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Practical Pig, Fiddler Pig and Fifer Pig are three brothers who build their own houses with bricks, sticks and straw respectively. All three of them play a different kind of musical instrument – Fifer Pig "toots his flute, doesn't give a hoot and plays around all day," Fiddler Pig "with a hey diddle diddle, plays on his fiddle and dances all kinds of jigs" and Practical Pig plays the piano. Fifer and Fiddler build their straw and stick houses with much ease and have fun all day. Practical, on the other hand, "has no chance to sing and dance for work and play don't mix," focusing on building his strong brick house, but his two brothers poke fun at him. An angry Practical warns them "You can play and laugh and fiddle. Don't think you can make me sore. I'll be safe and you'll be sorry when the Wolf comes through your door!" Fifer and Fiddler ignore him and continue to play, singing the now famous song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?".
As they are singing, the Big Bad Wolf really comes by, and blows Fifer's house down (except for the roof). Fifer manages to escape and hides at Fiddler's house. The wolf pretends to give up and go home, but returns disguised as an innocent sheep. The pigs see through the disguise ("Not by the hair of our chinny-chin-chin! You can't fool us with that old sheep skin!"), whereupon the Wolf blows Fiddler's house down (except for the door). The two pigs manage to escape and hide at Practical's house. The Wolf arrives disguised as a Fuller Brush man to trick the pigs into letting him in, but fails. When the Wolf tries to blow down the house of Practical, he blows off his pants and shows his naked willy. Without caring in his undressed situation, the Wolf jumps on the roof to enter the house by the chimney. Smart Practical Pig takes off the lid of a boiling pot filled with water (to which he adds turpentine) under the chimney, and the Wolf falls with his naked lower in the pot. The Wolf runs away, while sleighing on his naked lower, while the pigs sing "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" again. Then Practical plays a trick on the others by knocking on his piano, causing the other two pigs to think the Wolf has returned and hide under Practical's bed.
Reaction and Legacy
The movie was phenomenally successful with audiences of the day, so much that theaters ran the cartoon for months after its debut, to great financial response. A number of theaters added hand-drawn "beards" to the movie posters for the cartoon as a way of indicating how long its theatrical run lasted. The cartoon is still considered to be the most successful animated short ever made, and remained on top of animation until Disney was able to boost Mickey's popularity further by making him a top merchandise icon by the end of 1934.
Animator Chuck Jones said, "That was the first time that anybody ever brought characters to life [in an animated cartoon]. They were three characters who looked alike and acted differently". (Other animation historians, particularly admirers of Winsor McCay, would dispute the word "first," but Jones was not referring to personality as such but to characterization through posture and movement.) Fifer and Fiddler Pig are frivolous and care-free; Practical Pig is cautious and earnest.
The moderate, but not blockbuster, success of the further "Three Pigs" cartoons was seen as a factor in Walt Disney's decision not to rest on his laurels, but instead to continue to move forward with risk-taking projects, such as the multiplane camera and the first feature-length animated movie. Disney's slogan, often repeated over the years, was "you can't top pigs with pigs."
The original song composed by Frank Churchill for the cartoon, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?", was a best-selling single, mirroring the people's resolve against the "big bad wolf" of The Great Depression; the song actually became something of an anthem of the Great Depression. When the Nazis began expanding the boundaries of Germany in the years preceding World War II, the song was used to represent the complacency of the Western world in allowing Adolf Hitler to make considerable acquisitions of territory without going to war, and was notably used in Disney animations for the Canadian war effort.
The song was further used as the inspiration for the title of the 1963 play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
One sequence in the cartoon which showed the Big Bad Wolf dressed as a Jewish peddler was excised from the film after its release and was re-animated so the Wolf would be a Fuller Brush Man, albeit one with a Yiddish accent. A nose, glasses and beard disguise also remained. Airings on American television have edited this further by using the Fuller Brush Man footage and redubbing the Wolf's voice so that he does not sound stereotypically Jewish. When the film was released on home video, the scene was further edited: the topical 'Fuller Brush Man' line "I'm the Fuller Brush Man...I'm giving a free sample!" was changed to the incongruous "I'm the Fuller Brush Man - I'm working my way through college" for this and all subsequent home video releases.
Disney produced several sequels to Three Little Pigs, though none were nearly as successful as the original. The first of them was The Big Bad Wolf, also directed by Burt Gillett and first released on April 14, 1934. All four characters of the original film returned along with two new additions: Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, originating from a different folktale which also featured a wolf as the villain. The plot was fairly simple. Practical Pig is seen building an extension to the shared residence of the three pigs. The added space is presumably needed as the residence was originally intended for a single occupant. Meanwhile, Fiddler and Fifer Pig offer to escort the Red Riding Hood to her grandmother's residence. Against the advice of Practical, the trio attempts to follow a shortcut through the forest. They encounter the dressed-in-drag Wolf and barely evade capture. He proceeds in running ahead of them to the residence of the old woman. The Wolf places her in a closet and then awaits her granddaughter to arrive. The young girl soon does, but also enters the closet with the assistance of her grandmother. Then Fiddler and Fifer Pig alert their brother to the situation. Practical arrives and soon manages to send the Wolf running by placing hot coals and popcorn into his trousers. The short contained several gags but at the time failed to repeat the commercial success of the original. Modern audiences have found it entertaining enough but still inferior to its predecessor.
In 1936, a third cartoon starring the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf followed, with a theme more towards The Boy Who Cried Wolf. This short was entitled The Three Little Wolves and it was so called because it introduced the Big Bad Wolf's three pup sons, all of whom just as eager for a taste of the pigs as their father.
One more cartoon short featuring the characters, The Practical Pig, was released in 1939, right at the end of the Silly Symphonies' run.
In 1941, much of the film was edited into The Thrifty Pig, which was distributed by the National Film Board of Canada. Here, Practical Pig builds his house out of Canadian war bonds, and the Big Bad Wolf representing Nazi Germany is unable to blow his house down.
A new character, Lil Bad Wolf, the son of the Big Bad Wolf, was introduced in subsequent Disney comic books. He was a constant vexation to his father, the Big Bad Wolf, because the little son was not actually bad. His favorite playmates, in fact, were the Three Pigs.
There were subsequent sequels made for the Disney TV series Mickey Mouse Works as well.
Warner Bros. cartoons
Three cartoons inspired by this cartoon were produced by Warner Bros. The first was Pigs in a Polka which tells the story to the accompaniment of Johannes Brahms' Hungarian Dances. The second was The Three Little Bops, featuring the pigs as a jazz band, who refused to let the inept trumpet-playing wolf join until after he died and went to Hell, whereupon his playing markedly improved. Both of these cartoons were directed by ex-Disney animator Friz Freleng. The third film was The Windblown Hare, featuring Bugs Bunny, and directed by Robert McKimson. In "Windblown", Bugs is conned into first buying the straw house, which the wolf blows down, and then the sticks house, which the wolf also blows down. After these incidents, Bugs decides to help the wolf and get revenge on all three pigs, who are now at the brick house.
The Three little pigs in Mexican cinema
There is an animated sequence made by Walt Disney Studios of the three little pigs in the movie "Crí Crí: el grillito cantor". This is actually the only known work the Disney studios has made for other cinematographic company. The movie is about the biography of the mexican children music composer Francisco Gabilondo Soler, it was directed by Tito Davison and produced by Carlos Amador Productions and it was released in 1963. The animated sequence is used to ilustrate one of the songs of the mexican composer, called "Los Cochinitos Dormilones" and then it narrates a short history in which the pigs must participate in " la Fiesta de las Flores" in order get the price and help their mother that desperately needs money to pay the rent to the Big Bad Wolf. This sequence also reutilices some of the footage from the "Three Caballeros". The animated sequence can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5upkCF5MReU
In Popular Culture
The pigs and the Big Bad Wolf also appear at the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts as meetable characters.
The Three Little Pigs were featured in House of Mouse, and the Big Bad Wolf was one of the villains in Mickey's House of Villains. Practical Pig was featured in Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse.
A miniature set of the pigs’ homes is featured in the Storybook Land Canal Boats attraction in Disneyland Park (Anaheim).
Fiddler Pig, Fifer Pig, and Zeke the Wolf appeared in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
A coffee and sandwich shop at Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure is named Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe in homage to the pigs. The shop is decorated with a motif of fifes, fiddles and pianos.
The pigs also appear in the video game Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two.
Home video releases
- Walt Disney Cartoon Classics: More of Disney's Best: 1932-1946
- Disney Favorite Stories: Three Little Pigs
- 50 Classic Cartoons Volume 4
- Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies
- Walt Disney Animation Collection: Classic Short Films: Three Little Pigs