Miracles do happen! E.B. White's timeless children's story comes to life in this colorful animated musical. You'll laugh and sing along as Charlotte the Spider teaches Wilbur the Pig, Templeton the Rat and the other barnyard animals lessons on friendship trust and love.
Title: Charlotte’s Web
Release: March 1, 1973
MPAA Rating: G
Based On: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Writer: Earl Hamner Jr.
Director: Charles A. Nichols & Iwao Takamoto
Music By: The Sherman Brothers
Produced By: Joseph Barbera and William Hanna
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
Run Time: 94 minutes
One of the most faithful adaptations of all E.B White’s works regardless that it became a musical, was the 1973 animated Hanna-Barbera production Charlotte’s Web. The writer, Earl Hamner Jr. keeps much of the original author’s feel of the book as well as his prose too. Though it wasn’t a major success in theaters, it did do fairly well and even won an Annie award but the home video sales is where it received the most response. Whenever Charlotte’s Web is mentioned most people immediately think of this film, which, even with its horrible “Saturday morning cartoon” animation, it is still, is considered a classic.
For as long as I can remember I have loved animated films- Disney more than others mostly- but this particular one has always been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember. Maybe when I was younger, it was the rhythm of the songs that captivated me but I do know that it was one of the first films I ever saw that made me cry and it still does today. It was years before I discovered that this film was actually an adaptation of a book and it didn’t take long before it became a favorite read as well. Screenwriter Earl Hamner summed up this wonderful material in an interview a few years ago when he said, “This is a story about love and death and sacrifice and regeneration and adult themes told through children's literature. But I don't think E.B. White was even thinking about children when he wrote it; he was thinking about significant themes and to trivialize the regenerative power of life would be terrible.”
It’s amazing when you discover something new about a film, a book, or an author that you have read/seen etc. more times than you can remember and that’s how I felt when I learned the reason behind why I enjoy the songs from Charlotte’s Web so much. They were composed by the duo Richard and Robert Sherman who are better known as The Sherman Brothers that wrote so many songs for Walt Disney’s pictures (including Mary Poppins) over the years. Another thing I recently learned which really surprised me is that Mr. White’s wife was involved with the creators of the film and she had wanted Mozart instead. As beautiful as classical music is and how it can add to a film, I seriously doubt that it would have been appropriate for the material. The Sherman Brothers compliment the story nicely and my favorite songs from the film have always been “Mother Earth and Father Time” and “Charlotte’s Lullaby” which is based on the actual lullaby that Charlotte sings to Wilbur in the book.
The music isn’t the only thing that makes this picture so special; it also has a lot of talent attached voice-wise. Not like the smorgasbord that is the recent live action adaptation but there are several well known voices nonetheless like Debbie Reynolds (leading role in Singin’ in the Rain), Paul Lynde (Uncle Arthur on Bewitched), the multi-award-winning actress Agnes Moorehead (also from Bewitched), Rex Allen as the narrator (one of the last American cinema‘s “singing cowboys”) and many, many more. They all add to the picture and are the perfect people for the parts as well. This story captured my heart long ago and the songs have stayed with me too, I believe Hamner said it best, "It is a marvelous story of miracles, of birth and death, of threat and hope and courage and friendship and regeneration. And on top of all its many other qualities it is funny." Charlotte’s Web is a wonderful film that will make you want to cry, laugh, and sing.
Related Post: Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Links: Imdb.com, Wikipedia, Wikiquote
Interview: Earl Hamner with Box Office Mojo