Animal Farm (1999 film)
Animal Farm is a made-for-TV film released in 1999 by Hallmark Films and broadcast on the American cable channel TNT. It is an adaptation of the 1945 George Orwell novel of the same name. The film tells the story of farm animals successfully revolting against their human owner, only to slide into a more brutal tyranny among themselves. The film received mixed reviews when it was broadcast, with much criticism directed at its ending.
|Based on||Animal Farm by George Orwell|
|Written by||Alan Janes|
Martyn Burke (teleplay)
|Directed by||John Stephenson|
|Theme music composer||Richard Harvey|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||91 minutes|
|Original release||3 October 1999|
As a bleak scene unfolds, animals are seen struggling through the mud as Jessie (Julia Ormond), an old border collie (and the narrator of the story) reflects on the events that led them to their current situation. The film flashes back years earlier.
As the abusive and rarely sober farmer, Mr. Jones (Pete Postlethwaite), struggles with debt to neighbor farmer Mr. Pilkington (Alan Stanford), Old Major (Peter Ustinov), the prize boar at Manor Farm, holds a meeting with all the animals in the barn. Major tells the animals that mankind is their enemy, for they serve and provide for mankind without reward. All the animals then start singing an anthem created by Major. The meeting is interrupted when Jones hears the singing (all he hears is just animal noises), stumbles outside the barn and accidentally fires his shotgun, killing Old Major. Jones later uses Old Major for meat. When Jones neglects to feed the animals, Boxer (Paul Scofield), the shire horse, leads the animals to the food shed, and the pigs lead a revolution against Mr. Jones.
Under the rule of animals, Manor Farm is renamed Animal Farm by Snowball (Kelsey Grammer). Snowball paints on the barn doors what he calls the Seven Commandments of "Animalism". Napoleon (Patrick Stewart) also takes Jessie's puppies from her, claiming that it is best for them to receive an education from him. Snowball, when questioned about the disappearance of the farm's milk and apples by the other animals, confesses that he and the other pigs have taken the milk and apples for themselves. Squealer (Ian Holm) 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. Snowball has planned for such an invasion and leads the animals to victory, causing the humans to retreat. In his defeat, 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 calls Jessie's puppies, now grown dogs trained as his private army, to chase Snowball out of Animal Farm and leaving his fate unknown. Napoleon declares Snowball a "traitor and a criminal," and Squealer claims that the windmill was Napoleon's plan all along; 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 began 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. Napoleon explains that "Animal Farm cannot exist in isolation". Napoleon has the skull of Old Major 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 house 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. 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. Benjamin notices that the van that comes for Boxer is marked with the words "Horse Slaughterer", but Boxer is taken to his death before the other animals can intervene. As Jessie and Benjamin plan to flee from Animal Farm, Napoleon is paid for selling Boxer to the glue factory, and Squealer's latest propaganda film assures the animals that the van was from the hospital, but had been previously been the property of a horse slaughterer. Pilkington and his wife dine with the pigs in the farmhouse, where Napoleon announces that the farm's name will revert to 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 and Benjamin notice that the final commandment, "All animals are equal", has been extended to include "but some animals are more equal than others." Later, Napoleon is seen before a crowd of cheering animals, wearing clothes and standing upright. He declares that the farm will devote itself to making weapons and building walls to protect 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, where Jessie returns to find Manor Farm unattended and in ruins. Napoleon, Squealer, and all the other animals 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. A motorcar arrives with a 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 masters to restore the Farm.
- Pete Postlethwaite – Farmer Jones, of Manor Farm.
- Caroline Gray – Mrs. Jones, Jones' wife.
- Alan Stanford – Farmer Pilkington, of Foxwood Farm.
- Gail Fitzpatrick – Mrs. Pilkington, Pilkington's wife.
- Gerard Walsh – Farmer Frederick, of Pinchfield Farm.
- Julia Ormond – Jessie, a wise old border collie.
- Patrick Stewart – Napoleon, the leader of the pigs.
- Ian Holm – Squealer, the second-in-command pig.
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Mollie, a mare
- Kelsey Grammer – Snowball, a pig driven into exile by Napoleon.
- Pete Postlethwaite – Benjamin, an old donkey.
- Paul Scofield – Boxer, a shire horse, who is made into glue.
- Peter Ustinov – Old Major, the former leader of the pigs.
- Charles Dale – Moses, a raven
- Louise Gold – Mabel
- Jean Beith – Muriel, a goat who hates Napoleon.
Filming began on 25 August 1998 and ended on 6 November. Because of the extensive CGI work and other post-production requirements, the film was not delivered to TNT and Hallmark Entertainment until June 1999.
Fourteen animals were built to represent the animals of Animal Farm at Jim Henson's Creature Shop in London: four pigs (Old Major, Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer), two horses (Boxer and Mollie), a sheepdog (Jessie), a donkey (Benjamin), a raven (Moses), a goat (Muriel), a sheep, a rat, a chicken, and a duck.
Ten dogs were cast into the film from Fircroft Kennels. Their Border Collie, Spice, played the role of Jessie.
In early screenplays done by Martyn Burke for this film, Jessie was set to be a male character, rather than a female.
The film received mixed reviews. It currently holds a 40% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was criticized for its loose adaptation of the book, its simplicity and lack of subtlety, and for being too dark and political for children while being too familiar and simplistic for adults.