The CIA and the Filming of Animal Farm

Orwell Subverted

When the CIA isn’t busy destabilizing other countries, they apparently like to help animation studios create cartoons. At least that’s the premise of an interesting new animation book I just found out about from FPS Magazine. The book, published by Pennsylvania State University Press, is Orwell Subverted: The CIA and the Filming of Animal Farm by Daniel J. Leab. It takes an in-depth look at the making of Halas & Batchelor’s Animal Farm, the first feature-length British animated film, and the CIA’s influence (and interference) during the production of that film. From the book’s description:

Recently, a number of works have been written–notably, those by Frances Stoner Saunders and Tony Shaw–that make reference to the underlying governmental control surrounding Animal Farm. Yet there is still much speculation and confusion as to the depth of the CIA’s interference. Leab continues where these authors left off, exploring the CIA’s dominant hand through extensive research and by giving fascinating details of the agency’s overt and subtle influences on the making of the film.

Leab’s thorough investigating makes use of sources that have been excluded in past accounts, such as CIA papers retrieved through the Freedom of Information Act and material from the Orwell Archive. He also incorporates the testimonials of animators John Halas and Joy Batchelor and, most significantly, the previously unexplored archive documents of Animal Farm producer Louis de Rochemont.

The book has a hefty $55 price tag, but FPS says that there’s a 20% discount if you call 1-800-326-9180 and mention the code OSRC. I should also point out that, though the topic sounds fascinating, it’s hard to recommend this title without having seen it. The author’s clumsy use of the word “filming” in the title immediately raises a question in my mind about how accurate his technical understanding of the animation process is. To be fair though, the book seems to focus more on the political intrigue surrounding the film’s development than the actual production process.