Whether or not it's a ratings hit, Turner Network
Television's expensive Animal Farm is a creative success, due largely to incredible
animatronic effects and the vocal talents of key actors in the animal roles.
TNT has been taking admirable risks with its "TNT
Originals," from Purgatory, a Western with a supernatural twist, to A
Slight Case of Murder, a dark comedy, to Animal Farm, which is not the typical
classic-novel-for-TV that executive producer Robert Halmi Sr. at Hallmark Entertainment
has hitherto brought to the small screen.
John Stephenson, who oversaw the animatronics for Babe
at Jim Henson's Creature Shop, does a terrific job in his first full-scale director stint
with Animal Farm, as itscontent and pigs are a far cry from Babe.
The Henson shop's creations easily account for the bulk of this drama's $24 million cost.
Filmed outside of Dublin, Ireland, the movie's lush
countryside stands in stark contrast to the neglected farm.
Originally a scathing put-down of ruthless Soviet dictator
Joseph Stalin in 1945, the once-controversial political satire is just as applicable to
more modern leaders who have been corrupted by power.
In a society ruled by pigs, the most devious are Napoleon
(voiced by Patrick Stewart and symbolizing Stalin) and his propagandist, Squealer (Ian
Eventually, to suit their own selfish purposes, they turn
on Snowball (Kelsey Grammer) and alter the "animalism" rules of the Karl
Marx-like pig, Old Major (Peter Ustinov). An example: "All animals are equal, but
some are more equal than others."
The workhorse Boxer (Paul Scofield), representing the
unquestioning, oppressed masses, is ultimately sacrificed by the pigs in their unholy
alliance with the humans, all of whom come off as drunken sots without morality.
The heroine is a dog named Jessie (Julia Ormond), whose
role is much bigger in the TNT version, which was penned by screenwriters Alan Janes and
Animal Farm bows on TNT Oct. 3 at 8 p.m.