"I had a number of people here to listen to it on the first day
and they all seemed to think it was good.
I also had one or two fan letters and the press notices were good.
As to what I thought myself, it's hard to get a detached view."


"I've still got ideas about fairy stories.
I wish they would dig up and re-broadcast
my adaptation of "The Emperor's New Clothes".
I expect the discs would have been scrapped, however.
I had them illicitly re-recorded at a commercial studio,
but that lot of discs got lost."

To Orwell Today,

Hello Jackie,

I have contacted you previously regarding my collection of illustrated "Animal Farm" publications and my large collection of Halas & Batchelor's animated movie artifacts. See ANIMAL FARM DRAWINGS COLLECTION

The "Animal Farm" animated movie was of course an adaptation of Orwell's novel. Since the 1954 release there have been various drama adaptations and a second movie adaptation in 1999. There was talk of a musical by Elton John and Lee Hall which does not seem to have eventuated. It seems a good chance Andy Serkis of "The Hobbit" and "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" fame will be using his special skills and techniques to produce another movie adaptation of Orwell's "Animal Farm".

So where am I heading with this information? I have to wonder and ask the question -- When and what was the first adaptation of "Animal Farm" for public consumption?

There is mention at Wikipedia of Orwell himself writing a dramatisation of his own novel which was broadcast on BBC radio in January 1947. The Wikipedia page also mentions other adaptations over the years by those other than Orwell.

I don't know the "rules" for determining what the first adaptation of "Animal Farm" would be. Strictly speaking it would be George Orwell's own dramatisation I suppose, however he is also author of the novel so how much adaptation took place? This is just a question I am posing, nothing at all against the great man himself.

In any case, as for the first adaptation other than Orwell's own, I would put forward as a candidate the 1948 radio play with dance: "Da werden Tiere zu HyƤnen" (It's enough to make animals become hyenas).


Of note is the very interesting poster artwork for the radio play which immediately reminded me of Orwell describing the farm animals' difficulty in telling apart man from beast. "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which".

I am happy to hear any other views on this matter, including your own Jackie. Perhaps there are other candidates out there which may be put forward by those in the know.

Chris Rushmore, Australia

Greetings Chris,

Yes, I recall our previous discussion re your collection of illustrated ANIMAL FARM publications and drawings from the 1954 animated movie by Halas & Batchelor, a copy of which I have on DVD.


I subsequently acquired an illustrated ANIMAL FARM hardcover first-edition published in 1954 with drawings by Halas & Batchelor from the movie.

AnFarmHardcover AFHardcuvFlap AFHardcuvBack

I re-watched ANIMAL FARM the other day -- first time since Christmas 2010 when I watched it with my two-and-a-half year-old grandson.

InjectAnFarmDVD AnFarmDVDonTV AnFarmCoverDVD

Children love watching ANIMAL FARM and it's good for them too -- a modern-day fairy tale up there with the classics by Aesop, Grimms, Anderson and Swift -- and the animation is as great as Disney's.

Of all the rave reviews Orwell received for ANIMAL FARM, the one that pleased him the most was from friend and colleague Herbert Read who wrote saying he was reading a chapter a night to his 7 year old son who was enjoying it enormously -- as much "innocently" (without understanding its hidden meaning) as he, Herbert, enjoyed it "maliciously" (understanding the political analogy). He went on to say: "It thus stands the test that only classics of satire like GULLIVER survive.... I do most heartily congratulate you."

No doubt this was music to Orwell's ears because, afterall, the original title was ANIMAL FARM: A FAIRY STORY -- only shortened to ANIMAL FARM because bookstores were placing it in the children's section.

Below are ANIMAL FARM scans from the 1954 animated movie and illustrated book -- depicting the scene you reference, ie "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.".





The 1954 animated movie was the first ANIMAL FARM adaptation approved by Orwell's wife, Sonia to whom he'd bequeathed his literary estate. All other requests for copyright permission had been turned down. Sonia was thrilled with the end result -- attending the gala openings in London and New York.

OrwellTypeWill OrwellWriterWrong2

The photo caption reads: ...Sonia in 1954 on her way to the US for the premiere of the animated film of Animal Farm. The book had been a publishing sensation on both sides of the Atlantic, and Sonia was a fierce guardian of his estate.

I'm not sure what Sonia's holding in her hands. It's either the film in its cover, or, more probably, it's the 64-page illustrated book, with fold-out chart, produced by Halas & Batchelor chronicling every stage of the 300,000 man-hour production. The photo is from an article in The Sunday Times of London  reporting how Sonia was swindled out of Orwell's estate by a corrupt accountant and how it took years, and every ounce of her strength and fortune, to win the copyright back. See ORWELL A WRITER WRONGED

Now, getting back to ANIMAL FARM adaptations -- in particular Orwell's 1947 radio play that aired on BBC.

I'd never realized, until you mentioned it, that Orwell himself had written the script. Somehow I was under the impression it had been written by his friend Raynor Heppenstall, a producer at BBC after the war. Orwell had quit BBC in November 1943 to work for TRIBUNE magazine and write ANIMAL FARM which came out in August 1945 (three months after the end of the war and five months after the death of his first wife, Eileen). Two and a half years later -- when the radio adaptation aired -- ANIMAL FARM had become a huge financial success and Orwell was leaving London and journalism to live on an island in Scotland to write "1984".

Orwell was in between moves -- back in London for the winter -- when ANIMAL FARM aired in January 1947. He invited friends over to his flat at 27B Canonbury Square (main model for Winston's flat in "1984") to listen to the broadcast. I read somewhere (can't find it now) that Sonia was one of the people there that evening.

CanonburyHallway OrwellLivingRoom OwellLiving Room OrwellPhotosWall

OrwellAtHomeCvr OrwellCigRolling OrwellTypingBooks OrwellAtHomeCvr

During my HOMAGE TO ORWELL in 2003 I was in that very room where Orwell listened to the ANIMAL FARM broadcast -- my photos scanned above the famous photos of Orwell at home.

To verify, as you say, that it was Orwell who wrote the radio adaptation, I searched my books for where he describes listening to the broadcast. I found it in Volume 4 of THE COLLECTED ESSAYS/JOURNALISM/LETTERS OF GEORGE ORWELL (edited by Sonia Orwell, published 1968) in a letter he wrote to Heppenstall giving feedback on the production:


AnFarmRadio47ltr AnFarmRadio47ltr

27B Canonbury Square
Islington, NI
25 January 1947

Dear Raynor,

Thanks for your letter Re Animal Farm. I had a number of people here to listen to it on the first day, and they all seemed to think it was good, and Porteous, who had not read the book, grasped what was happening after a few minutes. I also had one or two fan letters and the press notices were good except on my native ground, ie Tribune.

As to what I thought myself, it's hard to get a detached view, because whenever I write anything for the air I have the impression it has been spoiled, owing to its inevitably coming out different to one's conception of it. I must say I don't agree about there being too much narrator. If anything I thought there should have been more explanation. People are always yearning to get rid of the narrator, but it seems to me that until certain problems have been overcome you only get rid of the narrator at the expense of having to play alot of stupid tricks in order to let people know what is happening. The thing is to make the narrator a good turn in himself. But that means writing serious prose, which people don't, and making the actors stick to it instead of gagging and trying to make everything homey and naturalistic.

I can't write or promise to write anything more at present. I am too busy. I've still got ideas about fairy stories. I wish they would dig up and re-b'cast my adaptation of "The Emperor's New Clothes". It was done on the Eastern and African services, but in those days I wasn't well-connected enough to crash the Home. I expect the discs would have been scrapped, however. I had them illicitly re-recorded at a commercial studio, but that lot of discs got lost. I've often pondered over Cinderella, which of course is the tops so far as fairy stories go but on the face of it is too visual to be suitable for the air. But don't you think one could make the godmother turn her into a wonderful singer who could sing a higher note than anyone else, or something of that kind? The best way would be if she had a wonderful voice but could not sing in tune, like Trilby, and the godmother cured this. One could make it quite comic with the wicked sisters singing in screeching voices. It might be worth talking over sometime.


~ end quoting ~

In his letter Orwell counters Heppenstall's criticism that the ANIMAL FARM adaptation had too much narration -- giving his reasons for why, if anything, the play needed MORE, not LESS, narration. In other words, Orwell praised his own work -- something he rarely did. But with ANIMAL FARM -- book and radio script -- Orwell was proud of what he'd written. In reality, ANIMAL FARM was Orwell's baby -- lovingly created with help from his wife to whom he read passages in bed at night. It had been a rough delivery -- the manuscript being buried under rubble when a bomb destoyed their flat and then rejected by every publisher in town before birth.

While re-reading Orwell's letter something jumped out that I hadn't noticed before, ie ORWELL PRIVATELY RECORDED A COPY OF ONE OF HIS BBC BROADCASTS (The Emperor's New Clothes). HE SURREPTICIOUSLY TOOK THE DISC TO A COMMERCIAL STUDIO AND HAD IT COPIED! He goes on to say the recording was lost but doesn't explain what happened.

This info blew my mind because the world has always been told that there is no recording of Orwell's voice or any of his BBC productions, even though there are recordings of other BBC broadcasts of that time. Personally I believe there are recordings being suppressed from we the masses. See ORWELL'S VOICE AND BLUE EYES


Above are photos of Orwell in the BBC recording studio as example of how dramatizations and literary readings were produced. Notice everyone's reading from scripts -- probably written by Orwell.

Looking for his adaptation of THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES I went to ORWELL'S LOST BBC WRITINGS (edited by WJ West, published 1985) containing transcripts of his radio broadcasts from August 1941 thru November 1943 and, sure enough, it's there.

BBCLostWritingsCvr BBCLostWritingsCvr2

EmperorNewClothes1 EmperorNewClothes2 EmperorNewClothes3
click to enlarge for reading

Orwell's EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES radio play was aired on November 18, 1943, the same month he left BBC so it may have been his last broadcast. Reading it fired me up for wanting to read his ANIMAL FARM adaptation but it wasn't in any of my books or anywhere on the internet -- although BBC has a description in their archives:

George Orwell worked at BBC Radio 3


...He made programmes for Indian audiences for about eighteen months early in WW2. He had moved on by the time his 'fairy story' Animal Farm  was published, though, and came back to write a radio adaptation of the novel for transmission on the Third Programme on 14 January 1947. His adaptation was produced by his friend and sometime sparring partner Rayner Heppenstall. Music was composed by Antony Hopkins. The cast included Frank Atkinson, Margot van der Burgh, John Chandos, Vivienne Chatterton, Andrew Churchman, Richard George, Deryck Guyler, Betty Hardy, Charles Maunsell, Hugh Munro, Bryan Powley, Norman Shelley, Ronald Simpson, Gladys Spencer, Raf de la Torre, Marjorie Westbury and the BBC Variety Chorus.

I didn't find any further info on the 1947 broadcast but came upon reviews of a BBC re-production of Orwell's original that aired two years ago:

BBC The Real George Orwell Animal Farm radio dramatisation
review by Jane Anderson, Radio Times

The nightmarish drop into dictatorship for the non-porcine residents of Animal Farm is especially chilling thanks to the powerhouse combination of Nicky Henson and Toby Jones as Napoleon and Squealer. They really are swine. George Orwell's dramatisation of his own political fable, narrated by Tamsin Greig. One night, on an English farm, old boar Major regales his stablemates with his vision of a utopia, where he and his barnyard fellows are no longer the slaves of human masters. Inspired by his eloquence, the other animals make his dream a reality, but before long the clever pigs begin to exploit the new world order to their advantage. Director & Producer: Alison Hindel; Narrator: Tamsin Greig; Cast & Crew: Nicky Henson, Toby Jones, Patrick Brennan, Ralph Ineson, Liza Sadovy, Robert Blythe, Paul Stonehouse, Sarah Thom, Lizzy Watts, Eleanor Crooks, Ben Crowe, Will Howard, Gerard McDermott, Adam Nagaitis, Stephanie Racine

Radio 4's The Real George Orwell Animal Farm radio dramatisation
review by Tom Goulding, Independent, Feb 12, 2013

...Aired in conjunction with George Orwell Day, an event that morbidly commemorates Eric Blair's death, the season has strived to offer listeners the cream of the crop in terms of directing, writing and acting talent. Tuning into one of the first adaptations, Animal Farm, proved an exciting taster of things to come. Directed by Alison Hindell and narrated by the Queen of Channel 4 comedy Tamsin Greig, star of surreal sitcom Black Books, the classic allegory of Soviet repression spun out in the midst of rural England is both Orwell's starkest and most familiar work.... Greig's eerily neutral narration captured exactly why the relentless march of the pigs is so sinister; an innocent 'Watch with Mother' tone that contrasts with the brutality of Napoleon's regime, played with cruel relish by Nicky Henson. Animal Farm is no stranger to dramatization, but the energy of this particular play reignited my appetite for all things Orwell....

Radio 4's lumbering homage to the genius of George Orwell
review by Gillian Reynolds, Telegraph, Jan 29, 2013

...ANIMAL FARM (Radio 4, Saturday) was marginally more enjoyable, having the benefit of a now well-known plotline plus a well-chosen cast with Tamsin Greig as narrator, Toby Jones as Squealer, the apparatchik pig and Nicky Henson as Napoleon, the villainous prize boar who completes and then subverts the revolution of the animals against the humans. This political fable, let us remember, suffered many barriers to its first publication, passing from distinguished hand to hand before publishing house Warburgs brought it out in 1945. It has never been out of print since, lasting longer than the Soviet regime it satirised. This radio dramatisation was Orwell's own, done for Rayner Heppenstall's Third Programme production, broadcast in 1947, adapted slightly for today's radio by producer/director Alison Hindell. So why did it, too, sag? Perhaps because, at this distance, it just could not avoid a fatal tone of reverence....

~ end quoting reviews ~

Next I searched for where to listen to BBC's 2013 re-production of Orwell's 1947 adaptation and found a clip:

listen Animal Farm 2013 Radio Drama, YouTube

dramatised by George Orwell, 1947
re-produced and directed by Alison Hindel with narrator/cast/crew, 2013

I couldn't find the entire broadcast on-line but it's available on CD so I ordered a copy and it quickly arrived via Royal Mail from England. The back cover says "This production is based on Orwell's own radio version which was first produced in 1947".

I don't know if that means this 2013 production follows Orwell's radio script exactly or if it's just BASED on Orwell's script. I was hoping it really would be an exact re-enactment which, if so, means there must be an original script or recording to follow. I listened with an open mind hoping to recognize Orwell's style and -- I LOVED IT!

I've listened again a few times now -- in the car or as background while doing other things -- and it just keeps getting better. Each actor expertly accents the voice of the animal they're impersonating -- the sheep bleat, the birds tweet and the horses neigh their lines. The dialogue is brilliant and the drama is inspiring, exciting, suspenseful, heartbreaking and hilarious in parts. It's a wonderful production and I'm sure it's true to Orwell's script -- his fingerprints are all over it. I just wish it were more widely known and available to a broader audience instead of hidden away in BBC archives and aired only now and then.

During the search for the 1947 radio adaptation I discovered another fantastic ANIMAL FARM radio adaptation produced by BBC -- this one aired in 2005 and again in 2010.


Animal Farm BBC Radio 7 Drama 2005
abridged by Richard Hamilton; produced by Di Speirs, narrated by Nill Nighy
Book at Bedtime/Radio Times Review

Adapted in five bitesize fifteen-minute episodes, this version of Orwell's classic read by Bill Nighy focused on major episodes, such as the building and destruction of the windmill, Snowball's expulsion from the farm and the gradual rise to power of Napoleon with the help of the dogs whom he had plucked from their mother at birth and trained to become his personal bodyguards. There was a frightening inevitability about what happened: once the animals assumed control of Manor Farm, they were ripe for exploitation by opportunists like Napoleon, who cleverly exploited their gullibility with (empty) promises of untold wealth and riches.

Orwell's fable was deliberately aimed at the Stalinist regime prevailing in the Soviet Union after the end of World War II. Boxer the workaholic horse was a reincarnation of Stakhanov, the legendary mine-worker held up as a paragon of virtue for his limitless capacity for hard work, and subsequently cast aside like a piece of litter once his powers had expired.

In Bill Nighy's reading of the story, the ironies were evident. Each episode was introduced by him singing the anthem 'Beasts of England' - emphasizing the farm's commitment to patriotism and national unity. However Napoleon's actions had precisely the opposite intention; to promote discord and dissension, despite Squealer's best efforts to present them in a favourable light. Nighy spoke in a calm, almost dispassionate tone, as if what he was saying was the most normal thing in the world. In truth this made Orwell's narrative seem even more sinister: if the abnomal was presented as normal, then Napoleon could quite literally get away with murder.

The story's ending was narrated almost as if it were an epiphany; the supreme culmination of what the animals had been striving for all these years. It was only when we stood back and reflected for a moment that we understood how Napoleon had brought the story back full circle; now he and his fellow pigs were acting just like the hated human beings who had originally exerted such tyranny over the animals. Perhaps the ideal of total equality is just thst - an ideal: inevitably one group of people (or animals) will assume mastery over others.

listen Animal Farm 2005 Radio Drama, MP3

This is a fantastic radio adaptation of ANIMAL FARM. It's an abridged version of the book, so every word the narrator speaks is Orwell's but with the finer details of the story left out so that what remains is the core and the meat -- and in some ways it's a better way for people to feel the power of the message -- like all good fairy tales.


SquealerPaintBarn AnimalsWatchSqueler


While listening to the narrator tell the bedtime story I could picture in my mind the events he was describing -- and having recently watched the 1954 animated ANIMAL FARM -- I visualized those images. Scanned above is the transition of the essence of the story, ie ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL becomes BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHHERS.

Thanks so much for your comments and queries re ANIMAL FARM adaptations -- it inspired the search and discovery of new Orwell treasures.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

watch Animal Farm Full Length 1954 Animated Movie, YouTube

Halas & Batchelor Animal Farm Collection (For over 50 years, the largest and most influential animation studio in Western Europe. From small beginnings in 1940, they made over 2000 films and earned an international reputation for fine animation extending the medium to explain complex ideas with clarity and humour.)

Louis de Rochemont (1899-1978) was an American film maker (...In March 1951, de Rochemont's production company purchased the animated film rights to George Orwell's Animal Farm, and de Rochemont was heavily involved in the artistic direction of the animated film.)

How come there's no known recording of George Orwell's voice?, The Answer Bank (Because he was deemed unfit for active service in the Second World War George Orwell -- born Eric Arthur Blair -- worked in the BBC's Far East Service as Talks Producer, from 18 August 1941 to 4 November 1943, experience he used in his depiction of the Ministry of Truth in his masterpiece of political satire Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). During his time at the BBC his voice was recorded and broadcast on numerous occasions, so you'd expect there to be at least one example kept for posterity. After all, he was, by this time, already a published author, albeit not quite the celebrity that he would become after the publication in 1945 of Animal Farm....

Orwell wrote prose like a windowpane
(re-production of Orwell's own radio version)
Email, Apr 19, 2015
listen Animal Farm 2013 Radio Drama
AFDVDFront AnFarmCoverDVD AnFarmHardcover
listen Animal Farm 2005 Radio Drama


















Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~