Babe captured the hearts of people the world over when it was released in 1995. Although fans of writer Dick King-Smith might have been familiar with the story of the little pig that did good, Chris Noonan and George Miller brought it to a worldwide audience.
Suddenly, everyone was obsessed with the little pink fella and couldn’t get enough of him. Even now, 25 years later, Babe continues to capture the hearts of people across the globe. Let’s take a look at some fun facts surrounding the movie and its cast and crew. You may well be surprised! That’ll do. That’ll do.
They Used A Robot Pig
When you use animals in movies, they don’t just all line up and do exactly what they’re told when they’re told. That would be the ideal reality, but every single famous animal has a trainer. In the case of Babe, it was Karl Lewis Miller. Often, he hid just out of shot to keep the piglets in line.
When the wide-angle shot meant that Miller couldn’t be in the shot as he would be noticed, the crew had no choice but to use an animatronic pig instead. This was only possible on large shots, otherwise, it would’ve been too obvious to viewers.
Hoggett Didn’t Have Many Lines At All
You could say that Hoggett is the strong, silent type who acts more with his stature and expressions than actual spoken lines. His dialogue is limited to just 16 phrases in the entire movie. Given how important the farmer is in the story, this is a testament to James Cromwell’s acting expertise.
Can you imagine being cast in a movie as one of the key characters but not actually saying much? It takes a special type of actor to take that sort of role on. Luckily for producers, Cromwell was up to the task and worked his magic on the part.
Babe Was Played By 48 Piglets
Yep, you read that right. Babe, the sweet little bundle of pink loveliness, was played by not one, not two, but 48 different piglets. The crew had no choice but to keep swapping the animals out, because piglets grow so quickly.
They shot six at a time over a three-week period, using 48 pigs in total. Two unfortunate piggies were never seen on screen, simply because their scenes were cut. Presumably, they just carried on with their lives out of the spotlight as Large White Yorkshire piglets.
Babe Turned People Vegetarian
So many people who saw the movie started to question if eating meat was a good idea. While some turned vegetarian completely, others decided to veer away from consuming pork. The result was a massive reduction in the sale of that particular type of meat.
According to the papers, 1995’s figures from the Department of Agriculture clearly showed less demand for pig meat than there usually was. Even canned meats like Spam took a huge hit, reaching the lowest sales levels seen for five years. Thankfully for the meat industry, the effect wore off for a while and things gradually went back to normal.
There Were Over 970 Animals On Set
While Babe and the various piglets that played the character were key animals on set, they weren’t the only animals around. This is a movie largely set on a farm, after all. Over 970 animals, from ducks to dogs, appeared in the movie.
That’s a staggering number when you think about it, although not all of these were used at the same time. There were pigs, dogs, cats, cows, horses, goats, ducks, sheep, pigeons, and more. Keeping all this livery in check must’ve been an enormous task, but all the work paid off in the end!
James Cromwell Thought The Whole Idea Was Stupid
Where would Babe be without his loving master, farmer Arthur Hoggett? That cute little piglet looks up to Hoggett like he’s his daddy. If only the little fella knew that actor James Cromwell thought the entire idea was stupid at first.
“I thought it sounded silly,” he admitted in an interview. “I was mostly counting the lines to see how much of a role the farmer had.” Thankfully, Cromwell eventually changed his mind after reading the entire script and signed on to be part of film history. Can you imagine what the movie would’ve looked like without him?
Babe Was Played By Girl Piglets
When you think of Babe, it’s evident that he’s a little boy pig that wants a mommy and doesn’t quite understand life on a farm. His character revolves around that sweet innocence he has as a lost little gent. Not to burst your bubble or ruin your childhood, but it was all a lie.
Yes, Babe as a character was a boy, but all of the piglets enlisted to play him were actually female. Why? Because producers didn’t want Babe’s boy parts visible on camera and prompting questions from young viewers. They thought it safer to just get girls instead.
Malaysia Banned Babe
We’ve all heard of risque movies being banned in some less tolerant countries, but what on Earth could a little harmless pig do to be banned by Malaysia, you might ask? The country has a large Muslim community, and as pigs are considered abominable, Malaysia decided to be cautious.
Although the cinematic release was banned, a year later the movie was available on VHS for people countrywide to enjoy. The ban was there, but at least it was brief and everyone got to experience the talking pig like the rest of the world.
People Went Nuts For Pet Pigs
Aside from turning people vegetarian, there was another side effect that influenced audiences. Suddenly, everyone and their neighbor wanted a pet pig. While some people say that meat sales weren’t as badly hit as was reported, there was a definite rise in the sale of pet pigs.
As you might imagine, when the novelty wore off there was also a sharp spike in the number of abandoned pigs that rescue centers across the world had to deal with. A pig isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for life! Thankfully, this was just a passing trend too and eventually, things calmed down.
Babe Turned James Cromwell Vegan
Working on a movie with such a strong anti-meat message has to leave a lasting impression. James Cromwell had been a vegetarian years before, but after working on the movie he decided to go the whole hog (so to speak) and revert back to vegetarianism, and eventually, become a vegan.
“I decided that to be able to speak about Babe with conviction, I needed to become a vegetarian again,” said the star in an interview. The rest is history, and not a morsel of meat has touched Cromwell’s lips since. That’s certainly conviction if we ever saw it.
Babe’s Voice Is Also Dexter From Dexter’s Laboratory
Remember the popular Cartoon Network series Dexter’s Laboratory? Well, that show and Babe have a lot in common, although it might seem unlikely. Babe was voiced by the same actress that voiced Dexter, Christine Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh was popular in the voice acting community and played the parts of several popular characters. As well as being Dexter and Babe, Christine played Chuckie Finster from Rugrats and Gosalyn Mallard on Darkwing Duck. She passed away in December 2014, at the age of 51. Interestingly, she didn’t reprise the role of Babe for the 1998 sequel. Instead, Tommy Pickles actress E.G. Daily took the part.
Mrs. Hoggett Wasn’t As Old As She Looked
Brace yourselves — this one is a shocker. At the time the movie was filmed, Magda Szubanski, aka Mrs. Hoggett, was just 34. She wasn’t anywhere near the same age as James Cromwell, who was 55. In order to make her look on-par with Farmer Hoggett, make-up artists significantly aged Magda up.
As well as giving her the appearance of an older woman, Magda had to be coached to hold herself in a different, more matronly way. It all paid off and to this day, many fans don’t know that Magda was as young as she was when the movie was shot.
Babe Was Nominated For Several Oscars
When you think about it logically, it seems bizarre that a movie about a talking piglet would ever get nominated for any Oscars at all, let alone several. But, Babe was very well-liked by the Academy, who placed it in several categories, including Best Picture.
It was up against movies like Apollo 13, and Braveheart eventually scooped the award. It’s not hard to see why, but it’s amazing that Babe got as far as it did considering the tough competition that was around that year. Its cast and crew were thrilled at the nominations and didn’t give a hoot if it won or not.
The Idea Was Born On A Plane
While the movie was based on a book by Dick King-Smith, George Miller decided to make it when he was on a plane. By chance, he was on a flight to London in 1985 and happened to tune into the plane’s kids’ audio channel. There, he listened to The Sheep-Pig and fell in love.
As soon as the plane landed, Miller went into a bookstore and purchased the book for himself. After some battling, the idea finally came a reality several years later and bore the film that we all know and love. It just goes to show how chance encounters make the world go around.
It Was A Box Office Smash
Sure, we all know that Babe was popular, but do you know just how popular? Makers managed to keep the budget of the movie fairly low compared to the prices often seen today, coming in at around $30 million. On its release, Babe smashed figures across the globe.
When all was said and done, the feature brought in $254 million worldwide. Not only did it get nominated for Oscars, it was nominated for awards across the board for everything from its visual effects to the performances of its cast. Babe was a success in every sense of the word.
The Sequel Was A Disaster
When a movie makes as much money as Babe did, it’s only natural for studio executives to try and milk the cash cow for as long as possible. The result was a second movie released three years later.
Sadly, Babe: Pig in the City didn’t do anywhere near as well as the first outing. Although the premise was interesting, critics panned it and the movie took only $69.5 million on a $90 million budget. Needless to say, there hasn’t ever been a Babe 3 and there’s probably never going to be one, either. They should’ve stopped at one.
Producer George Miller And Director Chris Noonan Didn’t Get Along
James Cromwell made it clear that there was an awful lot of tension on set between producer George Miller and director Chris Noonan (pictured). The pair just couldn’t see eye to eye.
“I thought that George tried to take credit for Babe,” explained Noonan. “It made me very insecure. It was like your guru has told you that you are no good and that is really disconcerting.” For his part, Miller said that Chris has made “defamatory” statements and “the vision was handed to Chris on a plate.” It looks like there’s no love lost between these two creative partners.
The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Took Care Of The Score
After some reshuffling with composers, Nigel Westlake eventually landed the job. He painstakingly pored over the score, taking combinations of classical music by French composers and integrating them into his own work.
To make it come to life, Westlake worked with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra which weaved their magic throughout the entire movie. The result was a beautiful, spellbinding soundtrack to one of the sweetest stories ever known to man. It’s the cherry on top of the sundae that helped make the movie as great as it was meant to be. Westlake hails Babe as some of his best work.
Dick King-Smith Was Dubious About Selling The Rights
For some authors, having a movie made from one of their books is the stuff that dreams are made of. For others, it’s a worrying prospect that takes their own characters somewhere dangerous and potentially damaging. When George Miller approached King-Smith about buying the rights to the book, the writer wasn’t thrilled.
It took a lot of negotiating and much reassurance for King-Smith to give up the rights to his book and allow Miller to make the movie. That’s part of the reason it took the producer ten years to turn his vision into a reality. If King-Smith had said no, the movie wouldn’t exist.
James Cromwell Is An Outspoken Activist
Aside from being an avid vegan, James Cromwell has used his platform to try and make changes in the world. He has been arrested several times over the years and thrown in the slammer for protesting.
According to him, he’s always recognized by his cellmates. “They all know my face,” he admits. As well as protesting against fracking, Cromwell has narrated movies, like Farm to Fridge, on the horrors of the meat industry in a bid to dissuade meat-eaters from continuing to devour animals. He’s also been spotted protesting at a natural gas-fired power plant.