AUSTRALIAN CINEMA (H231)
ASSIGNMENT 2 - BABE (1995)
By Paula Kontor
LIST OF PRINCIPAL CAST AND CREW
Director Chris Noonan
Writing Dick-King Smith (novel The Sheep Pig)
George Miller (screenplay)
Chris Noonan (screenplay)
Producer Bill Miller
Cinematography Andrew Lesnie
Original Music Nigel Westlake
Non-original Music Edvard Grieg ("Lyric piece No.28, Op.47, No.6")
Camille Saint-Saens ("Symphony No.3 in C")
Film Editing Marcus D'Arcy
Casting Valerie Mc Caffrey
Christine Cavanaugh Babe the Gallant Pig (voice)
Miriam Margolyes Fly the Feminine Sheepdog (voice)
Danny Mann Ferdinand the Duck (voice)
Hugo Weaving Rex the Male Sheepdog (voice)
Miriam Flynn Maa the Very Old Ewe (voice)
Russie Taylor Dutchess the cat (voice)
Evelyn Krape Old Ewe (voice)
Michael Edwards-Stevens Horse (voice)
Charles Bartlett Cow (voice)
Paul Livingston Rooster in Stall (voice)
Roscoe Lee Narrator
James Cromwell Farmer Arthur Hoggett
Magda Szubanski Esme Hoggett
RELEASE DATES BUDGET
USA 4th August 1995 (cinema) $ 30 million (USA)
UK 15th October 1995 (cinema)
Video Release – 3rd December 1996
BOX OFFICE FIGURES
Opening Weekend: $8.742m (USA), 6th August 1995, 1591 screens
Gross: $ 174.1m (Non-USA)
$ 66.6m (USA)
$ 240.7m (Worldwide)
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF INTERVIEWS
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF REVIEWS
DETAILS OF ONLINE PRESENCE IN THE WEB LITERATURE
The information found on the web is limited and difficult to find.
One website in particular, provided a comprehensive breakdown of pre and postproduction information, and numerous links to other sources. Although, visually there seemed to be a lot of valuable information, the site lacked depth.
Overall, the lack of information found on the web was disappointing. The few sites listed on the web about Australian cinema, strangely, failed to recognise the film's existence.
The strongest source of information was, by far, the Internet. Although, it was not easy to navigate through the immense amounts of data, to find what was useful.
The literature available in the library on Australian cinema was diverse and plentiful, but the information found was outdated and therefore failed to mention the movie Babe.
METHODS OF SEARCH
I began my search for information concerning the movie Babe, in the Australian Cinema/Film section in Murdoch University Library. Many texts were available but consequently the material was outdated and useless.
My local library, was a similar situation as it's resources are extremely limited to it's size, funding and public need/want for the materials.
The next approach was to search the Internet. Keywords such as: 'Babe', 'Babe 1995', 'Australian Cinema', 'Babe the movie', 'Chris Noonan's Babe', 'Chris Noonan' and many more were entered into various search-engines (ie. AltaVista and Yahoo). As a result, very little in-depth data was found. I also tried to search newspaper archives, to find reviews and information relating to the release of the movie in 1995. This was a fruitless effort, as it is a requirement for interested people to subscribe to the organisation for a small fee.
CRITICAL REVIEW OF FILM AND ITS LITERATURE
Chris Noonan's film Babe (1995) is a story of a gallant pig, uncertain about his identity and social status. Who, in an attempt to find purpose for himself, achieves something nobody thought was possible.
The film was adopted for the screen from Dick-King Smith's novel The Sheep Pig and follows an orphaned pig with an 'unprejudiced heart'.
The majority of the film takes place on a farm in Australia, but the young, vulnerable pig begins his adventures at a country fair, where an instant connection is formed with sheep farmer, Arthur Hoggett.
Struggling to fit into his new surroundings, Babe is soon adopted by the female sheepdog, and is raised as one of her puppies.
The farm is full of memorable characters such as: Ferdinand the Duck, who thinks he is a rooster; Rex the Male Border Collie, who becomes jealous of the pigs abilities to herd sheep; and Dutchess the Cat, with simply a 'mean disposition'.
Babe's unique, friendly character and enthusiastic love of life, enables him to earn the respect of the farmer and the other animals, and most importantly to discover his place in the world.
The film is broken into parts by musical interludes, sung by a chorus of mice. The musical references are sporadically placed throughout the film. This juxtaposition is important as the film relies on this technique to highlight the themes: pigs are defiantly stupid; the way things are; crime and punishment; pork is a nice sweet meat; a pig that thinks it's a dog; the sheep-pig; and a tragic day. The repeated musical segments and inter-titles that appear on screen are also significant for the younger audience. It reinforces the obvious and directs the audience to specific elements of importance within the film.
Another feature that attracts audiences are the life-like, animatronic, talking animals. Noonan employed the help of Jim Henson (creator of The Muppets) to build cute and entertaining characters that are accessible to both children and adults.
Babe is a film for all ages. It has the ability to call into question our past and present motives, not only in terms of how we relate to and treat animals but also those people around us. The film problematises relationships and the common divisions present in society. Although it is presented in the form of an animated film, the audience is still able to identify, on a different level, with the various situations the characters encounter. As we watch Babe's tedious journey to self-discovery and the growth of his confidence, we are reminded of our own personal struggles.
In the weeks leading up to the release of the film in 1995, the publicity was intense and widely distributed. The publicity was directed at a wide demographic, although targeted most of the campaign at the younger population. It was recognised that the film would greatly appeal to children but also contained elements that would specifically interest the older generations. Babe has been categorised as a children's/family film and was given a 'G' rating.
A tagline was created to accompany trailers and subsequent promotional material. "A little pig goes a long way", was chosen to summarise the plot and send an inspirational message to the audience.
The film received excellent reviews from many critics around the world. It was praised for being "fresh, original and funny" (Leonard Maltio, Entertainment Today) and Dann Gire from the Chicago Daily Herald described the film as "The Citizen Kane of talking pig pictures". The film is also highly regarded amongst Australians. According to a list of the top 100 Australian films courtesy of the http://www.ForiegnFilms.com, Babe was ranked forth, above the likes of Jane Campion's The Piano (1993), Gallipoli (1981) and Muriel's Wedding.
Babe earnt six Academy Award Nominations, including: Best Director; Picture; Film Editing; Screenplay; Art Direction and Supporting Actor, but deservedly won the Oscar in 1996 for Best Visual Effects.
Throughout the year, Babe continued to be recognised around the world for its creative efforts, receiving Golden Globes, numerous Film Critics and AFI Awards.
The film's success can also be contributed to the many talented actors and crewmembers. Chris Noonan both directed and co-wrote the screenplay for the film Babe. Born in Sydney, Australia and educated at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, he is now one of Australia's most sort after directors. His other works include Stepping Out (1980) for which he wrote, directed and produced.
Magda Szubanski is a well-recognised personality on Australian television. Playing the role of Esme Hoggett in the movie Babe, she is best known on Australian television as the character Pixie-Anne Wheatly in the series Fast Forward (1989-1992) and her role in the series Dogwoman.
Hugo Weaving supples the voice for Rex, the male sheepdog. Born in Nigeria 1960, Weaving came to live in Australia in 1976, where he later graduated from NIDA in 1981. A very talented actor, Weaving is recognised for his AFI award winning lead roles in the Australian movies Proof (1991) and The Interview (1998) and his nominated role in Pricilla Queen of the Desert (1994). More recently, Weaving has attributed film credits such as a role opposite Keanu Reeves, as Agent Smith in The Matrix and Elrond in The Lord of the Rings (2001).
In terms of profits, the film's success failed to surpass the 1986 blockbuster Crocodile Dundee, starring Paul Hogan. Crocodile Dundee according to the figures posted on http://us.imdb.com/SB?199902244#5 grossed $28.4 million, more than twice the $13.2 million earned by its nearest Australian produced rival, Babe in 1995.
The huge success of the film, paved the way for the return of all the loveable characters in the sequel, Babe Pig in the City.
Megan Morris (cited in O'Regan 1996, pg 226) theorised that the Australian cinema is a by-product of cultural imperialism, which sees Hollywood norms dominate the 'programming of pleasures'. She continues to state that the mission for Australian cinema is to create an originality and authenticity that would counter these circumstances.
In Chris Noonan's Babe, the Australian text is valued through the combining of ideals. The film has an unspecific origin, for instance the "deliberate British-looking farmyard and not-quite-American accents" (O'Regan 1996, pg 227) helps exemplify the Australianness. The film emphasises cultural transfers, in order to communicate to a wider audience and in turn be recognised as both a national and an international cinema. This film recognises that the boundaries that used to separate filmmaking, have become blurred and the chief characteristics of Australian cinema production is changing.
Australian cinema has been previously thought of as a medium-sized English language cinema, as it produces films predominantly for the English speaking market. This characteristic has limited the Australian film industry and with respects to international trading, has positioned the cinema within a minority. In the past, Australian cinema has competed with the dominance of both Hollywood and British cinemas, but decided to joined forces with its competitors to produce the film Babe. The move towards a co-production meant that the film could receive a higher budget, greater publicity and international box-office release. Although a majority of the public are unaware of the international participation and multicultural background, the films production has received criticism for abandoning the practices that make Australian films unique. According to Morris (cited in Venkataswmy 1996, pg 8) Crocodile Dundee revises American codes by appropriating -or otherwise image-scavenging, borrowing, stealing, plundering, recoding, rewriting, reworking – quite specific and recognisable icons or characteristic of ocker traditions /myths…The Australian bush/landscape does not particularly motivate narrative…it is often a mere (exotic) accessory. This notion can be applied to the film Babe, where icons such as border collies; shearing sheep and sheepdog trials are included to provide an Australian connection and to purport the Australian identity.
Cultural transfer is also evident in the positioning of the, 'hero' Babe. The 'hero' storyline is a distinctive feature of the traditional Hollywood movie, and was borrowed to directly influence the narrative construction.
In this case, Babe was produced to become an international blockbuster. A feat originally thought, only achievable through the weakening of Australian ideals and the welcoming of imported concepts and styles.
Even though the film has been criticised for selling-out Australian specificity, it retains some Australian quirkiness. Gary Gillard (pg 1) suggests that 'quirkiness' forms significant part of the distinctiveness of Australian cinema. He continues by stating that a 'quirk' is unexpected and uncharacteristic.
Quirkiness is the basis on which the story Babe is developed. A farmyard full of talking animals, some of which have identity issues, is a distinctiveness only expected in Australian cinema.
In the movie Babe, quirkiness finds its form in the characters; for example, Magda Szubanski plays the wife of Farmer Hoggett. Her character adds humour to the screen, by foregrounding her obsessive nature, ordinary/ugly appearance and loud, unusual voice.
Farmer Hoggett, also displays some 'quirky' behaviour, firstly through his modifications to the gate on the farm, and secondly through his imaginative ideas/suggestions about the pig.
Quirkiness is often represented outside the norm, and can result in 'othering'.
Australian cinema is a national cinema. Australian films maintain a distinct character, with filmmaking that is innovative and diverse, but not completely free from international influences. It is now, with successful co-productions such as Babe and The Piano, that we can recognise Australian cinema as an international cinema. Australian films have begun to encourage cultural transfers and a multicultural approach to film production, as a means of expanding its cinema market. Chris Noonan's Babe is an example of such a production strategy.
Babe is both an enlightening and entertaining film about friendship, destiny and finding one's identity. The unique characters and imaginative style, adds a magical flavour to the film. It is a classic movie, appealing to people of all ages.