Animal Farm. Novella vs. Cartoon

Art and life often go hand in hand. This is one of maxims that proved relevant throughout the history humanity. Many significant events took place in the cultural, social, and political life of the countries of the world. The world order that existed on the eve of the Great Wars no longer seemed viable; it had run its course and the new paradigm of relationships between individuals and communities had to be established. The evidence does support that in the late 1940s and in the 1950s the genre of animated cartoon was used as a tool to broadcast propaganda. All propaganda created at around that time was intended to justify the horrors of the wars, people’s cruelty, ignorance, and indifference. George Orwell’s novella Animal Farm is an allegorical, anti-utopian piece published in 1945. An animated cartoon of the same name was released in 1954 and has become one of the first film adaptations of the novella. It probably goes without saying that the novella as the source piece and the cartoon as the adaptation of the original work have very much in common; at the same time, no small amount of features make the works under consideration different.

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First and foremost, Animal Farm the novella and the film share similar motifs and themes. Social inequality, injustice, exploitation, propaganda, biases and prejudices, and the absurdity of the existing system of relationships between individuals and groups are the aspects that constitute the thematic framework of both, the original work and its cinematic counterpart. Allegory is the main tool that the author of the novella, George Orwell, and the directors, John Halas and Joy Batchelor, use to explore the themes mentioned above. More importantly, however, allegory, symbolism, hyperbole, and metaphor in the film serve to convey a certain message that the makers if the film itself have in mind. Assuming that the foregoing statement is correct, it does not mean that allegory, symbolism, hyperbole, and metaphor are eliminated in the novella. The point of difference between the two pieces is how exactly the artists employ allegory, symbolism, hyperbole, and metaphor in their respective works. At this point, the artists’ use of the expressive means in their respective works has to be discussed. All in all, Halas’s and Batchelor’s version of Orwell’s animal farm is a visually appealing work. The film follows the book closely and strictly, however, some discrepancies do exist. Animal Farm directed by Halas and Batchelor is an animated cartoon, and thus, the piece is bound to correspond to the stylistic principles of the genre and it actually does. For example even though the subject matter of the film is some important and serious social, economic, and political issues, the directors manage to alternate and complement the seriousness with some quite amusing episodes (consider the episodes with a duckling at the beginning of the film). At the same time, some aspects are more subtly portrayed in the book rather thank the film. For example, when the animals take over the farm, the boar named Napoleon becomes the self-proclaimed leader of the animals. Squealer, Napoleon’s assistant and, in fact, his propagandist, attempts to persuade the animals of the farm that everything that happens, all changes that take place, are for their own good. What Squealer really does is nothing but an attempt to deceive all other animals. Squealer’s body language, gestures, and facial expressions are portrayed as colluding more in the book rather than the film.

By and large, Animal Farm the animated cartoon is an accurate replica of the original book, with quite a few major exceptions. The first discrepancy of that kind would be a reference to the question how the characters of both works interact and communicate with each other. In the novella, all central characters re animals who have no trouble communicating with one another. In this respect, the film seems more realistic as if animals in it do not talk to each other exactly, but rather the story itself is being told by a third-person omniscient narrator. In the film, Old Major the boar dies when he is giving the barn animals a talking to. In the novella, on the other hand, some time passes between Old Major’s speech and his death. In the animated cartoon, the windmill is blown up and rebuilt for a few times, which does not happen in the book. The makers of the film also managed to artistically reconsider all moments from the book when animals interact with people. Other than the aspects mentioned above, Animal Farm the animated cartoon can be deemed a fairly accurate representation of its literary counterpart.

However, the key aspect that sets the animated cartoon apart from the novella is the ending. In the novella’s finale, the animals of the farm look through the window and can no longer distinguish pigs from people. In a way, the book ends on a cliffhanger in the sense that there is not resolution of the conflict, only the deepening of the crisis. In the animated cartoon, on the other hand, the future is portrayed as not necessarily that gloomy. The makers of the film go as far as to portray the distortion of the humans and animals. Unlike in the novella, in the animated cartoon the message is being sent that the animals will stand up against humans and pigs to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. At this point, it is essential to discuss the historical context of both works under consideration. Specialists in the theory and history of literature, Orwell’s biographers, and the experts on dystopian literature maintain that the Manor Farm, otherwise also known to become the Animal Farm, is the allusion to the former Russian Empire and the former Soviet Union. Furthermore, it has been noted that Old Major is the allusion to Vladimir Lenin, whilst Napoleon and Snowball represent in the novel Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky respectively. By and large, Animal Farm the novella shows how the balance of power had been changing in the Eastern Europe in the early twentieth century. Released in the middle of the 1950s, Animal Farm the animated cartoon not just admonished people against totalitarianism and authoritarianism. At the time the film was being created and released, it was also intended as a part of the propaganda against the hypocritical Soviet Union. Clearly, the historical context is exactly what has dictated the stylistic, thematic, and genre peculiarities of Animal Farm, the novella and the animated cartoon alike. For me personally, Animal Farm the book and the film is a story of conspiracy, plot, hypocrisy, and imperfectness of the existing model of society told in a beautiful allegorical and symbolic way.

Animal Farm is one of the best-known works by George Orwell, the icon of anti-utopian literature. Specialists in literature claim dystopian literature is characterized by a set of some strict regulations. Animated cartoons exist as a separate genre and, therefore, some regulations exist that shaped the genre’s specificities as well. In the middle of the twentieth century, dystopia was a whole new genre, prompted by the period of the Great Wars, social and economic instability the wars brought about. Orwell’s works are imbued with the senses of disillusionment, hopelessness, and despair (which is, probably, why Orwell’s writings provoke the thought). By the beginning of the 1950s, people started to feel relieved. Assuming that the inferences made above are correct, respective historical backgrounds of the works being discussed can be seen as the deciding factors as they relate to the differences between the two pieces being discussed. With that idea in mind, a conclusion can be made that genre specificities and historical background have affected the plane of expression of Animal Farm the book and the film by equal measure.

George Orwell published the novella in the middle of the 1940s. In the decades that followed, the attempts were made to make the film adaptations of the book. In the middle of the 1950s, Joy Batchelor and John Halas came up with their idea of the film adaptation of Orwell’s original work. Evidently, both pieces have had very much in common and, at the same time, differed in terms of their respective stylistic and genre peculiarities. All in all, the cartoon follows the plot of the novella. However, many details that appear in the book are omitted in the film. On the other hand, the makers of the film decided to add a few details of their own to the film. The film is, therefore, not just a replica of the literary counterpart, but rather an attempt to artistically reconsider it. It is possible to draw a clear distinction between the mindset of the makers of the film and that that of the author of the original book himself. The differences in the filmmakers’ and author’s respective worldviews dictated the differences between the animated cartoon and the novella.

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