We’ve been watching pigs on big and small screens for decades. Let’s focus on some of these famous swine.
• “Babe the Pig,” the story of a pig raised by sheepdogs on an English farm, was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1995, including a nomination for actor James Cromwell, in the role of Farmer Hoggett. That was unusual, considering Cromwell had just 16 lines totaling 171 words of spoken dialogue. Yet he received more screen time in “Babe” than in any of his previous films. There were 56 animal trainers involved in the production to handle 970 animals. Because baby pigs grow so quickly, 48 Yorkshire pigs were needed for filming, along with one animatronic pig. A makeup artist added toupees and eyelashes to the piglets. Following the film’s release, sales of pet pigs dramatically increased.
• In the 1952 novel “Charlotte’s Web,” by E.B. White, a young farm girl named Fern Arable saves the runt of a litter of piglets, and names him Wilbur. In 1973, the book was adapted into an animated film, and in 2006 to a live-action movie. Similar to “Babe the Pig,” the 2006 version required 47 Wilburs as the piglets rapidly grew. When Wilbur was sold to the Zuckerman farm, he was befriended by a barn spider named Charlotte A. Cavatica, a word which refers to the spider’s scientific name, Aranea cavatica. An all-star cast of artists provided the animal voices in 2006, including Julie Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Cedric the Entertainer, Kathy Bates, Reba McEntire, and Robert Redford.
• The British animated series “Peppa Pig” debuted in 2004. It was the creation of two broke out-of-work animators and their producer friend. The trio borrowed money from friends and family to produce the series, which has now been broadcast in more than 180 countries.
• “Peppa Pig” came under fire during its first two seasons, when the pig family didn’t wear seatbelts when out for a drive. When concerned parents lodged complaints, the episodes were all edited and re-released, along with any scenes that featured the characters not wearing helmets when bicycling.
• Winnie the Pooh’s small, timid friend Piglet was introduced in A.A. Milne’s classic children’s book “Winnie-the-Pooh” in 1926, followed by “The House at Pooh Corner” in 1928. The character was based on a stuffed toy owned by Milne’s son Christopher Robin. In the original color illustrations in the books, Piglet has pale pink skin and green jumper. Piglet lives in a beech tree in the Hundred Acre Wood, frequently visited by his best friend Pooh. Piglet’s squeaky, stuttering voice was first heard on the big screen in Disney’s 1968 short “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.” Christopher Robin Milne’s original stuffed toy can be seen on display in the New York City Public Library.
• Speaking of stuttering pigs, Porky Pig’s first appearance was in 1935’s Loony Tunes short “I Haven’t Got a Hat.” His name was derived from two childhood friends of that cartoon’s director Friz Freleng, brothers nicknamed “Porky” and “Piggy.” The character’s first voice artist was Joe Dougherty, who actually had a stutter, leading to Porky’s signature line, “Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!” spoken at the end of most cartoons. In 1937, Dougherty was replaced by Mel Blanc, who became Porky’s voice for the next 52 years until he passed away in 1989. Porky Pig is the oldest continuing Loony Tunes character, even longer than Bugs Bunny!