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Animal Farm (1999 film)

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Title: Animal Farm (1999 film)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Animal Farm, Kelsey Grammer, Paul Scofield, Patrick Stewart, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Peter Ustinov, Ian Holm, Pete Postlethwaite, Snowball (Animal Farm), Anthems in Animal Farm
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Animal Farm (1999 film)

Animal Farm
Distributed by Hallmark Films
Directed by John Stephenson
Produced by Greg Smith
Robert Halmi
Written by Alan Janes
Martyn Burke (teleplay)
George Orwell (novel)
Starring Kelsey Grammer
Ian Holm
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Patrick Stewart
Julia Ormond
Paul Scofield
Pete Postlethwaite
Peter Ustinov
Music by Richard Harvey
Cinematography Mike Brewster
Editing by Colin Green
Budget $23 million
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Release date October 3, 1999 (1999-10-03)
Running time 91 minutes

Animal Farm was a made for TV film version of the 1945 George Orwell novel of the same name. The film tells the story of how the animals of a farm successfully revolt against its human owner, only to slide into a more brutal tyranny among themselves. It was released in 1999 by Hallmark Films to mixed reviews. It currently holds a 40% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[1] It was panned for loosely adapting the book and being too dark and political for children whilst being too familiar and simplistic for adults.


Jessie, a female Border Collie, and her friends, who have all been hiding away from Napoleon and his spies, are starting their journey back to their home, which they had escaped from years before. A massive storm is washing away the looming structures of Manor Farm. Jessie reflects on the events of the past and how they were brought to their current situation and the film shifts to the past.

At night in the barn of Manor Farm, the animals gather for a meeting. Old Major, the oldest and wisest pig at Manor Farm tells the animals that they must overthrow man, their true and only enemy, in order to be free and that the animals must never adopt man’s vices. Old Major tells of a song called, “Beasts of the World,” which proclaims that animals must rise up and overthrow man. Meanwhile, in the farmhouse, the cruel owner Mr. Jones is seduced by the neighboring farmowner's wife, Mrs. Pilkington, while Mr. Pilkington is sleeping. Jones then hears the commotion in the barn and stumbles outside, slipping and accidentally firing his gun. The bullet strikes Old Major, who falls from the barn loft, dying on the ground below. Later, after Jones neglects to feed the animals, Boxer, the work horse, leads the animals to the shed where the food is kept. When Jones and his men come to face the animals, the animals attack the men in revolution, forcing them off the property.

Under the rule of animals, Manor Farm is renamed Animal Farm by the pig Snowball, who has learned to read and write. Snowball paints on the barn doors commandments he claims are the principles of Animalism, reflecting Old Major's views. The commandments forbid animals from behaving like humans and the killing of animals. The commandments also state that "whatever goes upon four legs or has wings is a friend" and that "all animals are equal." Snowball teaches the animals to chant, "Four legs good, two legs bad" and also reveals the “Hoof and Horn,” a simple green flag that represents Animal Farm.

Meanwhile, the farmhouse is preserved as a museum and the three pigs (Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer) oversee the farm's progression as it's operated entirely by animals. Jessie has birthed puppies, but Napoleon soon takes them, claiming that they need to be educated. It is also soon revealed that the pigs have taken the farm's milk and apples for themselves. Snowball feels guilty and ashamed of this action, but none of the other pigs seem to feel the same way. Squealer soon explains that the pigs are the brains of the farm and that they need the milk and apples to stay healthy so they can watch over the farm. Squealer claims that if the pigs stopped eating the milk and apples, Jones would surely return. Jessie is skeptical of the pigs' government of Animal Farm, but Boxer affirms that Napoleon is always right.

Pilkington decides that it is time to take the farm back from the animals and invades Animal Farm with other local farm workers. Snowball had planned for such an invasion and leads the animals to victory, causing the humans to retreat. Pilkington comments that, since they were unable to defeat the animals, they may “have to join them.”

Snowball proposes that the animals build a windmill to make their farm work easier, but Napoleon and Squealer oppose the plan, declaring that arming the farm and feeding the animals is more important. When the animals show support for Snowball, Napoleon urinates on Snowball’s blueprints and calls a horde of dogs to chase Snowball out of Animal Farm. Jessie is shocked to see her own puppies, now almost fully grown, as part of Napoleon's private army of vicious dogs. Napoleon assumes Old Major’s place as his own and declares Snowball a “traitor and a criminal.” Squealer states that the windmill was Napoleon’s plan all along and that his cunning tactics revealed Snowball’s treachery. Napoleon announces that the pigs will “decide all aspects of the farm” from then on.

The animals begin construction of the windmill under the strict supervision of the dogs of the Animal Guard. At night, Jessie finds Napoleon and Squealer in the farmhouse “behaving like men.” Mr. Pilkington soon begins to trade with the pigs. Although Boxer remembers Old Major mentioning that animals were not to engage in trade, Napoleon declares that “Animal Farm cannot exist in isolation” and that trades must begin with outside farmers. Napoleon also has the skull of Old Major placed in front of the barn to oversee the farm's progress. A statue of Napoleon has also been built nearby. Jessie confesses to the other animals that the pigs are living in the house and sleeping in the beds, Squealer points out that no commandment had been broken. He had, in fact, changed the commandment, ‘No animal shall sleep in a bed’ to, ‘No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.’

Angered by what Pilkington is trading with the animals on his farm, Jones sneaks to the windmill and blows it up with dynamite. When their truck is crushed by a falling boulder, they depart without anyone seeing them. The animals are devastated by the windmill’s destruction. Napoleon announces that it was Snowball had stolen the truck and sabotaged the windmill. The rebuilding process begins. Boxer is determined to finish before he retires. Squealer announces that “Beasts of the World” is banned, explaining that Animal Farm has been fully established and that the song's meaning is now irrelevant. A new song titled “Glorious Leader, Napoleon” is sung instead. Soon, the food dwindles to nothing for the working animals, while the pigs continue to fatten. It is declared one night after work 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.

The pigs produce propaganda films using Jones' filming equipment. While celebrating Napoleon as a leader, at the same time, 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,’ was also changed to, ‘No animal shall drink alcohol to excess,’ after the pigs began to buy whiskey from Pilkington.

Carting extra stones to the almost-complete windmill, Boxer collapses to the ground. Squealer informs Jessie that Napoleon will be sending Boxer to the hospital for treatment. A van comes take Boxer away, but it is marked with the words "Horse Slaughterer" and Boxer is taken to his death. Napoleon is paid for selling Boxer to the glue factory. In a propaganda film, Squealer assures the animals that the van did belong to the hospital, but, at one time, had been owned by the glue factory, and, thus, the old painting had not been removed.

Pilkington and his wife visit Animal Farm for dinner with the pigs in the farmhouse. Napoleon announces that the farm will return to its original name, Manor Farm, since that is its proper name. Watching through a warped glass window, Jessie sees the faces of the two distorted in such a way that she can't tell the difference between Napoleon and Pilkington. The commandment ‘All animals are equal' has been changed to ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’ The animals depart Manor Farm as the propaganda film displays the performance of a new song written for Napoleon which features the recurring phrase, "Napoleon, Mighty Leader!" During the performance, Napoleon is seen wearing clothes and standing on two legs. The animals around Napoleon chant, "Four legs good, two legs better!" Napoleon decrees the Manor Farm will build weapons and walls to continue their way of life. He declares the revolution over and announces, "All animals are now free!"

The film then returns to the present, with Jessie and the other animals returning to Manor Farm. Jessie knows in her heart that Napoleon has died “a victim of his own madness.” Manor Farm is derelict and largely abandoned. Jessie cannot believe that this was once the same place “where Old Major had spoken of his dream” and where they had “worked so hard for a better life.” Jessie’s puppies survived the tragedy. The farm is bought by a new family. Jessie vows that the animals will “not allow them to make the same mistakes.” She says that they will work together to rebuild the farm and that now, at last, they are finally free.


Filming began on August 25, 1998 and ending on November 6. 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.[2]

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.

It should be noted the patterns on Napoleon's skin are similar to that of his incarnation in the 1954 animated film of Animal Farm. It is unknown whether this is intentional or merely a coincidence.


Cast Character Notes
Kelsey Grammer Snowball (voice)
Patrick Stewart Napoleon (voice)
Ian Holm Squealer (voice)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus Mollie (voice)
Julia Ormond Jessie (voice)
Pete Postlethwaite Farmer Jones/voice of Benjamin
Paul Scofield Boxer (voice)
Peter Ustinov Old Major (voice)
Alan Stanford Farmer Pilkington


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
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