Three Little Pigs is an animated short film released on May 27, 1933 by United Artists, produced by Walt Disney and directed by Burt Gillett. Based on a fairy tale of the same name, Three Little Pigs won the 1934 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons. In 1994, it was voted #11 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. In 2007, Three Little Pigs was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Practical Pig, Fiddler Pig and Fifer Pig are three brothers who build their own houses with bricks, sticks and straw respectively. All three of them play a different kind of musical instrument – Fifer Pig plays the flute, Fiddler Pig plays the fiddle and Practical Pig plays the piano. Fifer and Fiddler build their houses with much ease and have fun all day. Practical, on the other hand, works all day long to build his strong brick house, but his two brothers poke fun at him. An angry Practical warns them that if they don't build a better house, the Big Bad Wolf will threaten their lives. Fifer and Fiddler ignore him and continue to play, singing the now famous song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?".
One day, the Big Bad Wolf really comes by, and blows Fifer's house down (except for the roof). Fifer manages to escape and hides at Fiddler's house. The wolf pretends to give up and go home, but returns disguised as an innocent sheep. The pigs see through the disguise, whereupon the Wolf blows Fiddler's house down (except for the door). The two pigs manage to escape and hide at Practical's house. The Wolf arrives disguised as an explicitly and stereotypically Jewish Fuller Brush man to trick the pigs into letting him in, but fails. The Wolf then tries to blow down the strong brick house (losing his clothing in the process), but is unable. Finally, he attempts to enter the house through the chimney, but smart Practical Pig takes off the lid of a boiling pot filled with water (to which he adds turpentine) under the chimney, and the Wolf falls right into it. Shrieking in pain, the Wolf runs away frantically, while the pigs sing "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" again. But Practical plays a trick on them by knocking on his piano, causing the other two pigs to think the Wolf has returned and hide under Practical's bed again!
- Pinto Colvig ... Practical Pig
- Billy Bletcher ... The Big Bad Wolf
- Mary Moder ... Fiddler Pig
- Dorothy Compton ... Fifer Pig
Reaction and legacyEdit
The movie was phenomenally successful with audiences of the day, so much that theaters ran the cartoon for months after its debut, to great financial response. A number of theaters added hand-drawn "beards" to the movie posters for the cartoon as a way of indicating how long its theatrical run lasted. The cartoon is still considered to be the most successful animated short ever made, and remained on top of animation until Disney was able to boast Mickey's popularity further by making him a top merchandise icon by the end of 1934.
Animator Chuck Jones said, "That was the first time that anybody ever brought characters to life [in an animated cartoon]. They were three characters who looked alike and acted differently". (Other animation historians, particularly admirers of Winsor McCay, would dispute the word "first," but Jones was not referring to personality as such but to characterization through posture and movement.) Fifer and Fiddler Pig are frivolous and care-free; Practical Pig is cautious and earnest.
The moderate, but not blockbuster, success of the further "Three Pigs" cartoons was seen as a factor in Walt Disney's decision not to rest on his laurels, but instead to continue to move forward with risk-taking projects, such as the multiplane camera and the first feature-length animated movie. Disney's slogan, often repeated over the years, was "you can't top pigs with pigs."
The original song composed by Frank Churchill for the cartoon, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?", was a best-selling single, mirroring the people's resolve against the "big bad wolf" of The Great Depression; the song actually became something of an anthem of the Great Depression. When the Nazis began expanding the boundaries of Germany in the years preceding World War II, the song was used to represent the complacency of the Western world in allowing Hitler to make considerable acquisitions of territory without going to war, and was notably used in Disney animations for the Canadian war effort. The song was further used as the inspiration for the title of the 1963 play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Two cartoons inspired by this cartoon were produced by Warner Bros., The first was "Pigs in a Polka" which tells the story to the accompaniment of Johannes Brahms' Hungarian Dances. The other was "The Three Little Bops", featuring the pigs as a jazz band, who refused to let the inept trumpet-playing wolf join until after he died and went to Hell, whereupon his playing markedly improved. Both of these cartoons were directed by ex-Disney animator Friz Freleng.
The pigs and the Big Bad Wolf also appear at the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts as meetable characters.
The Three Little Pigs were featured in House of Mouse, and the Big Bad Wolf was one of the villains in Mickey's House of Villains. Practical Pig was featured in Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse.
A miniature set of the pigs’ homes is featured in the Storybook Land Canal Boats attraction in Disneyland Park (Anaheim).
A poster in the queue area for the Magic Kingdom attraction Mickey's PhilharMagic features the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf as The Wolf Gang Trio.
Fiddler Pig, Fifer Pig, and Zeke the Wolf appeared in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
One sequence in the cartoon, which showed the Big Bad Wolf dressing up as a caricature of a Jewish peddler in the stereotyped fashion of the day, was excised from the film after its release and replaced with a less offensive sequence, with the Wolf pretending to be the Fuller Brush man instead, but still had a Yiddish voice (though some versions -- specifically, versions that aired on American TV -- exist where the Wolf's Yiddish voice was redubbed). Some people at the time seized upon this to attack Walt Disney as an anti-Semite, which the Jewish people who worked for him staunchly denied. At the time, ethnic and racial stereotypes were a staple in Hollywood movies, including those in movies produced by Jews. However by contemporary standards such a portrayal is considered typical of the casual anti-Semitism widespread in the 1930s.
In the United States, the short was first released on VHS, Betamax and Laserdisc in 1984 as part of its "Cartoon Classics" Home Video series. The topical 'Fuller Brush Man' line was changed to the incongruous "I'm the Fuller Brush Man - I'm working my way though college" for this and all subsequent home video releases. It made its DVD debut on December 4, 2001, included in the Silly Symphonies set of the Walt Disney Treasures line. It was later included in Walt Disney's Timeless Tales, Vol. 1, released August 16, 2005, which also featured The Pied Piper (1933), The Grasshopper and the Ants (1934), The Tortoise and the Hare (1935) and The Prince and the Pauper (1990). In those other countries to whom the original 1933 cartoon was first released with original soundtracks in both English and other foreign languages, the uncensored images -with original 1933 soundtracks in both English and other foreign languages- are still issued by the Disney Corporation in home-release videos.
Disney produced several sequels to Three Little Pigs, though none were nearly as successful as the original. The first of them was The Big Bad Wolf, also directed by Burt Gillett and first released on April 14, 1934. All four characters of the original film returned along with two new additions: Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, originating from a different folktale which also featured a wolf as the villain. The plot was fairly simple. Practical Pig is seen building an extension to the shared residence of the three pigs. The added space is presumably needed as the residence was originally intended for a single occupant. Meanwhile, Fiddler and Fifer Pig offer to escort the Red Riding Hood to her grandmother's residence. Against the advice of Practical, the trio attempts to follow a shortcut through the forest. They encounter the dressed-in-drag Wolf and barely evade capture. He proceeds in running ahead of them to the residence of the old woman. The Wolf places her in a closet and then awaits her granddaughter to arrive. The young girl soon does, but also enters the closet with the assistance of her grandmother. Then Fiddler and Fifer Pig alert their brother to the situation. Practical arrives and soon manages to send the Wolf running by placing hot coals and popcorn into his trousers. The short contained several gags but at the time failed to repeat the commercial success of the original. Modern audiences have found it entertaining enough but still inferior to its predecessor.
In 1936, a third cartoon starring the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf followed, with a theme more towards The Boy Who Cried Wolf. This short was entitled The Three Little Wolves and it was so called because it introduced the Big Bad Wolf's three pup sons, all of whom just as eager for a taste of the pigs as their father.
One more cartoon short featuring the characters, The Practical Pig, was released in 1939, right at the end of the Silly Symphonies' run.
In 1941, much of the film was edited into The Thrifty Pig, which was distributed by the National Film Board of Canada. Here, Practical Pig builds his house out of Canadian war bonds, and the Big Bad Wolf representing Nazi Germany is unable to blow his house down.
A new character, Lil Bad Wolf, the son of the Big Bad Wolf, was introduced in subsequent Disney comic books. He was a constant vexation to his father, the Big Bad Wolf, because the little son was not actually bad. His favorite playmates, in fact, were the Three Pigs.
There were subsequent sequels made for the Disney TV series Mickey Mouse Works as well.