Remember your history books, and back in 1933, the United States
was in the throes of the Great Depression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
was the new President, and his tone to the nation was that of hope for
the future. Sound familiar? Roosevelt constantly communicated to the
nation that the best days were coming, and that fear was the enemy,
to be banished at all costs.
This was essential for Roosevelt, because people were panicked. They
feared the worst, and some were even calling for socialism, and replacing
the democracy to get out of this catastrophe. The
Three Little Pigs
provided an anthem for Roosevelt’s hope message, in “Who’s Afraid of
the Big Bad Wolf?”
This is the first or second iconic Disney song (depends on if you
count “Minnie’s Yoo Hoo”), but its popularity can not be overstated.
Viewers of this short took the song as their rallying cry, providing
a counterpoint to the doom and gloom of the Depression. And why not?
The short itself no doubt was intended simply as another Silly Symphony.
And in that respect, it performs very well. It has a well crafted story,
and very believable characters that are well designed. The wolf is frightening
from the second he appears on screen, and the pigs are introduced just
as you’d expect, standing in front of their various houses.
The music runs throughout the short, as you’d expect in a Silly Symphony,
but it turns this into a flowing musical, with the lead characters voicing
the parts, and the songs moving the story forward. This approach is
what Disney would use later in the features, but you can see the experimentation
with it beginning in the last few shorts.
The standout piece of animation here is the characters. Their emotions,
facial expressions and movements are very well done. You can see the
fear on the faces of the first two pigs as they dive for cover in the
third pig’s brick house. The anger and frustration on the wolf is palpable
As a short in and of itself, The Three Little Pigs is straightforward,
telling a simple fairy tale. But it is definitely a case of right time,
right place and a superb song that made it the instant classic that
it was. It endures, though, because of the music and the character work.
It’s still entertaining today, just as it was in 1933.
From RJ : This film is a giant.
True classic Disney at its finest. Brilliant character designs, particularly
the wolf, along with excellent pacing and a theme that is both relevant
and timeless. Throw in one of the most memorable songs in all the Disney
shorts and you've got yourself a legendary film. It gave me chills to
watch this and I don't have any nostalgic draw to it. I'm not even sure
I've ever seen it before in its entirety. It won the Academy Award and
its not hard to see why. One of the best if not the very best of the
It all begins with Fifer Pig constructing his house of straw very
carelessly. No duh! He toots his flute and don't give a hoot! At least
give credit to Fiddler Pig who at least was attempting to construct
his house of sticks, unlike the first pig who just threw his straw around
and acted as if he invented the house. Be glad that Fiddler was not
using a sawblade to play his fiddle.
Then, of course, comes the captain of the three hams on rye - Practical
Pig. This pig had his priorities set, unlike the other two, since he
knows that work and play do not mix. Trust me ... Practical was always
one step ahead of every other character, including the other pigs.
With Piper and Fiddler already merrily playing their respective instruments,
Practical was still hard at work on the rooftop of his house. Practical,
unlike the other two, aced his way through several construction courses.
He certainly took his time putting the brick house (and I don't mean
the Commodores) together. The other two mock Practical claiming he has
no time to play, but Practical gave his explanations quite clearly to
them because there was some creature known as a wolf lurking about.
The other pigs laugh, thinking Practical was nuts, because they assumed
that there was no wolf, and if there was one, they could handle it themselves.
Of course, little did they know.
Once the pigs noticed the wolf, the mood went from glee to sheer
horror in a split-second and they ran for cover faster than James Jett
of the Oakland Raiders. The wolf nearly caught Piper, but he was able
to squeal his way out and into the straw house, which was the wolf's
first target. Well, you know the rest. The straw house had no chance
against the wolf's hurricane-force exhalation. I could only wonder if
the animators were thinking about putting a little Pig - I mean, Turkey
In The Straw music for this scene, but it would simply ruin the tone
of the cartoon. Needless to say, Piper runs to Fiddler's stick house
for shelter. The wolf plays possum, saying that the pigs were too smart
for them and that he would leave. Obviously, the wolf was nowhere near
After a knock on the door, which the pigs hide under a blanket, the
wolf decides to pull off disguise number one ... a wolf in sheep's clothing
(and very poorly done, too). Clearly, the pigs were not fooled by this,
and this angered the wolf into wiping out another house. For these two
pigs, we do not know if either had renter's insurance, notwithstanding
a mortgage. Unfortunately, Franklin D. Roosevelt could not give either
pig substantial aid to repair the destroyed homes. Yet, as the pigs
ran for Practical's brick house, the wolf was able to grab the two pigs
by their tails and hung on for dear life until smacking into a tree.
When they make it, Practical basically told them, "I told you so!"
Well, the wolf was now thinking, "Two down...one to go." Well, once
again there's a knock on the door and the first two pigs hide under
the bed. The wolf is a brushman (who says he worked his way through
college, but I tend to differ) and surprisingly Practical accepts the
brush through the locked door. Practical knew what he was doing, so
there was no need to worry. Once he accepted, the wolf was on the attack,
but got nowhere near Practical and the pig clobbered him several times
with the brush, which he later discarded. The wolf is even angrier than
before and is ready to use his iron lungs to wipe out the brick house,
but after several unsuccessful attempts (with musical background by
Practical), the wolf seems to have suffered an asthma attack.
The wolf recovers quickly and figures if he can't blow it down, I'm
coming in anyway! So he jumps up on the housetop (reindeer laugh hysterically)
and prepares to make an unannounced Santa Claus entrance. With a hot
water pot at the bottom of the chimney and soot raining down on it,
Practical again thinks ahead and takes his bottle of turpentine, pours
it in the water, and prepares to see what happens when the wolf lands
in it. Obviously, the wolf takes off like the Space Shuttle and runs
with third degree burns on his fanny.
The pigs celebrate that they have won round one against the wolf
(remember, there are still three more to go within the next five years),
but Practical throws in one last "practical" joke. He knocks on the
piano, and the other pigs, thinking it was the wolf, take cover under
the bed ... again.
Please be sure you take a look at the other write-up with all the
historical content about this cartoon ... extremely fascinating stuff!
Of course the use of music goes even further, with the iconic song
and lyrics throughout, but I don't want to just repeat everything Ryan
The Big Bad Wolf (he'll later be named Zeke in the comics) is great
and was the Disney studio's first popular villain in terms of merchandise.
Although he has comical aspects (e.g the funny disguises and his hammy
reaction on landing in the boiling pot), he really is a believable threat
to the pigs. Check out the way bangs the door on the stick house with
the full force of his body! As the short progresses he becomes more
ferocious, returning to the state of an animalistic beast when he winds
up naked and leaps on the roof. He's a real wolf in that scene!
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