Plot: What’s it about?
Manor Farm is not the typical farm. You see, the animals there have chased off the humans, and now run the place for themselves. After the humans are gone, it seems as though the animals are free of their burdens and can live in paradise, but that is all just fantasy, as they soon find out. The pigs quickly assume leadership, and commence to issuing orders, laws, and other burdens, which the animals were supposed to have left behind. Snowball thinks the farm would work better under a different system, but the other pigs banish him from the farm, and threaten all animals if they try to contact or help him. As time rolls on, Napoleon becomes the ruler of the farm, and starts breaking and changing the laws to fit his needs. It seems Manor Farm has gone from one tyrannical leader to another, but rebellion stopped the trend once, maybe it can thwart it again.
Animal Farm is based on the book by George Orwell, and is filled with symbolism about governments and politics, which I will not get into here. The movie features some live actors, but mostly animatronic animals, which look excellent. I never though the animals would look as smooth and realistic as they do. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop is responsible for the amazing little guys, who even have outstanding lip synching, which surprised me. Some digital work was also done for the animals, and overall, they look stunning. Not to be content with just great looking animals, this movie also has a star studded voice talent line up as well. Some of the featured voices include Kelsey Grammer, Pete Postlethwaite, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Patrick Stewart, Ian Holm, and Julia Ormond. That’s an impressive cast list, to be sure. I recommend this movie as a rental to those who have not seen it, but if you have seen this, and enjoy it, this disc is a must have, loaded with goodies and a great audio/video offering.
Video: How does it look?
Even though Animal Farm was created for television, Artisan has issued the movie in anamorphic widescreen, which is a welcome gesture. The colors are warm and vivid, especially some of the scenic shots, filled with blue skies and lush green foliage. Black levels are sharp and accurate, with perfect shadow layering and no detail loss. I didn’t notice any compression problems, either.
Audio: How does it sound?
I was very surprised with this disc’s audio, as the subject matter didn’t seem like audio powered stuff. But I was wrong, the disc’s Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is excellent, with fantastic subtle surround use and even some strong bass response. While not always powerful in tone, the audio is consistent in its work, supplying perfect atmosphere for this movie. Of course, dialogue is vital to the film, and the disc makes sure each word is clear and crisp. You can leave the remote alone as well, as the effects, music, and dialogue are balanced well, and each element is easily heard at all times.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Artisan has delivered a nice array of bonus features for Animal Farm, which is surprising, given it’s origins as a television picture. Some talent files, production notes, and a trailer are all included. Also on the disc is a historical background on Animal Farm, and the symbolism it contains. This section adds to the enjoyment of the film, and includes information on author George Orwell also. There are storyboard comparisons for seven scenes, which is very cool, as you can see how the scenes developed and what, if any, changes were made. The disc houses a feature titled “The Animal Rules,” which allows the viewer to see a segment from the film which deals with each rule. Rounding out the disc are interviews with actor Kelsey Grammer and executive producer Robert Halmi, Sr.