The first screen adaptation of Orwell's classic satire released in 1954 and the first full-length animated film made by Great Britain to get a theatrical release (the actual first feature was a navy training film for sailors) by Halas and Batchelor. The film has only two credited voice actors: Gordon Heath as the narrator and Maurice Denham, who voiced all the animals and humans!
The film's financing was done either in full or in part by the CIA — and no, the filmmakers themselves were not aware of this fact. In addition to providing the money they also influenced the production: making Snowball less sympathetic and of course changing the ending to something more upbeat to inspire anti-communist resistance.
All tropes are equal, but some are more equal than others:
- Adaptational Alternate Ending: The main diversion from the book. In the film pig delegates from other farms arrive to see Napoleon unveil the revised commandment: "All animals are equal but some animal are more equal than others". This is the final straw and that night while the pigs are toasting to their success, Benjamin briefly hallucinates that the pigs have Jones' face (as opposed to becoming humans as in the book) then leads a revolt against them with an army of animals from farms all over — the dogs are too drunk to do their job and Napoleon is quickly stomped to death.
- Adaptation Distillation: Moderately faithful with some changes to streamline the story .... until the ending.
- Adaptational Intelligence: In the book the animals are too dumb to realize what's been happening until it's too late. Here they all realize what the pigs have become after Boxer is sent to the glue factory but the dogs prevent them from taking any action... at first.
- Adaptational Karma: The ending sees Benjamin lead an uprising which quickly removes the pigs from power, and Napoleon is presumably killed by them offscreen as they storm the house.
- Adaptational Villainy: In the book, a small group of pigs protested Napoleon's coup but were quickly silenced and later killed by the dogs. Here none of the pigs make any objections and are happy to go along with Napoleon's coup.
- Always Chaotic Evil: All of the pigs summed up in this line:"And that night the pigs drank to Boxer's memory, with the whiskey they had bought with Boxer's life."
- Ascended Extra: Benjamin the donkey is essentially the main character.
- Bittersweet Ending: Yes, the animals eventually revolt against the pigs, but it's unclear what will happen next, nor does it change how many animals died before.
- Continuity Gremlin: Napoleon "benevolently" rescues a litter of white puppies from Jones' house and spends months nurturing them; he later asserts his hegemony while flanked by a team of black guard dogs.
- Death by Adaptation:
- Snowball is killed by the dogs.
- The cat is killed by the dogs as well, during the chicken revolt.
- Napoleon himself and the rest of the pigs are heavily implied to suffer this at the end by hoards of very angry and vindictive animals.
- Demoted to Extra: The majority of the animals outside the pigs, Benjamin, and Boxer. The other animals don't even get names!
- Dirty Coward: Napoleon and the pigs act tough only when their dogs are around. Without them they're all whimpering cowards.
- Greed: The catalysts for the second attempted invasion of Animal Farm — the other farms are jealous of how much money Whymper is making by trading with them.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: The dogs' decadent lifestyle resulted in them all being too intoxicated to respond to a crucial summon, leaving Napoleon helpless to the rebel assault on his headquarters.
- Let No Crisis Go to Waste: Mr. Whymper overhears the farmers talking about how Animal Farm will eventually collapse due to lack of money to buy supplies. He is quick to offer Napoleon a trade deal - jams and jellies in exchange for the farm's milk and eggs, which he sells at a tidy profit. Napoleon quickly accepts the terms."In Mr. Jones' circle the subject of shortages at Animal Farm was a popular one. And a sharp trader named Whymper was just the sort to do something about it."
- Mood Whiplash: Occurs twice in one scene when Old Major suffers a fatal heart attack while leading the animals in song, resulting in all the animals mourning his death. The mourning is short-lived when Mr. Jones fires his shotgun in the air after being woken up by the animals' cries.
- The Narrator: Gordon Heath who speaks more the animals themselves.
- Not So Different: Snowball and Napoleon. When the first winter after the rebellion comes there are shortages due to the pigs' inexperience. But both pigs only throw themselves into their own ambitions rather than work to solve the immediate hunger problem: Snowball and his windmill, Napoleon and his plans for a coup. This was done at the request of the CIA who were worried that Snowball would come off too sympathetically to audiences.
- Oh, Crap!: Napoleon when he realizes the dogs are too drunk to come to his aid at the end.
- Perpetual Frowner: Napoleon is constantly depicted as such, even when startled he maintains a grimace. The only time his expression is completely widened is when he realises the other animals are going to kill him.
- Schrödinger's Cast: In the book, Old Major dies peacefully a few days after the first animal meeting. In the film, he suffers a fatal heart attack mid-song during that same meeting.
- This Is Unforgivable!: When word gets out about the utter disaster Animal Farm has become, what the pigs are doing and their plan to spread their totalitarian ideology across the world, the animals of the other farms, regardless of their own welfare, are completely infuriated. They rise up, joining forces to become an army the world has never seen the like of, and completely crush them in the ending.
- Too Dumb to Live: In the book, Jones dies in a home for alcoholics. Here he fills the windmill with dynamite but is too busy drinking to leave before the fuse goes off, although it's up to interpretation if that was the case or his plan all along since he was just shunned to join the attack on the farm because of his drunkenness.
- The Voiceless: Mr. Jones doesn't say much more than a few incoherently mumbled words, while his pigs spend the whole film talking to each other.