breaks open the door to the feed shed, while in the book, it was one of the cows.
  • In the book, when Jones realizes that the animals had broken into the feed shed, he and his helpers march inside. And started cracking whips in order to drive the animals out. In the movie, they just go and see what is going on before the animals start attacking them. They also don't have whips, although Jones has a shotgun with him.
  • In the book, the animals begin burning all the things owned by Jones, including whips, harnesses, butcher's knives, and chains, and start singing "Beasts of England" around it. While in the movie, the animals are seen singing around a large fire. This fire is started by a lantern that was kicked over.
  • In the movie, there is an implication that Napoleon and Squealer were plotting to take over the farm even seconds after the revolution.
  • The humans use a hidden microphone to eavesdrop on the animals in the movie. This never happens in the book.
  • The humans try to retake the farm twice in the book, while they only try once in the movie.
  • In the book, the puppies who would later become Napoleon's savage secret police and guards are the offspring of Jessie and Bluebell. In the movie, they are Jessie's own children, as Bluebell has been adapted out.
  • Mr Frederick, the other named human farmer besides Pilkington, has a different role in the film than in the book: In the book, he is the one that begins trade with Animal Farm but pays them with counterfeit money, and leads the second attempt to retake the farm after the pigs discover the deceit and declare war on him. In the film, it is Mr Pilkington who trades with the animals with shady deals while Mr Frederick has a reduced role and even expresses sympathy for the animals at one point.
  • Mollie the mare has a larger and different role in the film than in the book, and instead of leaving for another farm after the revolution in the book, in the film, she only leaves with the other animals after Boxer's death.
  • The pigs use a television set and film to spread their propaganda in the movie, which doesn't happen in the book.
  • In the book, the windmill gets destroyed twice: first by a storm (which Napoleon attributes falsely to the exiled Snowball), then by the second human attempt to retake the farm. In the movie, Mr Jones destroys the windmill with dynamite before fleeing with his wife, although their truck is also destroyed in the process, with its wreck later added to the rebuilt windmill.
  • In the book, the events of the story take place over many years. In the movie, it's only a few days.
  • In the book, Boxer gets shot in the leg after the second attempt by the humans to retake the farm; this, along with overworking to rebuilt the windmill, causes him to badly damage his leg and to retire from work. In the movie, he does not get shot in the leg and it is the overworking that causes him to have an accident. But in both the book and the film, the pigs deliberately send him off to the glue factory while lying that he is going to a hospital for animals.
  • In the book, a new generation of pigs are born after Napoleon takes over as leader. This doesn't happen in the movie, seeing that Napoleon and Squealer are the only pigs present on the farm at that point.
  • Moses the raven is a religious figure in the book and is often quoting about a place called Sugar Candy Mountain, where all animals go after they die. In the movie, even though he does appear, Moses is not religious, although he is heard saying his version of the last rites to Boxer when he collapses from overworking.
  • In the book, the animals discover to their horror that they cannot tell the difference between the pigs and humans when they eavesdrop on a meeting between the pigs and the farmers. In the movie, it is Jessie who realizes it when she sees Napoleon and Squealer entertaining Pilkington and his wife, through a dirty window that warps their faces. In addition, only Pilkington and his wife attend as opposed to several humans in the book, and there is no brawl over an Ace of Spades in the film.
  • In the book, all of the pigs begin to walk on their back legs and to wear human clothing. In the movie, only Napoleon is seen standing upright and wearing clothes. Squealer is also seen wearing a spectacle in the movie.
  • In the movie, some of the animals (including Jessie) manage to escape into the nearby woods and only returned after Napoleon's dictatorship led the farm into self-destruction. In the book, they don't and there is no happy ending, with Muriel the goat having died prior to the book's ending.
  • At the end of the movie, a new and kinder family moves into the farm who the surviving animals will work alongside to produce a better future. This never happens in the book.
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