The original illustrated Animal Farm

Penguin is republishing the 1954 illustrated edition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, complete with drawings by Joy Batchelor and John Halas whose work on the animated film version of the story helped bring the writer’s novel to a new audience

Penguin is republishing the 1954 illustrated edition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, complete with drawings by Joy Batchelor and John Halas whose work on the animated film version of the story helped bring the writer’s novel to a new audience…

 

In 1954, nine years after the original publication of Orwell’s political allegory, Halas and Batchelor released its animated film version. The same year an illustrated edition of the book was also published which featured a range of drawings by the husband-and-wife duo. These images (five of which are shown here) were conceived specifically as book illustrations, created separately from the film.

 

Halas and Batchelor had initially made a living illustrating posters, books and magazines and worked with the J Walter Thompson advertising agency on TV spots for Kellogg’s and Lux. During the Second World War, they produced information and propaganda films and, encouraged by John Grierson, the founder of the documentary film movement, founded Halas and Batchelor Cartoon Films.

According to their biography at halasandbatchelor.co.uk, the studio also made two feature-length training films, Handling Ships (1945) and Water for Fire Fighting (1948). By the mid-1950s it had become the world’s largest animation studio and Animal Farm was celebrated as the first British feature-length animation (you can watch a short clip from it, here).

Still from Animal Farm (1954)


The studio’s government work continued after the war – it made films for the launch of the new Social Security plans, for example – and in 1953 Halas and Batchelor began work on transferring Orwell’s classic to the screen with the help of 80 animators.

It later came to light that the film version of Animal Farm had been financed by the CIA as part of the agency’s increasing efforts to use cultural production as a weapon in the Cold War (though the artists were, at the time, unaware of its involvement – see Karl Cohen’s interesting article, here).

Published on the 70th anniversary of Orwell’s novel, the design of the new edition of his 115-page book harks back to the original illustrated version. It features an image of the farm animals burning their reins and blinkers on the front and back covers, while inside, a selection of Halas and Batchelor’s fine ink drawings are rendered throughout the text.

The Illustrated Animal Farm is published on 27 August by Penguin Classics (£8.99).

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