Animal Farm


“Years passed. The seasons came and went. The short animal lives fled by.” Bill Plympton appears tonight at the Rubin Museum to introduce Animal Farm, Joy Batchelor & John Halas’s 1954 Technicolor animated feature adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian satire. The film plays as part of the museum’s “Wisdom Matrix” series, designed to question our relationship to wisdom and the means by which it is gained or lost—an evergreen inquiry especially ripe for reflection on the cusp of the New Year. Financed by the CIA as part of its Cold War cultural propaganda, the film takes some liberties with the novella’s original plot, twisting the corners of Orwell’s sobering ending upward into a smiling mouthpiece for capitalism and The American Way.

The irony of this appropriation makes it all the more memorable insofar as the process of film production itself is called into question; the context in which the film was created only enriches its meaning instead of defusing it. That Orwell’s allegory bears witness to its own corruption at the hands of real-world powerful elites is both deeply satisfying and disturbing—a testament to its truth and relevance as a cautionary tale, one that obviously must never be forgotten. Thankfully, a cartoon adaptation with an orchestral score has enshrined this story in our collective memory for generations to come!

Certainly there are those who might disdain the adaptation on principle, preferring to read the book and dismiss the film as a minor reduction of a literary masterpiece, but don’t let its pedigree fool you—the aesthetics of Animal Farm have more in common with comrades like Dovzhenko’s Earth than its toony sisters and brothers over at Disney and Warner. The economical animation and montage techniques reveal and reinforce the mechanics of visual storytelling at its best. This leads to an interesting intersection of perspectives whereby the discerning viewer can decode a contradictory dual reading of the film: is Animal Farm nothing more than anti-communist agitprop? Or have Halas & Batchelor—with the cooperation of the CIA—cleverly constructed one of the most subversive works of art the cinema has to offer?

Past Screenings

  • Fri Dec 30 16

    Rubin Museum

    Cabaret Cinema

    Animal Farm
    Joy Batchelor and John Halas195472 min
    Introduced by Bill Plympton
  • Thu Nov 1 18

    Nitehawk Cinema Williamsburg

    Live Sound Cinema at Nitehawk Cinema

    Animal Farm
    Joy Batchelor and John Halas195472 minDCP
    Nathan Larson, formerly the lead guitarist in art-alt band Shudder To Think, is an award-winning film composer and curator, with over 70 films and TV series to his credit. He is the co-founder of 24HR DRONE INTERNATIONAL , which presents immersive long form sound and light events worldwide in conjunction with his collaborator Melissa Auf der Maur and Basilica Hudson. This performance will feature guitars/ electronics/ tape manipulations. Nathan will be joined by Dana Lyn (violin) , Noah Hoffeld (cello) and Bill Campbell (drums/ percussion).