Three Little Pigs (film)
|Three Little Pigs|
|Directed by||Burt Gillett|
|Produced by||Walt Disney|
|Based on||The Three Little Pigs|
|Music by||Frank Churchill|
|Animation by||Fred Moore|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|May 27, 1933|
Three Little Pigs is an animated short film released on May 27, 1933 by United Artists, produced by Walt Disney and directed by Burt Gillett. Based on a fable of the same name, the Silly Symphony won the 1934 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film of 1933. The short cost $22,000 and grossed $250,000. In 1994, it was voted #11 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. In 2007, 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".
Practical Pig, Fiddler Pig and Fifer Pig are three brothers who build their own houses with bricks, sticks and straw respectively. All three of them play a different kind of musical instrument – Fifer Pig "toots his flute, doesn't give a hoot and plays around all day," Fiddler Pig "with a hey diddle diddle, plays on his fiddle and dances all kinds of jigs" and Practical Pig is initially seen as working without rest. Fifer and Fiddler build their straw and stick houses with much ease and have fun all day. Practical, on the other hand, "has no chance to sing and dance for work and play don't mix," focusing on building his strong brick house, but his two brothers poke fun at him. An angry Practical warns them "You can play and laugh and fiddle. Don't think you can make me sore. I'll be safe and you'll be sorry when the Wolf comes through your door!" Fifer and Fiddler ignore him and continue to play, singing the now famous song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?".
As they are singing, the Big Bad Wolf really comes by, at which point Fifer and Fiddler reveal they are in fact very afraid of the wolf. Fifer and Fiddler each retreat to their respective houses; the Wolf first blows Fifer's house down (except for the roof) with little resistance. Fifer manages to escape and hides at Fiddler's house. The wolf pretends to give up and go home, but returns disguised as an innocent sheep. The pigs see through the disguise ("Not by the hair of our chinny-chin-chin! You can't fool us with that old sheep skin!"), whereupon the Wolf blows Fiddler's house down (except for the door). The two pigs manage to escape and hide at Practical's house, who willingly gives his brothers refuge; in Practical's house, it is revealed that his musical instrument is the piano. The Wolf arrives disguised as a Jewish peddler/Fuller Brush man to trick the pigs into letting him in, but fails. The Wolf then tries to blow down the strong brick house (losing his clothing in the process), but is unable, all while a confident Practical plays melodramatic piano music. Finally, he attempts to enter the house through the chimney, but smart Practical Pig takes off the lid of a boiling pot filled with water (to which he adds turpentine) under the chimney, and the Wolf falls right into it. Shrieking in pain, the Wolf runs away frantically, while the pigs sing "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" again. Practical then plays a trick by knocking on his piano, causing his brothers to think the Wolf has returned and hide under Practical's bed.
- Billy Bletcher as Big Bad Wolf
- Pinto Colvig as Practical Pig
- Dorothy Compton as Fifer Pig
- Mary Moder as Fiddler Pig
Reaction and legacy
The movie was phenomenally successful with audiences of the day, so much that theaters ran the cartoon for months after its debut, to great financial response. The cartoon is still considered to be the most successful animated short ever made, and remained on top of animation until Disney was able to boost Mickey's popularity further by making him a top merchandise icon by the end of 1934. Animator Chuck Jones observed, "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". (Other animation historians, particularly admirers of Winsor McCay, would dispute the word "first," but Jones was not referring to personality as such but to characterization through posture and movement.) Fifer and Fiddler Pig are frivolous and care-free; Practical Pig is cautious and earnest. The reason for why the film's story and characters were so well developed was that Disney had already realized the success of animated films depended upon telling emotionally gripping stories that would grab the audience and not let go. This realization led to an important innovation around the time Pigs was in development: a "story department," separate from the animators, with storyboard artists who would be dedicated to working on a "story development" phase of the production pipeline.
The moderate, but not blockbuster, success of the further "Three Pigs" cartoons was seen as a factor in Walt Disney's decision not to rest on his laurels, but instead to continue to move forward with risk-taking projects, such as the multiplane camera and the first feature-length animated movie. Disney's slogan, often repeated over the years, was "you can't top pigs with pigs."
The original song composed by Frank Churchill for the cartoon, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?", was a best-selling single, mirroring the people's resolve against the "big bad wolf" of The Great Depression; the song actually became something of an anthem of the Great Depression. When the Nazis began expanding the boundaries of Germany in the years preceding World War II, the song was used to represent the complacency of the Western world in allowing Adolf Hitler to make considerable acquisitions of territory without going to war, and was notably used in Disney animations for the Canadian war effort.
The song was further used as the inspiration for the title of the 1963 play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
In the United States, the short was first released on VHS, Betamax and Laserdisc in 1984 as part of its "Cartoon Classics" Home Video series. It came out on VHS in the UK in spring 1996 as part of the Disney Storybook Favourites series. It made its DVD debut on December 4, 2001, included in the Silly Symphonies Vol. 1 set of the Walt Disney Treasures line, with the PAL release retaining the Jewish peddler animation. It was later included in Walt Disney's Timeless Tales, Vol. 1, released August 16, 2005 (featuring the edited version in the US Silly Symphonies set), which also featured The Pied Piper (1933), The Grasshopper and the Ants (1934), The Tortoise and the Hare (1935) and The Prince and the Pauper (1990). In those other countries to whom the original 1933 cartoon was first released with original soundtracks in both English and other foreign languages, the uncensored images — with original 1933 soundtracks in both English and other foreign languages — are still issued by Disney corporation in home release videos.
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Disney produced several sequels to Three Little Pigs, though none were nearly as successful as the original. The first of them was The Big Bad Wolf, also directed by Burt Gillett and first released on April 14, 1934. All four characters of the original film returned along with two new additions: Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, originating from a different folktale which also featured a wolf as the villain. The plot was fairly simple. Practical Pig is seen building an extension to the shared residence of the three pigs. The added space is presumably needed as the residence was originally intended for a single occupant. Meanwhile, Fiddler and Fifer Pig offer to escort the Red Riding Hood to her grandmother's residence. Against the advice of Practical, the trio attempts to follow a shortcut through the forest. They encounter the dressed-in-drag Wolf and barely evade capture. He proceeds in running ahead of them to the residence of the old woman. The Wolf chases her into a closet and then awaits her granddaughter to arrive. The young girl soon does, but also enters the closet with the assistance of her grandmother. Then Fiddler and Fifer Pig alert their brother to the situation. Practical arrives and soon manages to send the Wolf running by placing hot coals and popcorn into his trousers. The short contained several gags but at the time failed to repeat the commercial success of the original. Modern audiences have found it entertaining enough but still inferior to its predecessor.
In 1936, a third cartoon starring the three little pigs and the Big Bad Wolf followed, with a theme more towards The Boy Who Cried Wolf. This short was entitled Three Little Wolves and it was so called because it introduced the Big Bad Wolf's three pup sons, all of whom just as eager for a taste of the pigs as their father.
One more cartoon short featuring the characters, The Practical Pig, was released in 1939, right at the end of the Silly Symphonies' run.
In 1941, much of the film was edited into The Thrifty Pig, which was distributed by the National Film Board of Canada. Here, Practical Pig builds his house out of Canadian war bonds, and the Big Bad Wolf representing Nazi Germany is unable to blow his house down.
A new character, Lil Bad Wolf, the son of the Big Bad Wolf, was introduced in subsequent Disney comic books. He was a constant vexation to his father, the Big Bad Wolf, because the little son was not actually bad. His favorite playmates, in fact, were the Three Pigs.
There were subsequent sequels made for the Disney TV series Mickey Mouse Works as well.
Warner Bros. cartoons
Three cartoons inspired by this cartoon were produced by Warner Bros. The first was Pigs in a Polka which tells the story to the accompaniment of Johannes Brahms' Hungarian Dances. The second was The Three Little Bops, featuring the pigs as a jazz band, who refused to let the inept trumpet-playing wolf join until after he died and went to Hell, whereupon his playing markedly improved. Both of these cartoons were directed by ex-Disney animator Friz Freleng. The third film was The Windblown Hare, featuring Bugs Bunny, and directed by Robert McKimson. In Windblown, Bugs is conned into first buying the straw house, which the wolf blows down, and then the sticks house, which the wolf also blows down. After these incidents, Bugs decides to help the wolf and get revenge on all three pigs, who are now at the brick house.
In popular culture
- The film It Happened One Night includes a scene wherein the two main characters, played by Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, are forced to room with each other. Gable’s character has sequestered himself away from Colbert’s by setting up a curtained off area. Still Colbert has reservations and declares her misgivings to Gable about the arrangement. Gable treats the situation with humor and proceeds to sing the song, "Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf", complete with lyrics from the Disney cartoon song, ending it with “tra-la-la-la….” Gable was being current with the times, as the Disney film had only come out about a year earlier.
- Fiddler Pig, Fifer Pig, and Zeke the Wolf appeared in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
- Characters from the film also appeared on Disney's television series House of Mouse and its spinoff direct-to-video films: the three little pigs were featured on the series, the Big Bad Wolf was one of the villains in Mickey's House of Villains (2002), and Practical Pig was featured in Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse (2001).
Theme park attractions
- A coffee and sandwich shop at Buena Vista Street, in Disney California Adventure, is named Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe in homage to the pigs. The shop is decorated with a motif of fifes, fiddles and pianos.
- The pigs and the Big Bad Wolf appear at the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts as meetable characters
- A miniature set of the pigs’ homes is featured in the Storybook Land Canal Boats attraction in Disneyland
- A poster in the queue area for the Magic Kingdom attraction Mickey's PhilharMagic features the three little pigs and the Big Bad Wolf as The Wolf Gang Trio.
- The pigs appear in the video game Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, as scrapped versions of themselves.
- In the life simulation video game Disney Magical World 2, one of the three random pigs is running a renovation wagon players can visit to have their in-game home remodeled. It can be made out different building materials, depending on which pig is running the wagon.
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