21: BABE

I’m back again.

So Superman: The Movie had the tagline “You’ll believe a man can fly”. Babe should have had “you’ll believe a pig can talk”, because you do. Anthropomorphic fables throughout the ages have had this happen after all, Babe was finally the film where it happened. Or at least the first time they lip-synched the animals.

It is amazing the difference that lip-synching makes. It ties the voices into the animals in the way voice-over (a la Look Who’s Talking Now) cannot do. And it may just be routine computer animation, but that basic chinnywagging is as convincing as any other big budget effect. Moreso because the story is so good.

The story, The Sheep-Pig, was an old Jackanory classic. And like Jackanory, Babe is told with a happy gentleness, which counterpoint the moments of true tension in the film (the potential death of Ferdinand the goose, the feral dogs). And who would have thought One Man And His Dog had such potential for nailbiting tension*. In the end though it boils down to a few cute animals, some excellent voice-over artists and a director willing to take some remarkable gambles about what his viewers would watch. Its a film about a pig who wants to be a dog. Mad Max was clearly just a warm up for this.

*Not the BBC who took the sheepdog trials off the TV almost directly after Babe, and its new audience, came out. This has later been admitted to be one of BBC2’s biggest mistakes.