While a few critics found this adaptation of EB White's classic novel "brash", most were quietly charmed by it. Dakota Fanning is the live-action lead among a starry cast who lend their voices to a menagerie of farm animals. Gary Winick called the shots on this movie after finding his inner-child with 13 Going On 30. But then he can't have been jumping for joy after viewing the box office numbers...
Buying The Farm
Although familiar with the old adage about never working with children or animals, Winick leapt at the chance to make this film. In a half-hour look at the making of it, he admits, "It's been the hardest experience of my life." We get a brief overview of the traumas and the joys with plenty of behind-the-scenes footage from the Australian set. Under discussion are things like casting, costume and set design, animal wrangling and visual effects. A few of these matters are also dealt with in slightly more detail in additional featurettes.
We all know that human actors can be a bit temperamental, but in How Do They Do That? the animals take the biscuit (well, they ain't working for peanuts). A trainer has to step in to stop two cows head-butting each other and later, she's required to give a piglet a cuddle before the cheeky little porker will even consider setting foot before the camera. We forgive them these indulgences though as it turns out that most of these critters are homeless. Where Are They Know? finds the pigs in retirement on a small animal sanctuary in Australia, wallowing in mud and the disappointment of shattered showbiz dreams...
Some Voices throws the spotlight on the bipedal talent. Julia Roberts reveals that, in order to help her visualise scenes, she delivered her lines to a picture of a pig. We're also invited to see Steve Buscemi, John Cleese and Oprah Winfrey in the sound booth and producer Jordan Kerner unfortunately refers to Kathy Bates and Reba McEntire as "two wonderful old cows."
Jennifer Garner also incurred insult as you'll find in a section of six deleted scenes. In an optional commentary, Winick (who worked with her on 13 Going On 30) explains that he had to cut her scenes as Susy the Dog. He insists that it was nothing to do with her performance, but down to the erratic behaviour of her canine counterpart. The few scenes that they did manage to nail with Susy are presented here along with a major set piece involving Wilbur the Pig and a runaway pram. Apparently this stunt was "too broad" for Winick who talks more about getting the tone right (in dealing with tricky matters like death) during his feature commentary. For a more technical breakdown, there's an alternative commentary where he's joined by the visual effects supervisor.
Cast and crew reflect on the story's "universal themes" in What Makes a Classic and there's a pig's eye view of production in Flacka's Tales. There are more porcine shenanigans in a gag reel (plus a very annoying fly), and ramping up the cute-and-fuzzy factor are two behind-the-scenes photo galleries. A couple of music videos complete this generous package. This DVD should keep older children happy for a few of hours and, who knows, maybe even cure their fear of spiders.
Charlotte's Web DVD is released on Monday 28st May 2007.