Charlotte's Web (1973 film)

Charlotte's Web (1973 film)
Charlotte's Web

Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Charles A. Nichols
Iwao Takamoto
Produced by Joseph Barbera
William Hanna
Story by Earl Hamner Jr.
Based on Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
Narrated by Rex Allen
Starring Debbie Reynolds
Paul Lynde
Henry Gibson
Music by Richard M. Sherman
Robert B. Sherman
Cinematography Dick Blundell
Ralph Migliori
Roy Wade
Dennis Weaver
Editing by Larry C. Cowan
Pat Foley
Studio Hanna-Barbera Productions
Sagittarius Productions
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) March 1, 1973 (1973-03-01)
Running time 94 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Charlotte's Web is a 1973 American animated musical film produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions and Sagittarius Productions and based upon the 1952 children's book of the same name by E. B. White. The film, like the book, is about a pig who is saved from being slaughtered by an intelligent spider named Charlotte and was distributed to theatres by Paramount Pictures on March 1, 1973. It is the first of only three Hanna-Barbera features not based upon one of their famous television cartoons, Heidi's Song (1982) and Once Upon a Forest (1993) being the other two, and was a moderate critical and commercial success.

The song score of lyrics and music was written by the Sherman Brothers, who had previously written music for family films like Mary Poppins (1964), The Jungle Book (1967), and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).

The film has found a devoted following over the years due to television and VHS; in 1994 it surprised the marketplace by becoming one of the best-selling titles of the year, 21 years after its first premiere. No other non-Disney musical animated feature has enjoyed such a remarkable comeback in popularity prompting a direct-to-video sequel, Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur's Great Adventure, which Paramount released in the US on March 18, 2003 (Universal released the film internationally), followed by a live-action film version of the original story, which was released on December 15, 2006.



A litter of pigs are born to the Arable farm. One is a runt so John Arable decides to "do away with it". However, when his daughter, Fern, hears of the pig's fate, she rescues him and tells her dad that it is absurd to kill it just because it is smaller than the others. She gets to raise him and names him Wilbur. However, after only six weeks of raising him, John tells Fern that it is time for him to be sold (all his siblings were already sold). She sadly says good-bye as Wilbur is sold down the street to her uncle, Homer Zuckerman. When Wilbur wants to play with a lamb, his father (known as a ram) says that sheep do not play with pigs because it is only a matter of time before they are turned into smoked bacon and ham. Wilbur starts crying, saying that he does not want to die, but a voice from above tells him to "chin up". The next day, she sings a song about "chinning up", and reveals herself to be a spider named Charlotte. She saves him by writing messages in her web, hence the title. She eventually dies, and although 511 of her children leave the barn (she had 514), three of them stay. But as much as Wilbur loves them, they will never replace her memory.

Voice cast

Five members of the cast—Henry Gibson, Paul Lynde, Agnes Moorehead, Danny Bonaduce, and Dave Madden—had previously appeared on the ABC television situation comedy Bewitched (1964-1972). [1] Hanna-Barbera also animated the opening credits of the show. However, Bonaduce and Madden are more well known for their roles on another ABC-TV sitcom, The Partridge Family (1970-1974), which was still in production when this film was made.


After the studio decided to make the film, Joe Barbera visited E. B. White in Maine. White highlighted parts of the book he did not want changed, and parts "subject to discussion."[2]

Barbera wrote that Debbie Reynolds called him and said that she was willing to join the project even without being paid.[2]


The film was released to theaters on March 1, 1973 by Paramount Pictures in the United States. It had a limited release on February 22, 1973 in New York City, and also released in West Germany on March 30, 1973, as well as August 11 in Sweden, August 25 in Japan, and September 4, 1981 in Australia.


Rotten Tomatoes reported that the film has a 74% fresh rating.[3] Craig Butler of All-Movie Guide criticized the animation and the musical score, but called it a faithful adaptation, noting that, “no attempt has been made to soften the existential sadness at the story's core”.[4] Dan Jardine criticized the songs and the “Saturday morning cartoon quality” of the animation, but also says that Hamner “retains just enough of White’s elegant prose in the dialogue and narration to keep the film from being simply a painfully well-intended experiment.”[5] Christopher Null of stated that the animation is sometimes “downright bad,” but that E.B. White's classic fable needs little to make it come to life.[6] When it was reissued on DVD the film was awarded an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award.[7]

The film was nominated for AFI's 10 Top 10 in the "Animation" genre.[8]

E.B. White's reaction

According to Gene Deitch, a director of animation and friend of E. B. White, Mrs. White wrote the following words in a 1977 letter: "We have never ceased to regret that your version of "Charlotte's Web" never got made. The Hanna-Barbera version has never pleased either of us...a travesty..."[9] E.B. White himself wrote of the film: "The story is interrupted every few minutes so that somebody can sing a jolly song. I don't care much for jolly songs. The Blue Hill Fair, which I tried to report faithfully in the book, has become a Disney World, with 76 trombones. But that's what you get for getting embroiled in Hollywood."[10] White had previously turned down Disney when they offered to make a film based on Charlotte's Web.[11] According to the film's writer Earl Hamner Jr., Mrs. White (who sometimes offered advice and suggestions to the filmmakers) would have preferred Mozart in the film, rather than the music of the Sherman Brothers.[12]


  1. "Chin Up"
  2. "I Can Talk!"
  3. "A Veritable Smorgasbord"
  4. "Zuckerman's Famous Pig"
  5. "We've Got Lots In Common"
  6. "Mother Earth and Father Time"
  7. "There Must Be Something More"
  8. "Deep In The Dark/Charlotte's Web"

"Zuckerman's Famous Pig"

"Zuckerman's Famous Pig" is the title that saves Wilbur, the pig hero, from being slaughtered in the story Charlotte's Web. It is the theme of the finale song in the film. It was composed and arranged in a barbershop quartet style by the Sherman Brothers, in keeping with the time and place of the story.[13] It was covered by the Brady Kids and was chosen for release on their first single taken from The Brady Bunch Phonographic Album by producer Jackie Mills.[14]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Barbera, Joseph (1994). My Life in 'toons: From Flatbrush to Bedrock in Under a Century. Atlanta, GA: Turner Publishing. pp. 228–29. ISBN 1-57036-042-1. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Butler, Craig. "Charlotte’s Web: Review". All-Movie Guide. Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved 2009-01-28. 
  5. ^ Jardine, Dan. "Charlotte's Web". Apollo Guide. Apollo Communications Ltd.. Retrieved 2009-01-28. 
  6. ^ Null, Christopher (2001). "Charlotte's Web (1973)". Retrieved 2009-01-28. 
  7. ^ "Early School Years: Feature-Length Films". Oppenheim Toy Portfolio. Retrieved 2009-04-22. [dead link]
  8. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  9. ^ Deitch, Gene. How to Succeed in Animation: Chapter 27: A Tangled Web (p.3). 2001. Accessed on: September 27, 2008.
  10. ^ Burr, Ty. Bard of the barn. The Boston Globe. December 10, 2006. Accessed on: September 27, 2008.
  11. ^ Clark, Beverly Lyon (2003). Kiddie Lit: The Cultural Construction of Children's Literature in America. The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 178. ISBN 0-8018-8170-6. 
  12. ^ Holleran, Scott (2006-12-22). "Interview: Earl Hamner". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-12-16. 
  13. ^ Richard Chigley Lynch (1989-06-26). Movie Musicals on Record. ISBN 9780313265402. 
  14. ^ Kim Cooper, David Smay, Jake Austen (2001-06-01). Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth. ISBN 9780922915699. 

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