When people think of George Miller, they think of Mad Max, now more than ever with the release of the incredible Mad Max: Fury Road. As you may know George Miller said that it took him ten years to make Fury Road, because he wanted to wait till the special effects were good enough for him to complete his vision.
What is less well-known, is that it also took George Miller ten years to make another of his passion projects, for the very same reason.
That film? The timeless classic Babe.
According to a 1996 La Times article, the story goes that George, exhausted from wrapping up filming on Thunderdome, was sleeping on his flight heading towards London, when he suddenly awoke. Restless, George started listening to the plane’s children’s radio channel. On the channel he listened to a woman reading Dick King-Smith’s children’s book The Sheep-Pig.
All of a sudden the woman busted out with laughter
“She lost control, just started to laugh this rich, genuine laugh,” .....“ ‘What tickled her fancy?’ I wondered. As soon as I landed in London I bought the book first thing, went to the hotel and read it. I never thought of adapting it. I just needed a good laugh.”
However, the small 80 page story never left his heart, he soon purchased the rights to the story, and his mind began racing with ideas an how to adapt it for the big screen. His biggest problem, the technology needed to portray the animals didn’t exist yet, and when it did it cost way too much.
“I traveled everywhere, America, Japan, looking for the technology,” Miller says. “The first time we budgeted it out, it came to $100 million.
Fortunately with time, the technology advanced enough for him to finally be able to make his film, for a third of that initial budget. Even though he produced and co-wrote Babe, he did not direct it, instead it was directed by fellow Australian filmmaker Chris Noonan.
Released in 1995, Babe went on to be nominated for seven academy awards and was an overwhelming box office successful.
For George Miller, every film he makes is a “combination of story and pushing technology.” There is no better example of this than Babe, whose story is just as remarkable as its special effects
For being a rated G family film, Babe touches on some serious themes, but the core message of Babe is the dangers of prejudice. More specifically, how quick we are to be prejudice against those we do not understand. It is easier, more comfortable, to be prejudice and ignore others than to force ourselves to get to know them. By doing this, we remove ourselves from experiences that could change our lives for the better.
Babe is pig.
Well, he is more than a pig, he stands in for all those people we are prejudice against. You see as soon as Babe meets his new adoptive family, he is immediately called stupid, because all pigs are stupid (not true in real life, pigs are crazy smart).
Their minds are already made up about who Babe is on the inside just from his outside appearance.
Over time, Babe’s adoptive mom, a border collie named Fly, begins to learn more about babe and her prejudices begins to fall. She even believes that Babe can heard sheep, just like her real children. She gives him a chance, regardless of what he is.
In return, Babe teaches Fay and her grouchy husband Rex that there are other ways to treat the sheep instead of force. Even Arthur has to fight prejudice from the contest organizer who believe that a pig couldn’t possibly heard sheep.
In the end, Babe is not only able to change the minds of everyone on the farm, but also everyone in stands, and everyone watching on their TVs from home.
Babe isn’t a pig. He is an example that everyone should be judge on what they can do, not what they are.
My favorite scene is in the beginning of the film, when Arthur is trying to guess Babe’s weight. He picks up Babe in his hands, after making his guess, Babe starts to pee, Arthur then stoically changes his guess.
However, since I can not find that scene online, here is another great scene where Arthur does a river dance for babe, who has become sick because he refuses to eat. Believing that if he eats, he will become fat, and then Arthur will eat him. Rex the harden family sheep dog, finally admits to caring for Babe, and tells him that Arthur needs him (commence crying). Arthur then reassure Babe of his love from him through the silly song and dance.
I love when Arthur turns to find the farm animals staring at him.
Babe is classic family film, not just because it’s incredibly imaginative and entertaining, but because it doesn’t talk down to children or sugarcoat its themes for adults. It is a movie about a lot of things, the comfort of prejudices, finding your place in life, believing in destiny, and the humane treatment of animals. You would be hard pressed to find a more entertaining film with such poignant themes. Babe is worthy of multiple viewings, especially as you age, each viewing leaving you with something more to appreciate.
Babe is a timeless classic and it would be a disservice to call it a children film; It is heartfelt without being over sentimental, whimsical without being cheesy, a modern fable about finding you place in life.
“You can escape purgatory, but you can’t escape Hell.” - Priest in My Left Foot
This has been day 29 of 30 VHS In 30 DAYS. My journey to the center of VHS Hell. Special thanks to I Luv Video in Austin, The World’s Largest Video Store, for being my spiritual and literal guide through VHS purgatory.