Babe is a 1995 comedy-drama film directed by Chris Noonan, produced by George Miller, written by both, narrated by Roscoe Lee Browne, and starring James Cromwell and Magda Szubanski with the voices of Christine Cavanaugh, Miriam Margolyes, Hugo Weaving, and Danny Mann. It is an adaptation of Dick King-Smith's 1983 novel The Sheep-Pig, also known as Babe: The Gallant Pig in the US, which tells the story of a pig raised as livestock who wants to do the work of a sheepdog. The main animal characters are played by a combination of real and animatronic pigs and Border Collies.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Chris Noonan|
|Based on||The Sheep-Pig|
by Dick King-Smith
|Narrated by||Roscoe Lee Browne|
|Music by||Nigel Westlake|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$254.1 million|
After seven years of development, Babe was filmed in Robertson, New South Wales, Australia. The talking-animal visual effects were done by Rhythm & Hues Studios and Jim Henson's Creature Shop. The film was both a box office and critical success, grossing $254 million worldwide. It earned seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, winning Best Visual Effects.
In 1998, a sequel directed by Miller, Babe: Pig in the City, was released.
Babe, an orphaned piglet, is chosen for a "guess the weight" contest at a county fair. The winning farmer, Arthur Hoggett, brings him home and allows him to stay with a Border Collie named Fly, her mate Rex and their puppies, in the barn.
A duck named Ferdinand, who crows as roosters are said to every morning to wake people so he will be considered useful and be spared from being eaten, persuades Babe to help him destroy the alarm clock that threatens his mission. Despite succeeding in this, they wake Duchess, the Hoggetts' cat, and in the confusion accidentally destroy the living room. At the barn meeting, Rex sternly instructs Babe to stay away from Ferdinand (now a fugitive) and the house. Sometime later, when Fly's puppies are put up for sale, Babe asks if he can call her "Mom".
Christmas brings a visit from the Hoggetts' relatives. Babe is almost chosen for Christmas dinner but a duck is picked instead after Hoggett remarks to his wife Esme that Babe may bring a prize for ham at the next county fair. On Christmas Day, Babe justifies his existence by alerting Hoggett to sheep rustlers stealing sheep from one of the fields. The next day, Hoggett sees Babe sort the hens, separating the brown from the white ones. Impressed, he takes him to the fields and allows him to try and herd the sheep. Encouraged by an elder ewe named Maa, the sheep cooperate, but Rex sees Babe's actions as an insult to sheepdogs and confronts Fly in a vicious fight for encouraging Babe. He injures her leg and accidentally bites Hoggett's hand when he tries to intervene. Rex is then chained to the dog house, muzzled and sedated, leaving the sheep herding job to Babe.
One morning, Babe is awakened by the sheep's cries and finds three dogs attacking them. Although he manages to scare them off, Maa is mortally injured and dies as a result. Hoggett arrives and, thinking that Babe killed her, prepares to shoot him. Fly is so anxious to find out whether he is guilty or innocent that, instead of barking orders at the sheep, she talks to them to find out what happened. Learning the truth, Fly barks to distract Hoggett; delayed until Esme mentions that the police say feral dogs have been killing sheep on neighboring farms and asks Hoggett why he has taken his shotgun out, he then unloads it.
When Esme leaves on a trip, Hoggett signs Babe up for a local sheepherding competition. As it is raining the night before, Hoggett lets him and Fly into the house. However, Duchess scratches him when he tries to speak to her, so Hoggett immediately confines her outside. When she is let back in later, she gets revenge on Babe by revealing that humans eat pigs. Horrified, he runs out to the barn and learns from Fly that this is true. The next morning, Fly discovers that Babe has run away. She and Rex alert Hoggett and they all search for him. Rex finds him in a cemetery and Hoggett brings him home. However, he is still demoralized and refuses to eat. Hoggett gives him a drink from a baby bottle, sings to him "If I Had Words" and dances a jig for him. This restores Babe's faith in Hoggett's affection and he begins eating again.
At the competition, Babe meets the sheep that he will be herding, but they ignore his attempts to speak to them. As Hoggett is criticized by the bemused judges and ridiculed by the public for using a pig instead of a dog, Rex runs back to the farm to ask the sheep what to do. They give him a secret password, first extracting a promise that he will treat them better from now on. He returns in time to convey the password to Babe, and the sheep now follow his instructions flawlessly. Amid the crowd's acclamation, he is unanimously given a perfect score. While he sits down next to the farmer, Hoggett praises him with the standard command to sheep dogs that their job is done, "That'll do, Pig. That'll do."
- James Cromwell as Arthur Hoggett
- Magda Szubanski as Esme Cordelia Hoggett
- Brittany Byrnes as The Hoggetts' granddaughter
- Wade Hayward as The Hoggetts' grandson
- Paul Goddard as the Hoggetts' son-in-law
- Zoe Burton as the Hoggetts' daughter
- Roscoe Lee Browne as the Narrator
- Christine Cavanaugh as Babe
- Miriam Margolyes as Fly, a female Border Collie
- Hugo Weaving as Rex, the lead sheepdog
- Danny Mann as Ferdinand, a white Indian Runner duck
- Miriam Flynn as Maa, an old ewe on Hoggett Farm
- Russi Taylor as Duchess, the Hoggetts' cat
- Michael Edward-Stevens as The Horse
- Charles Bartlett as The Cow
- Evelyn Krape as Old Ewe
- Paul Livingston as Rooster
- John Erwin as a TV Commentator
- Doris Grau as Country Woman
Sheep voiced by Jane Alden, Kimberly Bailey, Patrika Darbo, Michelle Davison, Julie Forsyth, Maeve Germaine, Rosanna Huffman, Carlyle King, Tina Lifford, Gennie Nevinson, Mary Linda Phillips, Paige Pollack, and Kerry Walker
According to actor James Cromwell, there was tension on the set between producer George Miller and director Chris Noonan. Noonan later complained, "I don't want to make a lifelong enemy of George Miller but I thought that he tried to take credit for Babe, tried to exclude me from any credit, and it made me very insecure... It was like your guru has told you that you are no good and that is really disconcerting."
Miller shot back, "Chris said something that is defamatory: that I took his name off the credits on internet sites, which is just absolutely untrue. You know, I'm sorry but I really have a lot more to do with my life than worry about that... when it comes to Babe, the vision was handed to Chris on a plate."
The musical score for Babe was composed by Nigel Westlake and performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Classical orchestral music by 19th-century French composers is used throughout the film, but is disguised in a variety of ways and often integrated by Westlake into his score. The theme song "If I Had Words" (lyrics by Jonathan Hodge), sung by Hoggett near the film's conclusion, is an adaptation of the Maestoso final movement of the Organ Symphony by Camille Saint-Saëns, and was originally performed in 1977 by Scott Fitzgerald and Yvonne Keeley. This tune also recurs throughout the film's score.
The film was a box office success, grossing $36.7 million at the box office in Australia and over $254 million worldwide. It also received critical acclaim and was ultimately nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, winning Best Visual Effects. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film. At the APRA Music Awards of 1996 it won Best Film Score for Westlake's work. In 2006, the American Film Institute named Babe #80 on its list of America's Most Inspiring Movies. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 97% based on 70 reviews, with a rating average of 8.26/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "The rare family-friendly feature with a heart as big as its special effects budget, Babe offers timeless entertainment for viewers of all ages."
Because of its subject being a piglet, Babe was initially banned from Malaysia in order to avoid upsetting or annoying Muslims (who view pigs as haram), although the ruling was overturned almost a year later and the film was released direct-to-video.
When Babe was released in the US, it is reported that "activists around the country staked out movie theatres with flyers documenting the real life abuses of pigs". The film had a marked effect on the growth of vegetarianism, particularly among the young. It also promoted a more sympathetic view of the intellectual, emotional and social capacities of animals. James Cromwell became an ethical vegan as a result of starring as Farmer Hoggett, saying, "I decided that to be able to talk about this [movie] with conviction, I needed to become a vegetarian." In 1996 he went on to organize a vegetarian dinner for the Los Angeles homeless at a "Compassionate Christmas" event in order to reverse the barnyard view that "Christmas is carnage".
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