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‘Squealers & Spies’ – CIA’s Interpretation of Animal Farm in a New Exhibition in NYC, Starting 15 Dec 2023

To commemorate the 70th year since the CIA-backed Animal Farm movie, SPYSCAPE is hosting an unprecedented exhibition in the US, featuring art from the film. The exhibition is accessible from 15 December 2023 to 31 March 2024, included with admission to SPY HQ or SPYGAMES.

During the 1950s, American intelligence agents covertly sponsored the iconic animation Animal Farm (1954), key in a secret Cold War strategy to counteract communism via cultural influence.

It’s noteworthy that George Orwell, author of Animal Farm, originally coined ‘Cold War’ in an insightful 1945 essay about tensions between global powers.

The CIA insisted on a specific ending for the film, showing animals overthrowing their oppressive leaders, to advocate that resistance against tyrannical governments is both righteous and warranted.

“There were at least nine versions of the script and heated discussions about the end,” disclosed Vivien Halas, daughter of the British co-directors Joy Batchelor and John Halas. Yet, the directors were apparently oblivious that debating with producer Louis de Rochemont (and his covert CIA bosses) was in vain. Such fervent arguments delayed the movie’s premiere by one year.

Behind the scenes, E. Howard Hunt, a CIA specialist in covert operations and later implicated in the Watergate affair, was the mastermind. Hunt’s group bought the film rights from Orwell’s widow, Sonia, offering her money and an introduction to film star Clark Gable. In a twist of fate, Animal Farm, a satirical allegory warning against power accumulation, ended up controlled by the CIA’s Psychological Warfare Workshop, an eerie echo of Orwellian dystopia illustrated in delicate pastels.

The film was just a segment of a larger scheme to exploit Orwell’s narrative:

  • The CIA, in a clever ruse, floated Animal Farm books into Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary from 1952 to 1957 using West German hot air balloons. This operation bypassed Soviet restrictions and employed literature as a stealthy means to instigate debates on communism.
  • The British intelligence, outbid for the Animal Farm movie rights, secured rights for a comic adaptation. Funded by the British Foreign Office’s Information Research Department, a comic strip version was published in the early 1950s in several countries, including Brazil, Burma, Eritrea, India, Mexico, Thailand, and Venezuela.
  • After maximising the potential of Animal Farm, the focus shifted to Orwell’s dystopian classic, 1984, now 75 years old. CIA PsyOps experts then took charge of Orwell’s world of thoughtcrime, ‘doublethink’, and extensive surveillance, manipulating culture to such an extent that independent thinking became impossible.

Visitors to the SPYSCAPE Squealers & Spies exhibition not only witness this unique display but also have the chance to own a piece of Cold War cinematic history. Original artwork from Animal Farm, including animation cels and drawings acquired from the filmmakers, are on sale via the SPYSCAPE website.


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