Mar 22, 2015

Review: Three Little Pigs (1933)

Part of Silly Symphonies, Three Little Pigs is one of the most famed animated shorts that's come out of Disney in all of its glorious history. You could say that about a lot of their films, but it's definitely a tag that Three Little Pigs has earned. It was quite successful at the box office in its time and it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1934. It was also selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry. Simply said, Three Little Pigs is a big deal.

I've seen pretty much every Looney Tunes version of The Three Little Pigs and the best of all is probably Pigs in a Polka. Part of Warner Brothers' Merrie Melodies, it's a spoof of Three Little Pigs and Fantasia put together. It's a brilliant little film, but you also can't forget The Turn-Tale Wolf and The Three Little Bops (my personal favourite) which are both worth seeing as well. Point is, it was about time I see Disney's take on the famous fairy tale.


Genre: animation, musical, short
Directed by: Burt Gillett
Produced by: Walt Disney
Written by: Boris V. Morkovin
Music by: Frank Churchill
Running time: 8 minutes
Production company: Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by: United Artists, RKO Radio Pictures, Walt Disney Home Video, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Billy Bletcher, Pinto Colvig, Dorothy Compton, Mary Moder



Fifer Pig (voice: Dorothy Compton) and Fiddler Pig (voice: Mary Moder) have built their respective straw and stick houses and are now free to fool around and have fun. Practical Pig (voice: Pinto Colvig) who's still hard at work on his brick house warns them that they'll regret not building sturdier homes once the Big Bad Wolf (voice Billy Bletcher) comes around. Fifer and Fiddler laugh at his warnings and go back to fooling around. Sure enough, the Big Bad Wolf arrives and it's clear that he enjoys pork.


For a piece of animation from 1933, I have to say that Three Little Pigs is much more impressive than you'd think. There are so many small details to discover and all the movement is astoundingly fluid. The other thing to keep in mind is that all the movement is timed to the music which just adds another layer of complexity. Three Little Pigs has aged extremely well from a technical point of view and it stacks up very nicely to modern animated films.

The music is another huge success here. Fit for child and adult alike, it's scarily catchy and the lyrics are very amusing as well. Even if you've never seen the short before, you probably already know the song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" which was written by Frank Churchill. It's a great song and I doubt that it's going to leave my head anytime soon.

Three Little Pigs is also just plain hilarious. Besides the slapstick and the dialogue which is funny on its own, there are all these little inconspicuous jokes that have been inserted here and there. My favourite of these is the one inside Practical's house where he has framed pictures of his parents. Mother is a picture of a female pig with piglets feeding while father is a picture of a bunch of linked sausages. There's even another picture of father which features nothing else but a piece of ham. Just great stuff.

One thing that can't be ignored however is the casual racism of the Big Bad Wolf disguising himself as a stereotypical Jewish man trying to sell Fuller brand brushes in a scene. With a big black beard, a humungous nose and a heavy accent, it's pretty clear what the disguise is meant to be. It's a real doozy, but this is 1933 and we can't change that.

Disney has made edits since then to remedy the situation, but I'm all about seeing films as they originally were. It just doesn't sit right with me when an artist's work is tampered with. You wouldn't censor To Kill a Mockingbird right? Oh yeah, certain schools and school districts already have. Sadly I was unable to find an original copy of Three Little Pigs with the original Big Bad Wolf dialogue. At least I didn't have the version that actually completely replaces the Big Bad Wolf's disguise with something more politically correct. But even so, the "politically correct" version isn't all that politically correct.

Three Little Pigs very rightly deserves its place in the annals of animation history. It's a masterful production that's simply a lot of fun for everyone. Besides the one very racist joke, you'd honestly never think that TLP was made in 1933. It's a perfect example of why Walt Disney and his namesake company are some of the best at making movie magic.



Related Reviews:

The Big Bad Wolf (1934) 
Three Little Wolves (1936) 
The Practical Pig (1939)

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