Charlotte's Web (1973 film)
Original theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Charles A. Nichols
|Produced by||Joseph Barbera
|Story by||Earl Hamner Jr.|
|Based on||Charlotte's Web
by E. B. White
|Narrated by||Rex Allen|
|Music by||Richard M. Sherman
Robert B. Sherman
|Edited by||Larry C. Cowan
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||94 minutes|
|Box office||$2.4 million (rentals)|
Charlotte's Web is a 1973 American animated musical film produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions and Sagittarius Productions and based upon the 1952 children's book of the same name by E. B. White. The film, like the book, is about a pig named Wilbur who befriends an intelligent spider named Charlotte who saves him from being slaughtered and was distributed to theatres by Paramount Pictures on March 1, 1973. It is the first of only three Hanna-Barbera features not based upon one of their famous television cartoons — Heidi's Song (1982) and Once Upon a Forest (1993) being the other two — and was a moderate critical and commercial success.
The song score of lyrics and music was written by the Sherman Brothers, who had previously written music for family films like Mary Poppins (1964), The Jungle Book (1967), and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).
The film has found a devoted following over the years due to television and VHS; in 1994 it surprised the marketplace by becoming one of the best-selling titles of the year, 21 years after its first premiere. No other non-Disney musical animated film has enjoyed such a remarkable comeback in popularity, prompting a direct-to-video sequel, Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur's Great Adventure, which Paramount released in the US on March 18, 2003 (Universal released the film internationally), followed by a live-action film version of the original story, which was released on December 15, 2006.
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After sparing the life of a piglet almost slaughtered as runt of the litter, a little girl named Fern Arable nurtures it lovingly, naming it Wilbur. On greater maturity, Wilbur is sold to Fern's uncle, Homer Zuckerman, in whose barnyard he is left yearning for companionship but is snubbed by other barn animals, until befriended by an Araneus cavaticus named Charlotte, living on a web overlooking Wilbur's enclosure. Upon Wilbur's discovery that he is intended for slaughter, she promises to hatch a plan guaranteed to spare his life. Accordingly she secretly weaves praise of him into her web, attracting publicity among Zuckerman's neighbors who attribute the praise to divine intervention. As time passes, more engravings appear on Charlotte's webs, increasing his renown. Therefore Wilbur is entered in the county fair, accompanied by Charlotte and the rat Templeton, whom she employs in gathering inspiration for her messages. There, Charlotte spins an egg sac containing her unborn offspring, and Wilbur, despite winning no prizes, is later celebrated by the fair's staff and visitors (thus made too prestigious alive, to justify killing him). Exhausted apparently by laying eggs, Charlotte remains at the fair and dies shortly after Wilbur's departure. Having returned to Zuckerman's farm, Wilbur guards Charlotte's egg sac, and is saddened further when the new spiders depart shortly after hatching, leaving behind their three smallest. Pleased at finding new friends, Wilbur names the spiderlings Joy, Nellie, and Aranea, and the story concludes mentioning that more generations of spiders kept him company in subsequent years.
- Debbie Reynolds as Charlotte A. Cavatica
- Henry Gibson as Wilbur
- Paul Lynde as Templeton
- Rex Allen as the Narrator
- Herb Vigran as Lurvy
- Don Messick as Jeffrey
- Martha Scott as Mrs. Arable
- Bob Holt as Homer Zuckerman
- Pamelyn Ferdin as Fern Arable
- John Stephenson as John Arable
- William B. White as Henry Fussy
- Agnes Moorehead as the Goose
- Danny Bonaduce as Avery Arable
- Dave Madden as the Ram and others
- Joan Gerber as Edith Zuckerman and Mrs. Fussy
Five members of the cast (Henry Gibson, Paul Lynde, Agnes Moorehead, Danny Bonaduce, and Dave Madden) had previously appeared on the ABC television situation comedy Bewitched (1964-1972). Hanna-Barbera also animated the opening credits of the show. However, Bonaduce and Madden are more well known for their roles on another ABC-TV sitcom, The Partridge Family (1970-1974), which was still in production when this film was made.
Barbera wrote that Debbie Reynolds called him and said that she was willing to join the project even without being paid.
The film was released to theaters on March 1, 1973 by Paramount Pictures in the United States. It had a limited release on February 22, 1973 in New York City, and also released in West Germany on March 30, 1973, as well as August 11 in Sweden, August 25 in Japan, and September 4, 1981 in Australia.
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The film was released on DVD on June 19, 2001.
Charlotte's Web received generally positive reviews. Review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes reported that the film has a 75% fresh rating. Craig Butler of All-Movie Guide criticized the animation and the musical score, but called it a faithful adaptation, noting that, “no attempt has been made to soften the existential sadness at the story's core”. Dan Jardine criticized the songs and the “Saturday morning cartoon quality” of the animation, but also says that Hamner “retains just enough of White’s elegant prose in the dialogue and narration to keep the film from being simply a painfully well-intended experiment.” Christopher Null of Filmcritic.com stated that the animation is sometimes “downright bad,” but that E.B. White's classic fable needs little to make it come to life. When it was reissued on DVD the film was awarded an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award.
E.B. White's reaction
According to Gene Deitch, a director of animation and friend of E. B. White, Mrs. White wrote the following words in a 1977 letter: "We have never ceased to regret that your version of "Charlotte's Web" never got made. The Hanna-Barbera version has never pleased either of us...a travesty..." E. B. White himself wrote of the film: "The story is interrupted every few minutes so that somebody can sing a jolly song. I don't care much for jolly songs. The Blue Hill Fair, which I tried to report faithfully in the book, has become a Disney World, with 76 trombones. But that's what you get for getting embroiled in Hollywood." White had previously turned down Disney when they offered to make a film based on Charlotte's Web. According to the film's writer Earl Hamner Jr., Mrs. White (who sometimes offered advice and suggestions to the filmmakers) would have preferred Mozart in the film, rather than the music of the Sherman Brothers.
- "Chin Up"
- "I Can Talk!"
- "A Veritable Smorgasbord"
- "Zuckerman's Famous Pig"
- "We've Got Lots In Common"
- "Mother Earth and Father Time"
- "There Must Be Something More"
- "Deep In The Dark/Charlotte's Web"
"Zuckerman's Famous Pig"
"Zuckerman's Famous Pig" is the title that saves Wilbur, the pig hero, from being slaughtered in the story. It is the theme of the finale song in the film. It was composed and arranged in a barbershop quartet style by the Sherman Brothers, in keeping with the time and place of the story. It was covered by the Brady Kids and was chosen for release on their first single taken from The Brady Bunch Phonographic Album by producer Jackie Mills.
- "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974, pg 19.
- Barbera, Joseph (1994). My Life in 'toons: From Flatbrush to Bedrock in Under a Century. Atlanta, GA: Turner Publishing. pp. 228–29. ISBN 1-57036-042-1.
- "Charlotte's Web Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
- Butler, Craig. "Charlotte’s Web: Review". All-Movie Guide. Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
- Jardine, Dan. "Charlotte's Web". Apollo Guide. Apollo Communications Ltd. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
- Null, Christopher (2001). "Charlotte's Web (1973)". Filmcritic.com. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
- "Early School Years: Feature-Length Films". Oppenheim Toy Portfolio. Retrieved 2009-04-22.[dead link]
- AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
- Deitch, Gene. How to Succeed in Animation: Chapter 27: A Tangled Web (p.3). 2001. Accessed on: September 27, 2008.
- Burr, Ty. Bard of the barn. The Boston Globe. December 10, 2006. Accessed on: September 27, 2008.
- Clark, Beverly Lyon (2003). Kiddie Lit: The Cultural Construction of Children's Literature in America. The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 178. ISBN 0-8018-8170-6.
- Holleran, Scott (2006-12-22). "Interview: Earl Hamner". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-12-16.
- Richard Chigley Lynch (1989-06-26). Movie Musicals on Record. ISBN 978-0-313-26540-2.
- Kim Cooper, David Smay, Jake Austen (2001-06-01). Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth. ISBN 978-0-922915-69-9.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Charlotte's Web (1973 film)|
- Charlotte's Web at the Internet Movie Database
- Charlotte's Web at the TCM Movie Database
- Charlotte's Web at AllMovie
- Charlotte's Web at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- Charlotte's Web at Rotten Tomatoes