Lessons of Power as Seen in George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Disney’s Zootopia
George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm and Disney’s Zootopia, exhibit similar lessons of power. Firstly, intimidation is used by leaders to suppress those who are a conflict of interest to political agendas. In Animal Farm, the animals develop a scheme to overthrow the leadership of Mr Jones, the cruel owner of Animal Farm. This plan is successful, and the leadership is bequeathed to the pigs, centrally two pigs named Snowball and Napoleon. Eventually, Snowball is expelled from the farm and Napoleon assumes full control. Over time, his administration has become corrupt and he pursues a merciless vendetta against Snowball. This arouses, Boxer, the horse’s, suspicion who voices his concerns to Squealer, Napoleon’s propaganda machine. Squealer diffuses Boxer’s accusations and reports this contest to Napoleon and so the next day, at a weekly Animal Farm meeting, Snowball casts Boxer a venomous glance as “Napoleon emerged from the farmhouse […] with his nine huge dogs frisking around him and uttering growls that sent shivers down the animal’s spines” (55). This display of vicious guard dogs is fear-mongering to deter the other animals from differing views that could obstruct the way for Napoleon in his tyrannical endeavours. The tactic is effective, as the animals unwittingly accept the leadership under Napoleon and do not openly express future discontent with the administration. Now, subdued, The pigs do not need to justify the growing disparity between them and the other animals. Without confrontation, the pigs can excuse themselves from work, indulge in luxuries the other animals do not have such as alcohol, shelter, and bedding, and most importantly, lower the food rations, thus, increasing the profitability of the farm. Therefore, the pigs’ use of fear allows them to transform Animal Farm into an authoritarian society. Leaders in Zootopia also abuse their position of power by way of intimidation.
In Zootopia, there has been a longstanding effort to foster unity between prey and predators in the city of Zootopia. Deputy Mayor Bellwether is a sheep who has been hired to work under Mayor Lionheart, a predator When she assists Officer Judy Hopps to find a missing car, her office is revealed to be situated in a boiler room, a location where Bellwether reveals tp Judy that Lionheart bullies her with a degrading name: “Smellwether! Ah. That’s a fun name he likes to use. Feel’s good to be appreciated”. This confession shows that Lionheart frequently belittles Bellwether to keep her complacent but subtly does so to keep her in office and secure the prey vote in the upcoming elections. This use of intimidation becomes multilayered as Lionhart’s bullying drives Bellwether to become the mastermind of an attempt to drive Zootopia into complete anarchy. She demonizes all predators such as Lionheart and uses fear and prejudice to turn the prey majority against the predator minority, and in turn, avenge victimized prey, such as herself. Lionheart’s bullying transforms Bellwether into the oppressor she seeks to punish, and in the end, it brings her to her demise. Therefore, it is clear that in both fables, intimidation is a is a means for leaders to harbour control over their population in order to fulfill their respective agendas . Lastly, in both Animal Farm and Zootopia, intellectual abilities ultimately take precedence over size in the establishment of the social order. Lastly, in both Animal Farm and Zootopia, intellectual abilities ultimately take precedence in the establishment of the social order. In Animal Farm following the Rebellion, the pigs teach themselves how to read from old children’s books of Mr. Jones. They draft seven commandments that reflect Animal Farm’s anti-human values and paint them on the barn door. The pigs try to teach the other animals to read so that they can learn the commandments, but most do not have the capacity to do so.
Snowball condenses the seven rules into one, all-encompassing tenet: “FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD” which the animals do not fully comprehend, but “they accepted [Snowball’s] explanation” (22). This intellectual disconnect allows the pigs to perform a masterful deception of the animals. When there are discrepancies such as designation of the milk and apples to the pigs, Squealer, a persuasive offers lengthy, complicated explanations that the animals have no choice but to blindly accept. When Napoleon makes errors in the farms operations, Squealer offers false statistics to create the illusion that the farm is instead, thriving, making the animals revere Napoleon even more. Most significantly though, when the animals notice the commandments have been altered, Squealer blames their illiteracy, allowing the pigs to dominate and slowly strip the animals of their civil liberties, namely, equality. Therefore, it can be deduced that intelligence, allowed the pigs to hold a position of power over their subjects. At an intrinsic level, Zootopia similarly emphasizes intelligence as a tool to gain power. At an intrinsic level, Zootopia also demonstrates that intelligence is a powerful attribute in a leader. Nick Wilde, a fox becomes an invaluable partner to Judy in the manhunt for a missing animal, Emmit Otterton. He provides leads such as his connection at the DMV flash, and the location of Mr. Big’s limo. Judy admits to Nick when she needs his help in exposing the dangers of the Nighthowlers that “I can’t do it without you”.
This sentiment coaxes Nick back into the investigation which leads to the eventual takedown of Bellwether. Because of this, he earns a position in the police force. However, it has not always been a life of glory for Nick. He spends the former part of his life before he meets Judy, oppressed and bound by the stereotypes of being a fox. He is not trusted by others and is pushed to the edge of society. However, he gets by with his resourcefulness, involving himself in certain hustles to get by in a city that does not accept him. This same cleverness earns him a position in the police force which gives him the power to use his intelligence to better the world around him. Lastly, there are anthems in both stories that ignite a sense of unity and empower their respective populations In Animal Farm, Old Major, a boar, rallies the animals together in a fight against Man. He tells the animals of a dream he had where man is no longer, and he wishes to make the distant utopia a reality. In his dream, a song from his childhood called Beasts of England about conquering man materializes, to which he teaches to the animals, and it resonates with them, so much that “The singing of the song threw the animals into the wildest excitement” (8). The power of this song unifies the animals and is ritually sung at weekly Animal Farm meetings both before and after the Rebellion as a reminder that the prosperity of Animal Farm is only achievable through a joint effort. This song is so powerful in fact, that later on in the novel, Squealer announces that it has been abolished by Napoleon, for it incites strong ideas of rebellion, perhaps against his own campaign. Similarly, Zootopia has a recurring anthem that empowers its citizens. Gazelle is a female gazelle pop singer in the film who is an idol to many characters, namely Judy Hopps. Gazelle’s song “Try Everything” which is recurring throughout the film is first played when Judy listens to the tune when she travels to Zootopia for her first day at work.
At the end of the film, Judy quotes “Try Everything” in her speech at the police academy: “‘I implore you to…Try. Try to make the world a better place’”. This song is evidently soul-stirring to Judy, for she uses it as a motivator, not only for herself but for the entirety of the police academy in her speech, which promotes unity, diversity and acceptance in her field of work. However, Gazelle’s influence extends much further than that. Gazelle is pictured on Zootopia’s welcome sign. She is trusted with being the face of a peace rally as tensions rise between the predators and prey, and at the end of the film, she throws a benefit concert which creates a setting where members of Zootopia can coexist in harmony. It is clear that Gazelle and “Try Everything” instill the powerful force of unity in Zootopia that the animals in Animal Farm get from “Beasts of England”. Therefore, the anthems in both stories are a means to promote unity in order to accomplish.
- Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Penguin Books Ltd., 2008.
- Zootopia. Directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, Walt Disney Animation Studios, 2016.