Three Little Pigs (film)

Three Little Pigs is a 1933 animated short film released by United Artists, produced by Walt Disney and directed by Burt Gillett.[2] Based on the fable of the same name, the Silly Symphony won the 1934 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. The short cost $22,000 and grossed $250,000.[3]

Three Little Pigs
Promotional poster
Directed byBurt Gillett
Based onThe Three Little Pigs
Produced byWalt Disney
Music by
Animation byFred Moore
Jack King
Dick Lundy
Norm Ferguson
Art Babbitt[1]
Color processTechnicolor
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • May 25, 1933 (1933-05-25)
Running time
8 min
CountryUnited States
Box office$250,000

In 1994, it was voted #11 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field.[4] In 2007, Three Little Pigs was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Three Little Pigs premiered at the Radio City Music Hall as a short subject to Radio City's release of the First National Pictures film Elmer, the Great on May 25, 1933, in New York City.



Fifer Pig, Fiddler Pig and Practical Pig are three brothers who build their own houses. All three of them play a different kind of musical instrument – Fifer the flute, Fiddler the violin and Practical is initially seen as working without rest. Fifer and Fiddler build their straw and stick houses with much ease and have fun all day. Practical, on the other hand, "has no chance to sing and dance 'cause work and play don't mix", focusing on building his strong brick house. Fifer and Fiddler poke fun at him, but Practical warns them when the Wolf comes, they won't be able to escape. Fifer and Fiddler ignore him and continue to play, singing the now famous song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?"

As they are singing, the Big Bad Wolf really comes by, at which point Fifer and Fiddler reveal that they are in fact very afraid of the wolf, so the two pigs each retreat to their respective houses. The Wolf first blows Fifer's house down (except for the roof) with little resistance and Fifer manages to escape and hides at Fiddler's house. The wolf pretends to give up and go home, but returns disguised as an innocent sheep. The pigs see through the disguise, whereupon the Wolf blows Fiddler's house down (except for the door). The two pigs manage to escape and hide at Practical's house, who willingly gives his brothers refuge; in Practical's house, it is revealed that his musical instrument is the piano. The Wolf arrives disguised as a door-to-door Fuller Brush salesman to trick the pigs into letting him in, but fails. The Wolf then tries to blow down the strong brick house (losing his clothing in the process), but is unable, all while a confident Practical plays melodramatic piano music. Finally, he attempts to enter the house through the chimney, but smart Practical Pig takes off the lid of a boiling pot filled with water (to which he adds turpentine) under the chimney, and the Wolf falls right into it. Shrieking in pain, the Wolf runs away frantically, while the pigs sing "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" again. Practical then plays a trick by knocking on his piano, causing his brothers to think the Wolf has returned and hide under Practical's bed.

Voice cast


Reaction and legacy


The cartoon premiered on May 25, 1933 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.[5]

The cartoon was phenomenally successful with audiences of the day, so much that theaters ran the cartoon for months after its debut, to great financial response.[6] The cartoon is still considered to be the most successful animated short ever made,[7] and remained on top of animation until Disney was able to boost Mickey's popularity further by making him a top merchandise icon by the end of 1934.[8] Animator Chuck Jones observed: "That was the first time that anybody ever brought characters to life [in an animated cartoon]. They were three characters who looked alike and acted differently." Other animation historians, particularly admirers of Winsor McCay, would dispute the word "first", but Jones was not referring to personality as such but to characterization through posture and movement. Fifer and Fiddler Pig are frivolous and care-free; Practical Pig is cautious and earnest. The reason for why the film's story and characters were so well developed was that Disney had already realized the success of animated films depended upon telling emotionally gripping stories that would grab the audience and not let go.[9][10] This realization led to an important innovation around the time Pigs was in development: a "story department", separate from the animators, with storyboard artists who would be dedicated to working on a "story development" phase of the production pipeline.[11]

The moderate (but not blockbuster) success of the further "Three Pigs" cartoons was seen as a factor in Walt Disney's decision not to rest on his laurels, but instead to continue to move forward with risk-taking projects, such as the multiplane camera and the first feature-length animated film. Disney's slogan, often repeated over the years, was "You can't top pigs with pigs."[12]

Controversy and censorship


The cartoon features a scene in which the Big Bad Wolf disguises himself as a peddler for Fuller brushes in an attempt to trick Practical Pig into allowing him to enter his brick house. In the original 1933 release, the peddler disguise is that of a stereotypical Jewish man, complete with a hat, a coat, a fake Jewish nose, glasses, and a fake beard; also, Yiddish music plays as the wolf disguises his voice with a strong Yiddish accent whilst saying "I'm the Fuller Brush man. I'm giving a free sample."[13]

Shortly after the film's release, Rabbi J.X. Cohen (the director of the American Jewish Congress) wrote angrily to Walt Disney, calling the scene "vile, revolting and unnecessary as to constitute as direct affront on Jews" and demanded the scene to be removed.[14] Roy O. Disney, speaking on Walt's behalf, responded to Cohen by saying: "We have a great many Jewish business associates and friends, and certainly would avoid purposely demeaning the Jews or any other race or nationality. … It seems to us that this character is no more [offensive] than many well-known Jewish comedians portray themselves in vaudeville, stage, and screen characterizations."[15][16][14]

The "Fuller Brush Man" scene from the 1933 release of the film, at left, and from the 1948 rerelease, at right

When the short was reissued in September 1948, the scene was re-animated with the Wolf's disguise now only including a different pair of glasses, along with the same aforementioned hat and coat. His disguised voice no longer has a thick Yiddish accent and the line is changed to "I'm the Fuller Brush man. I'm working my way through college." Jack Hannah and his unit handled these changes; he told historian Jim Korkis that Walt Disney requested him to make these changes (despite there being no outside pressure for him to do so) simply because he felt the scene wasn't funny anymore and potentially hurtful after World War II.[17]



The original song composed by Frank Churchill for the cartoon, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?", was a best-selling single, mirroring the people's resolve against the "big bad wolf" of The Great Depression; the song actually became something of an anthem of the Great Depression.[18] When the Nazis began expanding the boundaries of Germany in the years preceding World War II, the song was used to represent the complacency of the Western world in allowing Fuehrer Adolf Hitler to make considerable acquisitions of territory without going to war; it was also notably used in Disney animations for the Canadian war effort.[19]

The song was further used as the inspiration for the title of the 1963 play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and its 1966 film adaptation; however, both the play and the film adaptation have no relation to the song or the cartoon that it came from.

The song was parodied in September 1989 during the stunt of WFLZ in Tampa, Florida, competing against its nearby competitor WRBQ after WRBQ failed to fill a ransom to be the only Top 40/CHR radio station in the Tampa Bay area. WFLZ then started to mock and belittle its competitor, including a "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" parody entitled "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Q?"

Home media


In the United States, the short was first released on VHS, Betamax and Laserdisc in 1984 as part of its Cartoon Classics home video series. It came out on VHS again in the US as part of the Favorite Stories collection in 1995 and in the UK in the spring of 1996 as part of the Disney Storybook Favourites series, the latter with the Jewish peddler animation restored (albeit with the reworked dialogue). It was released on December 4, 2001 (along with its sequels) as part of the Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies DVD,[20] with the PAL release again retaining the Jewish peddler animation along with the reworked dialogue.[2] The Disney+ release of the short, however, uses the altered animation in all regions.

It was later included in Walt Disney's Timeless Tales, Vol. 1, released on August 16, 2005 (featuring the edited version in the US Silly Symphonies set), which also featured The Pied Piper (1933), The Grasshopper and the Ants (1934), The Tortoise and the Hare (1935) and The Prince and the Pauper (1990).

Sequels and later appearances

Fiddler Pig (left) and Fifer Pig (right) at Tokyo Disneyland.

Disney produced several sequels to Three Little Pigs, though none were nearly as successful as the original:

  • The first of them was The Big Bad Wolf, also directed by Burt Gillett and first released on April 14, 1934.[21]
  • In 1936, a second cartoon starring the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf followed, with a story based on The Boy Who Cried Wolf. This short was entitled Three Little Wolves and introduced the Big Bad Wolf's three pup sons, all of whom just as eager for a taste of the pigs as their father.[22]
  • A third cartoon, The Practical Pig, was released in 1939 as the second-to-last Silly Symphony cartoon (two months before the final short in the series, The Ugly Duckling).[23] In this short, Fifer and Piper (again despite Practical's warning), go swimming but are captured by the Big Bad Wolf, who then goes after Practical only to be caught in Practical's newly built Lie Detector machine.
  • In 1941, a fourth cartoon, The Thrifty Pig, was distributed by the National Film Board of Canada. In this cartoon, which consists largely of reused footage from the original cartoon, Practical Pig builds his house out of Canadian war bonds, and the Big Bad Wolf representing Nazi Germany is unable to blow his house down.[24]
  • Fiddler Pig, Fifer Pig and the Big Bad Wolf make cameo appearances in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
  • Characters from the short also appeared in the television series House of Mouse and its direct-to-video films Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse (2001) and Mickey's House of Villains (2002). In the second episode of the series ("Big Bad Wolf Daddy"), the Wolf is portrayed as a popular jazz trumpeter with the stage name "Big Bad Wolf Daddy" and the pigs play as his backup band. This possibly may have been an attempt to parody the Warner Bros. cartoon Three Little Bops. The episode "Pete's House of Villains" also includes a short starring the Big Bad Wolf teaching his son how to hunt the pigs.
  • The four characters of the short appear along with other Walt Disney Animation Studios characters in the short film Once Upon a Studio.[25]

Comic adaptations


The Silly Symphony Sunday comic strip ran a seven-month-long continuation of Three Little Pigs called "The Further Adventures of the Three Little Pigs" from January 18 to August 23, 1936. This was followed by another storyline called "The Practical Pig" from May 1 to August 7, 1938.[26]

The anthology comic book Walt Disney's Comics and Stories introduced a new character, Lil Bad Wolf (the son of the Big Bad Wolf), in issue #52 (January 1945).[27] He was a constant vexation to his father (the Big Bad Wolf) because the little son was not actually bad. His favorite playmates, in fact, were the Three Pigs. New stories about Lil Bad Wolf appeared regularly in WDC&S for seven years, with the last one appearing in issue #259 (April 1962).[28]

See also



  1. ^ "Walt Disney's "Three Little Pigs" (1933) -".
  2. ^ a b Merritt, Russell; Kaufman, J. B. (2016). Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series (2nd ed.). Glendale, CA: Disney Editions. pp. 126–129. ISBN 978-1-4847-5132-9.
  3. ^ Balio, Tino (2009). United Artists: The Company Built by the Stars. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-299-23004-3.
  4. ^ Beck, Jerry (1994). The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals. Turner Publishing. ISBN 978-1878685490.
  5. ^ Doherty, Thomas (1999). Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema, 1930-34. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 69. ISBN 9780231110952.
  6. ^ "Chronology of the Walt Disney Company (1934)".
  7. ^ "Huffing and Puffing about Three Little Pigs • Senses of Cinema". 31 July 2006.
  8. ^ "The Walt Disney Family Museum - Find animation, innovation, and inspiration and immerse yourself in the remarkable life story of Walt Disney".
  9. ^ Lee, Newton; Krystina Madej (2012). Disney Stories: Getting to Digital. London: Springer Science+Business Media. pp. 55–56. ISBN 9781461421016.
  10. ^ Krasniewicz, Louise (2010). Walt Disney: A Biography. Santa Barbara: Greenwood. pp. 60–64. ISBN 9780313358302.
  11. ^ Gabler, Neal (2007). Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 181–189. ISBN 9780679757474.
  12. ^ Gabler, Neal (2007). Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. New York: Vintage Books. p. 415. ISBN 9780679757474. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  13. ^ "The Three Little Pigs. (Walt Disney, 1933) | UC Berkeley Library". Retrieved 2020-04-06.
  14. ^ a b Gabler, Neal (2006). Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. New York: Alfred A Knopf. p. 448. ASIN 0679757473.
  15. ^ Korkis, Jim (2017). Call Me Walt: Everything You Never Knew About Walt Disney. Theme Park Press. pp. 151–152. ASIN 1683901010.
  16. ^ Korkis, Jim (September 20, 2017). "Debunking Myths About Walt Disney". Retrieved 26 December 2023.
  17. ^ Korkis, Jim (February 19, 2014). "Debunking Meryl Streep: Part One". Retrieved 26 December 2023.
  18. ^ "Insider - Oh My Disney". Oh My Disney.
  19. ^ Vilas-Boas, Eric; Maher, John, eds. (October 5, 2020). "The 100 Sequences That Shaped Animation". Vulture. When fascism began bubbling up in Europe, the pigs with houses of straw and sticks were repurposed as a desperate warning call to Western nations not taking the Nazi threat seriously.
  20. ^ "Silly Symphonies: The Historic Musical Animated Classics DVD Review". DVD Dizzy. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  21. ^ "Big Bad Wolf, The (film)". D23. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  22. ^ "Three Little Wolves (film)". D23. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  23. ^ "Practical Pig, The (film)". D23. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  24. ^ "Thrifty Pig, The (film)". D23. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  25. ^ Reif, Alex (October 16, 2023). "Disney's "Once Upon a Studio" – List of Characters in Order of Appearance". Laughing Place.
  26. ^ Taliaferro, Al; Osborne, Ted; De Maris, Merrill (2016). Silly Symphonies: The Complete Disney Classics, vol 2. San Diego: IDW Publishing. ISBN 978-1631408045.
  27. ^ "Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #52". Inducks. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  28. ^ "Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #52". Inducks. Retrieved 26 July 2019.