Andy Serkis’ New Movie Is Making A Big Change To The Original

Andy Serkis is making an animated version of George Orwell's Animal Farm, but he's updating it for modern times.

By Jessica Scott | Updated

Andy Serkis Animal Farm

Andy Serkis is creating an animated adaptation of George Orwell’s classic novella Animal Farm, and it’s going to be a hard-hitter. This story has already stood the test of time and has become a cautionary tale about the Stalinist system in society, but The Batman actor is working to update it for modern times. “I mean, look around the world, what’s happening, you can see how eternally relevant that book is still,” Serkis told audiences at Toronto ComiCon, according to Slashfilm.

“But the ways and the language of telling that story have changed. And the targets, the characters that are being satirized, are not Stalin and Trotsky and all of those people, they are — I’m not going to say who.”

Andy Serkis

In 1917, the Stalinist system came out of the Bolshevik Revolution in the Soviet Union, something that really struck a (bad) chord with Orwell. Orwell wanted to speak out against this and to show that a utopian society built on the ideal that “all animals are created equal” is just not possible. He did this by creating a satire about a group of farm animals overthrowing the alcoholic farmer who owned them to create their own society where they were all supposedly equal – something that obviously did not go as planned.

Today, Andy Serkis has been working with Orwell’s estate to rework Animal Farm so that it is more applicable to today’s societal structures. Usually, when we see an authoritarian society nowadays, it is not built on any sort of equality at all: the rich are powerful, and the others have no say in how society is run. Those in power prey upon the prejudices, the malleability, and the lack of education of their “underlings” to maintain their grip on society, and their supporters never even realize that they are just handing them more and more power.

As Andy Serkis’ Animal Farm will illustrate, though, these two types of societies may be different, but one thing remains the same: power corrupts. 

Andy Serkis in a performance capture suit

Andy Serkis played it close to the vest when asked if he would target any specific dictator, leader, or ruler in his animated version of Animal Farm. Unlike George Orwell, who stated very clearly that it was Stalin he was criticizing, Andy Serkis doesn’t seem to be ready to go that far quite yet. This may be a smart move on his part, too, because when Orwell wrote the book in 1945, the Soviet Union had just proven itself to be an ally of Britain in World War II, so British publishing houses were originally not interested in publishing any work that criticized the Soviets’ ideas about society. 

It is unlikely that Andy Serkis will receive that kind of pushback with his version of Animal Farm, but he will most likely want to play it safe for the time being regardless. So far, he has had a lot of trouble scraping together the funding for the project, and he wouldn’t want to lose investors over his choice of villain. 

Originally, Andy Serkis’ Animal Farm was meant to be a performance capture adaptation, which harkens back to Serkis’ breakout role of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings series, but now it will be created using traditional animation. We will all just have to wait until it is released to find out who the big baddie is and to see if there is still more to learn from this allegory.