We have watched two different versions of Animal Farm, by George Orwell. One version was a real film, directed by John Stephenson in 1999. The other version that we watched was an animation, the first feature length animation made in England, directed by Joy Batchelor and John Halas in 1954. I am going to review each two versions by comparing the techniques and direction used by each film maker. I am then going to explain which one I preferred and explain why. At the moment, I prefer the real life film as I think it is a lot clearer to children and it is a lot more interesting.
I will start by comparing the opening of each film. In the animation, the film opens with a bright countryside view; the manor farm is highlighted in black to capture people’s eyes. An American narrator starts telling the story; I think this is quite misleading as the animals on the farm, voiced by Maurice Denham, are English. The narrator however, is quite useful as he immediately explains the story and introduces us to most of the leading animals. This is perfect for young children watching the film. The real life film however, starts in a completely different way.
It uses a flashback to introduce us to the story. The colour is incredibly dark, almost black and white. The director uses pathetic fallacy by using thunderstorms, rain and howling wind to reflect the animal’s moods. It is clear straight away the mood of the film. Instead of using a narrator and a voiceover, the film uses the sheepdog to tell the story from her point of view. I think this is a much better way of doing it as it is more personal and is a much clearer way of understanding the story. The farm is shown as a dark and unhappy place.
I think the flashback works well for people who haven’t read the book before, and don’t know the story. The animation uses happy, cheerful music to portray the farm and pans around the farm showing each animal. As the camera becomes closer to the farmhouse, the lighting becomes darker and the colours a lot more bold and dark. The music becomes a lot more sinister and chilling. For people who have read the book, this will be easier to understand as they know what type of person Mr. Jones is. Mr Jones is shown dark and unpleasant. The music is very slow.
Another way the directors have shown the characterisation of Mr. Jones is to show all the animals expressions as being sad and upset. In the real film, the flashback is explained by the sheepdog and shows the farm how it used to be. Mr. Jones is shown to be very loud, a drunk and yelling at all the animals. However, Mr. Jones in the animation is a lot more sinister and fearful. Mr Jones, rather than being shown as a cruel man, the director has chosen to emphasise more on him being a bad farmer and being quite ill-tempered. The real film has also added an extra character of Farmer Jones wife.
She is portrayed as cruel and grumpy as well. I think this ruins the tough and mean characterisation of Mr. Jones as he appears to be fearful of his wife. Overall though, I think the wife is a good idea as it makes the story more complex. Now I will concentrate on the 2 films portrayal of the death of old major. In the animation, the timescale is incredibly quick from where Old Major thinks he is going to die, and his actual death. In old majors’ speech, the music is very built up and victorious. Old Major is straight away made out to be the leader of the animals by his high positioning over them.
He also is the only animal in the spotlight. All the animals are shown to be united and kind to each other. The speech is good and meaningful, it’s also quite self-explanatory. Each actor’s voice fits the animal well. For example, the pigs’ voice has a posh accent, whereas the lower animals are incredibly common. This helps emphasise the main characters in the story. However, the animals all make animal noises when they talk. This may be good for young children, but to adults, it can be quite annoying. During Majors speech, the directors use flashbacks to show the harshness of Mr.
Jones, they also use sinister music. Old major is killed by a gun shot by the farmer. The lighting changes colour at the shot, this emphasises the power of it. In the real film, the animals are all organised throughout the meeting, every animal knows their place. As like in the animated film, the animals’ voices all suit their own characters. Again, the pigs have the posh accent, and the rats, the common accent. The change in voices is a lot clearer in this film than in the animation. Old Major represents a war time leader, maybe Winston Churchill.
During the speech, the spotlights are again focused on Old Major, however the camera angle is now set to underneath the platform he is stood on, to emphasise the power old major has. This could also be portrayed as looking up at old Majors from the sheepdogs’ perspective. The camera angle pans round the barn of only the animals’ feet. This is very effective as it is not a usual camera shot. It also shows each animal in their place and listening to Old Major. The camera also only focuses and zooms in on the main animals that we have already been introduced to.
The meeting of the animals is broken up with a scene in the farmhouse, showing Farmer Jones and Pilkington discussing money problems. I think this part is useful as it explains to younger children what is going on for a later part in the film. However the next scene with Farmer Jones and Pilkington’s wife is not useful at all. It doesn’t further the animal plot. It is not appropriate for children either. I think the director could have used a different scene, or not used this all together. Mr Jones is also responsible for Old Majors death, as he shoots him.
The death is not emphasised as much as the animation. There is no sinister music at all. Now I will focus on the revolt against Farmer Jones and how the two films have represented this. In the animation, the timescale is again very short, and the animals are shown to be without food instantly. There is no explanation for this, but hints are given that Farmer Jones is to blame for this. All the animals’ faces are furious which is easy to show in the animation. It is shown to be the pigs’ idea to break into the food shed to steal the food. Mr. Jones, behind them, is shown in a very dark shadow.
There is also a massive build up of music. The animals retaliate; they all have the same facial expression which emphasises the unity of them all. Farmer Jones runs away after hardly any fighting and brings back farmers straight away. The overpowering of Manor Farm is set up to look like a real battle. The camera flicks between the line of animals, and the line of farmers approaching the farm. The music is a lot louder than before. The animals with the main parts, for example: Boxer, Napoleon, Snowball and Squealer are all shown up in a much brighter light and colour.
For the real life film, the camera starts off by zooming out to catch all of the animals in one shot. Mr Jones is shown always in silhouette. This emphasises the evil within him. Napoleon is shown in this version to be a lot less evil. His facial expressions are softer and not as bold. However in the animation, he is a dark coloured pig with a permanent frown. The director for this film has really expanded the film by adding extra scenes to emphasise certain events and to help explain to children. For example, part of Old Major offered to the sheepdog as food and the dog whining.
I think this is good if you haven’t read the book, if you have read the book it can become quite annoying. Pathetic fallacy is used again to represent the animals’ mood. When the animals break into the food shed, it is shown by the camera zooming in to only the animals’ hooves. However it is still obvious what the animals are doing. The breaking is a lot more detailed and realistic. The camera follows a goat into the shed to see all the animals eating the food. The music becomes very loud and dramatic and as soon as Mr. Jones speaks. This is very powerful and chilling.
There is also a brief pause to add tension. The camera angle becomes very shaky to show complete chaos. The next part I am going to discuss is the animals’ first look in the farmers’ house. The animation shows Mr. Jones’ house to be a dark, massive and unfriendly place. It is shown from the animals’ view of quite low to the ground and the enormity of the staircase is emphasised. Incredibly scary and chilling music is also played. This shows how the animals are feeling. Upstairs, there is silence apart from clocks and record players etc.
Only the main characters are shown to be looking at his belongings. Here we also see the first glimpse of Napoleon being greedy and selfish by eating all the food. The real life versions portrayal of Mr. Jones’ house uses not as good effects but is shown in a lot more detail. Again, the farmhouse is incredibly big and slightly scary music is played. You do not get the same effect of terror as in the animation. The director adds another scene where a pig opens a cupboard to show Old Majors’ head. The camera zooms in very shakily and suddenly with horror music playing.
It then immediately switches to the animals racing out of the house. The following part to exploring the farmhouse is the reading of the rules. I will now look at how the directors have portrayed this. The rules are shown to have been written by Snowball in red on the side of the barn. The camera scrolls down each one, emphasising them all. Snowball reads each one out at the same time so smaller children can also understand what is happening. Victorious music is also played to show how war-like the situation is. Also, the sign that used to be Manor farm is now emphasised as Animal farm.
The American narrator also explains what the animals are doing in every scene as speech is not used as much. The real film shows the rules in a completely different way. As snowball reads out the rules, the camera is focused at Napoleon creating him the leader, wearing his rosettes. This portrayal is not as good as it is the rules that the viewer needs to concentrate on to notice that they change throughout the film. The next part to analyse is Snowballs banishment from Animal farm and the events leading up to it. In the animated film, the spotlight is now placed on Snowball.
This shows that Snowball is taking the place of Old Major. As the camera runs through various scenes, the pigs’ sources of power become obvious. For Napoleon, his power is using the dogs, and for Snowball, his power is the plan of the windmill. Napoleon has very dark/black dogs. This emphasises whose side they are on as they look incredibly evil. As Snowball tries to explain his plan, Napoleon speaks out against it. The dogs chase Napoleon out of the farm, into the bushes and the dogs then walk. During the chase there is very dramatic noise played and as soon as the dogs come back, the music softens and becomes a lot slower.
The directors use a cliff-hanger and don’t let you know if Snowball has been killed, or merely banished. Afterwards, Napoleon claims the plan of the windmill to be his own. The real life version of Animal farm shows Napoleon to only speak out against the plan; he does not claim it as his own. I think this is a better way to portray it as it is more realistic and believable. Squealer is used in this version to change the favour of Snowball to Napoleon; this is not used in the animation. The chase of Snowball is much more effective and detailed. The chase is from the dogs’ perspective, looking at Snowballs back.
The music is incredibly fast and dramatic, and also the scenery towards the sides is fast, this emphasises the speed and emergency of the chase. In this film, it is obvious that Snowball has only been banished, he has not been killed. The next part of the two films I am going to look at is Boxers death. In the animation, Boxer is hit by a rock that fell from the windmill. It uses pathetic fallacy again with rain and dark conditions. The animation shows that the pigs are obviously planning something else for Boxer, instead of sending him to the hospital.
All the pigs have very soothing and calming voices to encourage persuasiveness. The animation shows a lot better how all the animals stick up for each other. There is a greater sense of unity than in the real film. On the van for Boxer, there is an obvious symbol (a skull and crossbones) to show the van is not for the hospital. As soon as the symbol is shown, the music changes and becomes more sinister and dramatic. As the animals stop chasing the van, the music slows as well. The animals’ faces are all furious or really upset. These facial expressions are the first symbol that the animals don’t trust Napoleon anymore.
The narrator explains what has happened a lot more clearly than the animation shows it. In the real film, the symbol on the back of the van is not as clear. The fight to keep Boxer out of the van is longer, with the sheepdog and the donkey chasing the van for longer. The camera angle is set inside the van and the music is again, very fast. Now I shall talk about the ending of both films, before finally moving onto small details about each film that I think improve each one. In the animation, the film finishes by showing how much the pigs and the farm has developed.
The timescale is a lot more apparent and all the animals are a lot more frail and thinner. The animation shows as them not being able to walk as well. The animation shows the pigs with Mr. Jones face on each of them. This is very obvious for small children to show that there is no difference between them. The film finalises with a cliff-hanger, we don’t know if Napoleons reign is defeated or not. It is usually a great way to end a film but as this is based on a book, it isn’t very good for those who have read it because they know what is going to happen anyway.
But if you haven’t read the book, it is a good way to wonder about what happens next. In the real life film, the ending is much more dramatic. The animals are shown to have run away and lots of slow and sad music is played. The pigs are shown more and more to be socialising with humans. For example, Pilkington and Pilkington’s wife visit the house and they behave more and more alike. The pigs revert the name of the farm back to Manor Farm to emphasise that the farm has come full circle to the pigs becoming the equivalent of Farmer Jones.
Another way this is shown is by using a special effect of the camera by mixing the face of Napoleon and Pilkington together to show there is no longer anything different about them. The beginning of the film now makes much more sense as the ending is practically identical to the flashback at the beginning. This film actually shows that Napoleon has been defeated by representing this by the falling of a statue of him. Also, another way the director has represented this is by using triumphant music to show the animals were victorious.
The lighting now becomes a lot lighter and the music is a lot more peaceful. Finally, I am going to look at the small fine points that benefit to each film’s overview. In the animation, the director has used a very small character of a duckling for various purposes. In some cases, the duckling is used for comedy to keep the viewer entertained. For example, in Mr. Jones’ house when it is trying to climb up the stairs. It can also be used for linking purposes. Instead of the camera just jumping scenes, it uses this character to link them together.
I think this benefits to the films reputation of being a children’s film but I cannot see adults enjoying this. In the real film, the director uses Squealer the pig as a way of convincing everyone to be on Napoleons side. This is not used in the animation. I prefer having Squealer in the film as it makes it more interesting. Squealer is also a very different colour to the other pigs so that he can easily stand out. Towards the end of the film his voice becomes more and more hypnotic and calming as he has to try even harder to persuade the animals to stay with Napoleon.
This version of the film also uses a broadcasting principle to inform the animals what is happening. It is shown in the barn in flickering black and white. It has been use as we can familiarise with it as bearing bad news and being of importance to us. The broadcasts are the equivalent of the animations narrator as it sums up what has been happening on the farm. I like the idea of as the film progresses, fewer and fewer animals are watching the broadcast, until finally there are no animals left.
The film that I have preferred is the real life version. I like the way the director adds more scenes to the film because if you have read the book, it is still interesting and it keeps you entertained. The animation skipped out to many important scenes, for example, the execution of the farmyard animals who had betrayed Napoleon. I preferred the realistic views of the film with the animals view points and expressions. I thought it was more comical as well. I liked the idea of the broadcasting as it was familiar to me and it modernised the book.
The real film also was a lot more explanatory towards adults and children as well. However I do think that the animation is still a lot more suited towards younger children, it is just not suitable for adults and teenagers. I also liked the music more in the real film because in the animation, I often thought there was a lot more music than speech and it just became boring after a while. The real film is a lot more modern and I can relate to it a lot more that then film produced in the 50’s. Overall, I think that the real film is a much better film in most ways.