Some movies are cozy to watch, and then there’s Babe. At first glance, Babe seems like a sweet family film, with talking animals in a cheerful, colorful world – the perfect feel-good movie, especially around the holidays. But within the first five minutes, you realize it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Happily, younger eyes see things quite differently. But I do think this film has the power to change your life. Seriously.
The Farmer and His Pig
The story of the film is rather simple (yet deep, but I’ll get to that). A little piglet is taken away from his family and won at a farmer’s market by, well, a farmer. The farmer sees in the piglet a fine Christmas dinner. The piglet misses his mother and is taken in by Fly, a sheepdog who has just had puppies. Babe, as he’s named, doesn’t see himself as any different from the puppies in the litter. He aspires to be just like Fly and dreams of herding sheep like the dogs. However, it takes a while for the farmer to realize this. Eventually, Babe gets a chance to participate in a sheepherding competition. Hooray! A happy ending is in sight!
Spoiler alert! And indeed, it ends well. But it’s all about the journey. Babe has a lot to overcome before he can become a sheepherder. He won’t let anyone tell him who he should be to fit in. Despite all the obstacles, he keeps finding solutions to do what he believes he was born to do, and he does it his way. What a modern message!
“Nature” or “Nurture”
So, the question is: is Babe a pig because he was born that way, or is he a sheepdog because he grew up with the dogs? And does that question even matter? Is your destiny preordained, or can you always strive to break out of your box? Babe doesn’t seem to dwell on these questions. He just knows that he enjoys working with the sheep in his way. Interestingly, his way is more effective with the sheep. There’s an awkward relationship between the dogs and the sheep: it lacks respect. Babe, on the other hand, is a very respectful piglet. Is this inherent, or did he develop it in an environment where respect wasn’t automatically given to him? (See, I told you it’s deep.)
Don’t get me wrong; it’s also just a fun story that kids can enjoy. But as an adult, you might also feel a bit uncomfortable about the message that you might sometimes judge others too quickly. Prejudices, in particular. Perhaps even about yourself! Babe exudes a lot of self-confidence, and that’s wonderful to see and learn from. If a piglet can do it, you can also become who you want to be.
Now, let’s talk about the talking animals. When the movie was released, it was quite an impressive effect. Even now, it works really well. The animals’ mouths move as if they’re really talking, and I think that’s what kids find most enjoyable. It must have been quite a task to film the animals at the right moments, to match their body language and expressions with their lines. Stand-ins were also used for the more challenging scenes. The animals that were involved in the film were treated well.
It’s also interesting to note that James Cromwell, the fantastic actor who played the farmer (and will forever be Zefram Cochrane for Trekkies), turned vegan after the film, so no more bacon for him! If working with animals can instill in you a respect for the value of a pig’s life, then the message certainly got across. Everyone is free to eat what they want, but I, too, actually don’t eat pork anymore (I didn’t before, though). But now, I always think of that little piglet…