The Three Little Pigs is a landmark animated short film released on May 27, 1933. It was produced by Walt Disney (though distributed through United Artists). Based on the fairy tale of the same name, Three Little Pigs won the 1934 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons. In addition to critical acclaim, the cartoon was a smash hit, so much that it was still running in theaters months after its debut, and became Disney's biggest financial success. To this day, it remains the single-most successful animated short ever made.
Animator Chuck Jones said, "That was the first time that anybody ever brought characters to life [in an animated cartoon]. They were three characters who looked alike and acted differently". The film is also notable for being the first animated short to be musically scored like a feature, rather than the standard cartoon scores of the time, which tended to be stitched together from staple songs.
A few follow up shorts were made in the following years, but none of them ever matched the original in popularity. The characters also made appearances in other Disney media, including many comic books, which gave the Big Bad Wolf the name "Zeke" and also starred his White Sheep son, Li'l Bad Wolf, who was friends with the three pigs and would often stop his father's schemes from trying to eat them.
In 2007, The Three Little Pigs was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Has no relation to the 1995 feature length animated musical adaptation, The 3 Little Pigs: The Movie.
The Three Little Pigs provides examples of:
- An Aesop: Hard work and preparation can help prevent a disaster.
- Aesop Amnesia: Subsequent Silly Symphonies shorts show that Practical Pig is still the only one doing any work or taking Big Bad seriously.
- All There in the Manual: The characters' names are given in supplemental material of the shorts, but not in the actual cartoons.
- All Work vs. All Play: Practical's All Work while his brothers, Fiddler and Fifer, are All Play.
- And Then What?: A comic story in which the Wolf finally catches the pigs sends him through this.
- Aside Glance: The Big Bad Wolf does this often.
- Ass in a Lion Skin: The wolf becomes (literally) A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.Wolf: I'm a poor little sheep, with no place to sleep. Please open the door, and let me in!
Pigs: Not by the hair of our chinny-chin-chin! You can't fool us with that old sheepskin!
- Bag of Kidnapping: The Wolf captures Fiddler and Fifer Pig with this method in "The Practical Pig" after first luring them over with his mermaid disguise then scooping them up in a net, he later tries to do the same to Practical Pig but he sees through his disguise and turns the tables on him with his trapdoor and puts him through his lie detector machine.
- Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Practical Pig and the Big Bad Wolf in the original short and its spin-offs. Li'l Bad Wolf also falls under this category.
- The Big Bad Wolf: Yup.
- Black Comedy: There are two pictures on Practical's wall labeled "Mother" and "Father". "Mother" shows a picture of a sow with a bunch of piglets. "Father" shows a string of sausage. And "Uncle Otto" is a football.
- Blow You Away: The Big Bad Wolf's MO as per the fairy tale.
- Bowdlerise: In the original cut of the original short, the wolf attempts to gain access to Practical Pig's house by disguising himself as a Jewish "Fuller Brush Man," including a mask sporting a long, hooked nose, a large beard, and small spectacles that invoked popular anti-Semitic caricatures of the era. After World War II and the publicizing of The Holocaust, the shots of his Jewish peddler disguise were reanimated to depict him without the mask, albeit still with the original version's audio (thus he still speaks with the Yiddish accent). Some TV airings of the short, and all current American releases, further excise this by dubbing the audio, so that he no longer has the aforementioned accent.
- Weirdly, current European releases, plus one Japanese LaserDisc release, restore the footage of the original Jewish peddler disguise, but continue to use the redubbed audio, resulting in a clear lack of lip sync.
- Bravado Song: Before facing The Big Bad Wolf head-on and losing their confidence, the first two little pigs sing a song called "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?", about how they don't fear him.
- Chimney Entry: At the end of the first short the wolf tries to enter the brick house like this, but falls into a cauldron full of boiling water and turpentine that the pig had prepared at the bottom for him, sending the agonizing wolf back to the top of the chimney, resulting in him giving up.
- Comic-Book Adaptation: There are many comics starring the characters, usually focusing on Zeke Wolf's never-ending schemes to catch the pigs.
- Creepy Crossdresser: In Three Little Wolves and The Practical Pig. The former has the Big Bad Wolf disguise himself as Bo Peep, while the latter has him dress up like a mermaid, all to catch two unsuspecting pigs in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- The first sequel, The Big Bad Wolf, features Fifer and Fiddler escorting Little Red Riding Hood to her grandmother's.
- The comics also frequently guest star Br'er Bear, usually as a foil to Zeke. In these stories, B'rer Bear is generally portrayed as more of a good guy than he was in Song of the South, even being friendly with the pigs and Li'l Wolf — although he's still stupid and violent, with Zeke as the most frequent target for his violent tantrums. In fact, Br'er Bear in these comics is notable as one of the only people in a Disney comic who could shoot at someone with a shotgun and actually hit him. Zeke always survived being shot, though. Br'er Fox and Br'er Rabbit also make sporadic appearances, with their original characterizations more or less intact.
- Some African retellings of the Three Little Pigs tale would have them share a verse with Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear, reflected in the version Joel Chandler Harris retold in 1883.
- Crying Wolf: Part of the plot of Three Little Wolves. Fifer and Fiddler discover their brother's wolf alarm (a horn), and start blowing it, ignoring his warnings that overusing it may cause him to ignore an actual alarm which he does when they're captured by the wolf. The only reason practical goes to rescue them at the end is that they trick the wolf into blowing the alarm with his powerful breath.Practical: Someday the wolf will get ya, then you'll be in a fix. You blow that horn and I won't come. I'll think it's one of your tricks.
- Cute Little Fangs: Li'l Bad Wolf in the self-titled cartoon short.
- Disneyfication: In Disney's version, the first two pigs manage to escape the Wolf after he destroys their houses and seek refuge in Practical's house. Several other retellings of the story, such as the Richard Scarry version, also went with this.
- Divergent Character Evolution: The Li'l Wolves went through this. Three Little Wolves introduced the Big Bad Wolf's three sons, all of whom were just as determined to eat pork as their father. This short and its follow up, The Practical Pig, were changed in later adaptations to two Bad Li'l Wolves and one Good Li'l Wolf, who feels sorry for Fifer and Fiddler and helps them escape. This Good Li'l Wolf eventually evolved into Li'l (Bad) Wolf, Zeke's only son and the Pigs' best friend.
- Disguised in Drag: The Big Bad Wolf enjoys doing this as part of his schemes to catch the kids, often resulting in him being a Creepy Crossdresser. One memorable instance was in Three Little Wolves when he dressed up as Little Bo Peep.
- Embarrassing Old Photo: In a 1946 comic story, the Big Bad Wolf is trying to show his son in a photo album how being bad has run in his family for a long time. But then they come across a picture of when he himself was young, dressed in a stereotypical "good boy" sailor suit with a flower and a pullstring pig toy, with "Our Little Zeke" written on it. Naturally, Li'l Bad Wolf has a good laugh about this.
- Enfant Terrible: The three little wolves as they want to eat the pigs and scheme like his dad.
- Fear Song: Defied with "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" The song starts out with Fifer Pig and Fiddler Pig joyfully singing about how they play around all day because they have no fear of the Big Bad Wolf. They mock Practical Pig for building a strong house to protect himself from the Wolf. Practical Pig sings about how he doesn't care what the other pigs think, because he knows he's right to take precautions against the Wolf. Fifer and Fiddler Pig sing the song whenever they think there is no danger, only to immediately cower and panic at the slightest hint of danger. The song carries the cartoon's overall message: When a bad situation is coming, it's best to work hard and take the proper precautions so that there's no reason to be afraid when disaster strikes.
- Flanderization: The pigs went through this in the sequels. The All Work vs. All Play dynamic gets taken up to eleven, with Fifer and Fiddler becoming totally incapable of taking anything seriously, displaying Aesop Amnesia several times in the same single cartoon, and completely losing whatever intelligence and competence they had (see Took a Level in Dumbass below). Practical, meanwhile, became not only a Gadgeteer Genius but also a self-righteous workaholic who couldn't string two sentences together without admonishing the other two or giving an I Warned You speech. This was, however, reversed in the comics, where the pigs would work together and get along more often than not — Practical's Gadgeteer Genius trait remained, and he was still usually the most level-headed of the pigs who was least likely to fall for Zeke Wolf's schemes, but his self-righteousness was dropped, and he became more willing to take a break and relax once in a while. Fifer and Fiddler were still mainly the goof-offs but were actually willing to listen to reason and would occasionally display some Hidden Depths.
- Forged Letter: The Wolf captures two of the pigs and writes a letter to Practical Pig pretending to be from his brothers in an attempt to lure him out. Practical doesn't fall for it: along with the bad penmanship (he writes "cum with me" and poorly scratched out "me" and replaced it with "bearer"), he recognizes the Wolf's breath when he blows it under the door.
- Funny Background Event: A picture of sausage links on Practical's wall is labeled "Father". Another picture labeled "Uncle" shows a football.
- Gone Horribly Right: The Practical Pig's lie detector works a little too well, as he learns the hard way while admonishing Fifer and Fiddler: "This hurts me worse than it does you."
- Gratuitous German: The Wolf's song "Little Pigs Is Good to Eat" from Three Little Wolves is based on the German folk song "Schnitzelbank". Also doubles as Rule of Symbolism in that the wolf in that short was meant to be a parallel to Hitler in various ways.
- Guile Hero: Practical outwits the wolf in every way.
- Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Fifer and Fiddler only wear shirts and hats.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The Big Bad Wolf falls to this several times. Practical also ends up falling to this at the end of The Practical Pig: when his brothers are being punished by his Lie Detector, he claims "This hurts me more than it does you..." and the Lie Detector reacts accordingly.
- Humiliation Conga: Practical does this to the Big Bad Wolf every time, resulting in his defeat. This is most prevalent in later shorts, where Practical invents machines (a Wolf Pacifier in Three Little Wolves and a Lie Detector in The Practical Pig) designed especially to torture the wolf should he ever get caught in it.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- Practical doesn't have time to sing and dance while working on his house, a fact that he recites as a song verse while bouncing to its rhythm.
- Fifer and Fiddler like to think they're not afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, but they panic and hide whenever they become aware of his presence. Practical has a little fun with this at the end, knocking on his piano to imitate the Wolf knocking on the door and making his brothers run for cover one last time.
- I Warned You: Practical warns Fifer and Fiddler about the Wolf early on, but they laugh him off. But when the Wolf blows down their straw and stick houses, they flee to the safety of Practical's brick house, where he chides them in rhyme:See? I told you what would happen
When that big wolf came around.
Only bricks and stones are wolf-proof.
Now, at last, you're safe and sound.
- Lie Detector: Practical builds one in The Practical Pig. Thanks to his usual method of building, it doubles as a punishment device for anyone it catches lying — including Practical himself.
- Like Father, Like Son: Both the Big bad wolf and the Three Little Wolves are evil scheming wolves interested in eating the pigs.
- Like Father, Unlike Son: Unlike his father, Li'l Bad Wolf is kind-hearted, doesn't seem interested in eating the pigs, is on good terms with them and antagonizes his dad when he tries to eat them.
- Nephewism: Averted. The Li'l Wolves are stated to be Zeke's sons.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: In The Big Bad Wolf, when Red says, "Grandma, what a big nose you've got", the Wolf does an imitation of Jimmy Durante.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Whereas Fifer and Fiddler are usually the ones to fall for the Wolf's lies, in the first short it's the other way around, with Practical deliberately falling for the Wolf's Fuller Brush Man disguise so he can demonstrate the security of his brick house even before the Wolf threatens to huff and puff and blow his house in.
- Painting the Medium: In the Sing Along Songs video series, this happens during Fifer and Fiddler Pig's song of "Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf". During the moment when the Big Bad Wolf finally appears before them, the lyrics start wobbling and developing Flop Sweat at the same time as the pigs Oh, Crap! moment.
- Papa Wolf: A literal example, as the Big Bad Wolf becomes father of three cubs, as seen in Three Little Wolves and The Practical Pig, the cubs having just as big a taste for pig as their pop.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: One of the Big Bad Wolf's favorite methods. Fifer and Fiddler Pig usually fall for this, but unusually not in the first short where he tried disguising as a lamb while wearing a sheepskin.
- Popping Buttons: The Wolf pops the buttons on his overalls when he huffs and puffs, causing his pants to fall down.
- Predators Are Mean: The Wolf wants to blow down the pigs' houses and eat them.
- Produce Pelting: In Three Little Wolves, Practical Pig, disguised as an Italian peddler, offers the Wolf a tomato as a free sample. The Wolf says "Free sample? Well, let me have it." And Practical does. Right in the face.
- Rhymes on a Dime: The dialogue in the early shorts is in rhyme, which was standard for the Silly Symphonies at the time. Practical continued to talk in rhyme even after it went out of fashion. It got inverted when the Pigs showed up in Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, where Fifer and Fiddler spoke in rhyme, but Practical didnít. Apparently Practical thought it might annoy people.
- Rube Goldberg Device: Practical became quite fond of these in the follow-up shorts.
- Rule of Three: (Duh!)
- Savage Wolf: The wolf is depicted as a villain out to eat the heroes of the story.
- Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: The Big Bad Wolf on two legs becomes enraged at not being able to enter the brick house of the third little pig. In a Villainous Breakdown, Animorphism kicks in. Gloves and his hat fly off, and desperate breaths to blow the brick house down break his suspenders. Ultimately, he steps out of his pants, completely naked, and acting fully like a wild four-legged wolf for the rest of the cartoon.
- Sizable Semitic Nose: The 1933 version of the cartoon had the wolf disguise as a caricatural Jewish peddler selling brushes, including a mask with a big nose. It was replaced by a Paper-Thin Disguise without a trace of antisemitic caricature in 1948.
- Soap Punishment: In The Practical Pig, one of the things that the Lie Detector does to punish the liar is wash the liar's mouth out with soap, as it does to the Big Bad Wolf.
- Spared by the Adaptation: In the original fairy tale, the first two pigs are killed and eaten by the wolf — who, in turn, is killed by the boiling pot, while in the short the two pigs manage to save themselves by going to the remaining pig's brick house and the wolf flees the house in pain after burning his butt with boiling water and turpentine.
- Spotlight-Stealing Title: The cartoon was such a hit that many cinemas took to billing it higher than the feature presentation!
- Suspender Snag: In The Big Bad Wolf, the wolf exploits this trope by tying his suspenders to a tree branch and putting on a fairy disguise to fool the Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood while dangling himself from the tree. The tree branch breaks, ruining his disguise and he chases after them while his suspenders drag along the fallen branch behind him. The trope gets played straight when it gets caught between another tree.
- Took a Level in Dumbass: Fifer and Fiddler in the sequels, not only suffering from instant Aesop Amnesia but also completely falling for tricks and disguises of the sort they were able to see through at once in the first cartoon.
- Villainous Breakdown: In The Three Little Pigs, after the wolf's Fuller Brush Man disguise (or Jewish peddler disguise, depending on when or where you see the film) fails. In the process, he loses all his clothes and reverts to a normal wolf.Big Bad Wolf: By the hair on your chinny-chin-chin, I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!
- Villain Song: Three Little Wolves has "Li'l Pigs Is Good To Eat", where the Big Bad Wolf waxes harmonic about all the delicious things made from pigs.
- "The Villain Sucks" Song: "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?"
- Wartime Cartoon: In 1941, the National Film Board of Canada requested several cartoons to promote Canadian war bond sales, specifically the War Savings Certificate program, rather than the War Loans or Victory Loans. Disney responded by editing The Three Little Pigs, now titled The Thrifty Pig, turning Big Bad Wolf into a Nazi and the bricks Practical uses are now made of War Savings Certificates. The closing lines of "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" is also changed to reflect the war and include the "Five for four" jingle advertising the bond yield.
- White Sheep: Li'l Bad Wolf, who, unlike his dad, is friendly with the pigs and often protects them from his dad's appetite.
- A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: The wolf pretends to be an orphaned sheep to get the first two pigs to open the door. It doesn't work, which arouses his blustery wrath.