|Production company:||Hanna-Barbera Productions|
|Release date:||February 22, 1973|
|Executive producer(s):||Edgar Bronfman|
|Producer(s):||Joseph Barbera and William Hanna|
|Music composed by:||Irwin Kostal|
|Screenplay by:||Earl Hamner, Jr.|
|Director(s):||Charles Nichols and Iwao Takamoto|
Charlotte's Web, also known as E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, is a 1973 animated musical drama film based on the 1952 children's book by E.B. White. The film was a joint production by Hanna-Barbera Productions and Sagittarius Productions, and distributed by Paramount Pictures on February 22, 1973. It was written by Earl Hamner, Jr., produced by Joseph Barbera and William Hanna, and co-directed by Charles Nichols and Iwao Takamoto.
A pig named Wilbur befriends a spider named Charlotte after she saves him from being slaughtered.
Since its release, Charlotte's Web has gained a cult following, although the same can't be said for the direct-to-video sequel nobody asked for in 2003, entitled Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur's Great Adventure. This was a co-production from Universal Animation Studios and Nickelodeon.
In the morning at John Arable's farm, he plans on killing a runt pig, although he doesn't enjoy it. When his daughter, Fern, gets wind of this from her mother, she tearfully begs him not to do it, but his hands are tied. She claims it to be an injustice on the pig and should be allowed to live like her, so John allows her to keep it on the condition she raise it herself. She is overjoyed and names him Wilbur, before John takes her inside with Wilbur so he can be fed.
In the kitchen, the whole family finds out what has happened. Now Avery asks for a pig too, but he has more than enough problems with keeping a frog in control, which jumps all over breakfast. Following breakfast, Fern spends the rest of the morning nurturing and playing with Wilbur, while singing "There Must Be Something More". She arrives at the house of her friend, Henry Fussy, who lives with his strict mother, who goes ballistic when Wilbur gets loose in their house, chasing him all over with a broom.
Two weeks in, John gets irked when Fern celebrates Wilbur's two-week birthday at the kitchen table and orders him to start living outside like a regular pig, much to the protest of Fern. Still, Fern follows her father's order and puts Wilbur to sleep outside with a blanket. Wilbur is also upset about being put outside although is settled when Fern starts singing again. In the middle of the night, Wilbur gets scared, so he makes a commotion which scares Mrs. Arable into thinking there are robbers trying to get in. When John goes to check the door, Wilbur runs in and scurries through the house, making his way into Avery's bed, until his parents order Wilbur back outside.
After six weeks, Wilbur has grown into maturity, and with his brothers and sisters already sold, John thinks it's time to do the same with Wilbur. Naturally, Fern is against this, but the decisions already been made. She rushes outside to comfort Wilbur one last time before he is sent with her uncle, Homer Zuckerman, to his farm. Wilbur is lonesome at the new farm, until he is greeted by Goose, who prompts him to talk for the first time, which he is delighted by and even sings, "I Can Talk!", which disturbs the other farm animals from their sleep. When he finishes the song, he simply goes back into depression from being separate from Fern.
By the morning, Lurvy comes to fill Wilbur's troth, although he isn't in the mood to eat, although Templeton is and takes advantage of a full troth and engorges himself. On the suggestion of Homer, Lurvy feeds Wilbur a "spring tonic" of sulfur molasses, which causes Wilbur to faint. Later in the day, Wilbur's troth is loaded, but he's still not hungry. Goose tells Wilbur that he should eat, but Wilbur wants to play. However, Goose is preoccupied with keeping her eggs warm, it isn't in Templeton's nature, and a lamb is forbidden by the ram's father, who then bluntly reveals to the innocent Wilbur, that his only place on the farm is to be fed until he is fat enough to be killed. This causes great distress to Wilbur who doesn't want to die. Nobody can bring peace to Wilbur, until a friendly voice calls out to him that she'll be there for him and will keep him safe, and she'll explain everything in the morning, which settles Wilbur enough that he can sleep.
Wilbur is woken up by a singing voice telling him to "Chin Up!" Wilbur investigates the voice until he discovers it comes from a beautiful spider named Charlotte. They get into a discussion about Charlotte's dietary requirements, which makes Wilbur unwell, but the point is Charlotte is actually helping the ecosystem. Wilbur wants to be useful like Charlotte by catching his own food with a web, and gets help from Templeton with his piece of string (in exchange for some of his breakfast). Templeton ties one end to Wilbur's tail and another end to the rafter, but all Wilbur is able to do is hang, until the piece of string attached to his tail snaps. Charlotte suggests he give up on that idea, because he doesn't need to get his own food. She promises to remain with him as long as she can, and will even wait to eat her flies after he's asleep.
Fern and and Wilbur aren't apart for long, as she visits him everyday during summer. One of the days, seven of the goslings hatch, except for the eighth one, which is considered a dud, and given to Templeton for his own pleasure. The others take notice of Jeffrey, one of the hatched goslings that is rather small for his size. Jeffrey meets Wilbur, finding common ground as one runt to another. Wilbur starts a song about their newfound friendship with "We've Got Lots in Common", which prompts Jeffrey, Charlotte, and the other animals to join in. When the song is over, Jeffrey's mother wants him to come along with his siblings for a swim, but Jeffrey wants to stick with Wilbur. Jeffrey wants to be lifelong friends with Wilbur, but Wilbur can't say the same because of the cruel fate he has been dealt, although he tells Jeffrey that Charlotte is devising a plan to that will save him. Jeffrey wants to help and tells Wilbur he loves him.
Fern later tells her parents all about what happens, but her mother isn't amused by her wild imagination and wants her to stop going to her Uncle Homer's farm. Fern believes she's doing the right, though.
Charlotte thinks long and hard on how to save Wilbur, when she comes up with a plan to trick Homer. Just then Fern and Avery come to visit. Avery comments on the shrimpy Jeffrey, which maddens the gosling until Avery also remarks that he sounds like a pig. Avery then causes a ruckus when he notices Charlotte and wants to take it home, but is knocked away by Wilbur. Avery crashes onto Templeton's rotten egg, the smell of which causes Fern and Avery to flee. Templeton takes credit for saving Charlotte, who's more than willing to thank him.
At night, Wilbur finds it difficult to sleep as he is still concerned if Charlotte can think of a successful plan, but tells him not to worry and lulls him to sleep by singing "Deep in the Dark". As Charlotte works her webs, she says goodnight to Templeton, who is wandering. By morning as Lurvy plans to feed Wilbur, he is shocked to find the words "Some Pig" written in a web above Wilbur. The Zuckermans race out to see what the commotion is and see the webbed words as a miracle and that they have a special pig who should be seen by all of their friends. He becomes such a big hit that newspapers and big magazines want a piece of Wilbur. Even Mrs. Fussy let her son see Wilbur, although she hasn't become any nicer, and accuses Fern of playing a trick. At the same time the web has also been damaged by a bee flying into, which brings back Wilbur's fear: If there's nothing special about him, he's not worth being kept alive. So, Charlotte starts a meeting with the animals for new ideas, coming up with "Terrific". She gets to work on the new web, but not before getting back at Templeton for rudely dismissing her meeting, by setting up a close encounter between Templeton and a cat.
The next day, Lurvy is startled again by the new "Terrific" web and Mrs. Zuckerman makes another call to the presses all over again and tourists take another visit to Wilbur until they fetter into nothing. Despite the publicity Wilbur draws, this is all for naught as they still plan on killing him, so Charlotte announces another meeting, one which even Templeton is forced to attend, which concludes with Templeton going to the dump to acquire a magazine clipping, but what he comes back with isn't appropriate and may give Homer the wrong idea of "crunchy bacon", which almost makes Wilbur faint. Templeton gives it another shot by lifting a piece from a soap flakes box which reads "With new radiant action", resulting in Charlotte using "Radiant."
The crowds come back and declare him to be "Radiant" just like the web claims him to be. Wilbur also entertains the crowds by jumping around, promoting them to cheer that he could be a prize winning pig, which is exactly what Homer believes and announces he will be entered in the upcoming fair. As Lurvy builds a special "Zuckerman's Famous Pig" crate, Charlotte turns down Wilbur's offer to join him at the fair, because she has to lay her eggs, something she can't avoid and explains in a song called "Mother Earth and Father Time".
It is the day of the fair, and Lurvy must do his chores in half the time. When he joins the Zuckermans for breakfast, Edith informs Homer that she'll be giving Wilbur a buttermilk bath just like her grandmother used to give her pig. Homer thinks she's crazy, but Wilbur really comes off a lot cleaner because of it. The Zuckermans then go and get ready for the fair, leaving Wilbur to get upset because he'll have none of his friends, so Charlotte agrees to come along for moral support, despite it being an inconvenience. She also talks Templeton into coming along, which the goose helps out by singing "The Veritable Smorgasbord", appealing to Templeton's gluttony. The ram advises Wilbur to put up a fight when Homer goes to put Wilbur in the crate, to prevent any suspicion from Homer, although Templeton asks Wilbur to be careful, since he'll be hiding in the crate with Wilbur.
The Arables assist the Zuckermans and Lurvy in getting Wilbur in the crate, who puts up a struggle as instructed. Avery even gets into the crate to lure Wilbur in, without knowing of Templeton's presence inside. The men and Avery work together to get Wilbur successfully inside. Jeffrey tries to join Wilbur, but is prevented by Lurvy, who gives him to Avery to hold until they get down the road.
The families arrive at the fair and are treated as celebrities. After they place Wilbur in his reserved spot for the next day, the families do some exploring, except for Fern who stays behind with Wilbur. She sings a bit of a reprisal of "There Must Be Something More", when Henry shows up, dressed casually for a change and without his glasses. He's pleased to see her and tells her all about his time in the summer with his grandpa, but Fern is mad at him for not even having the decency to tell her. Henry makes it up to her by buying them tickets to the Ferris wheel, leaving Wilbur behind to sadly sing a verse of "There Must Be Something More". Wilbur feels distraught that Fern left without saying goodbye, but Charlotte informs him that Fern still loves him, but is just growing up. As Wilbur settles into his pen, Templeton wants to know if he can leave, but Charlotte warns him he better stay put until night. She then checks the surrounding area spotting another pin with a sarcastic pig called Uncle. Uncle may prove to be stiff competition, but Charlotte doesn't plan on Wilbur using, especially with Templeton's help choosing another miracle word, much to his chagrin, but Templeton's survival depends on Wilbur's survival. Charlotte wants the word to be special as it will be her last, confusing Wilbur. Charlotte then suggests they all take a nap to be refreshed. Meanwhile on the Ferris wheel, Fern and Henry grow closer.
At night, Templeton scurries around the fair looking for a new word. He comes across "Humble" from a newspaper, which Charlotte thinks is a perfect fit. Wilbur wants Charlotte to sing to him, but she doesn't feel like it tonight, but she promises to show him her new web masterpiece in the morning. Now all that's left is for Templeton to go about his midnight feast with the mess that's been left behind by the patrons, as he sings "The Veritable Smorgasbord".
Wilbur wakes up in the morning to find that Charlotte has laid her 514 egg sack. Charlotte is more ominous than before, saying it's her greatest work, although she is tired and concerned if they will survive all the way into spring. Wilbur is also concerned about the way Charlotte is acting, although she tells him not to worry. Templeton comes back to grace Wilbur and Charlotte with his presence, having stuffed himself full. When Wilbur tells him about Charlotte's children, he gives his sarcastic enthusiasm.
The judges are ready to see Wilbur, who's pen is now adorned with Charlotte's web which has the word "Humble" weaved into it. Despite the attention from the crowds, the two families are alarmed to discover that Uncle has already won first place, upsetting Fern. Just then, a marching band performs through the fair grounds on their way to Homer to inform him that he and his pig are expected at the grand stand. Homer wants to take full advantage of this spectacle and takes Wilbur out on a leash for all the fair to see, with the marching band performing behind him. Once they get to the grand stand, the judge welcomes Homer and Wilbur to a full crowd, and thanks them for drawing in all the tourists from around the world to witness the webbed writings which he views as coming from an unexplained supernatural force. He respectable refers to him as being "Some pig", which signals a barbershop quartet to perform "Zuckerman's Famous Pig". Once finished, the judge then hands Homer a special award of 25 dollars on behalf of the governors of the fair, and bronze medal for Wilbur. Wilbur has achieved his goal of not being slaughtered, as Homer announces to the crowd that he will make sure that Wilbur lives to a ripe old age. In triumph, the families and Wilbur leave the grand stand, with the marching band playing "Zuckerman's Famous Pig".
Back at Wilbur's pen, Wilbur shows his medal off to Charlotte, who's worse off than before, but she is pleased that she was able to ensure his safety for good. Wilbur is curious to know why Charlotte has helped him, to which she replies because he was her friend, which is special in and of itself. It is also because helping Wilbur made her life a little more special than what is typical of a spider. He doesn't have her flair for words, but he says that he would gladly give his life for her. But still not fully comprehending what is happening, he then looks forward to going back to the farm with her, although she cannot return as she will be dead soon. Wilbur starts blubbering, but Charlotte tells him to keep his chin up. To repay Charlotte, Wilbur quickly gets Templeton's help in retrieving the eggs to be brought back in the crate with them. Charlotte only has enough energy to be thinking of Wilbur in that he's now safe, and sings "Mother Earth and Father Time" one last time before she dies. The families find Wilbur sobbing. Homer thinks he's just homesick, while Fern wipes his eyes.
The Zuckermans bring back Wilbur to their farm, and unknown to them, Charlotte's egg sack, which Wilbur buries safely in the dirt and hay, guarding over them all through autumn and winter, until they are ready to hatch in spring. Fern and Henry's relationship blossomed, while the goose hatched more eggs, and even Templeton had children of his own. Wilbur then finally sees Charlotte's offspring spring from the egg sack, but just when he's about to take on a new role as guardian, they all instinctively leave him to start their own lives. Wilbur is heartbroken and starts to dig his way out of the farm as he doesn't want to be remind of what he has lost. However, three tiny spiders have remained behind as they like it in the barn and with Wilbur. He names them Joy, Aranea, and Nellie. The children aren't yet writers like their mother, although they hope to be one day. When they're able to he asks them to write out a speech he makes about how wonderful a spider Charlotte was. They aren't too keen on this, however, because it would take a lifetime, but this is okay, because Wilbur comments that a lifetime is all they have. He then introduces the remaining spiders to the rest of the farm animals.
As time will pass, Wilbur will have seen Charlotte's children and grandchildren come and go, and while he loved them all, they never took the place Charlotte had in his heart as both friend and a writer.
Fern: What's Papa gonna do with that axe?
Mrs. Arable: Some pigs were born last night.
Fern: What does he need an axe for?
Mrs. Arable: One of the pigs was a runt. Your father has to do away with it.
Fern: This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of!
Wilbur: I can talk. I can talk! I can actually, factually talk!
Wilbur: I'll be your friend. I was a runt like you once.
Jeffrey: You're kidding?
Wilbur: No, I'm not.
Jeffrey: Then I want to be like you.
Jeffrey: Let's be friends forever, Wilbur. Want to?
Jeffrey: I love you, Wilbur.
Wilbur: I love you, too, Jeffrey.
In order of appearance:
- The Moon
- Vanity Fair
- Farmer's Weekly
- The Saturday Evening Post
- Saturday Review
- Brattleboro Prattle
- Zuckermans' truck
A scene was cut, which is featured in the Swedish and German VHS releases, where Avery is shown to hold Jeffrey on the truck until they get down the road. When Jeffrey is let go, he runs after them, but fails to catch up. As he sobs, his mother gently directs him to the pond to join his siblings.
The score was arranged, supervised, and conducted by Irwin Kostal. The music and lyrics for the songs were written by the Sherman Brothers (Richard and Robert), who previously worked for Walt Disney on his films such as The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Jungle Book.
- "There Must Be Something More"
- "I Can Talk!"
- "Chin Up!"
- "We've Got Lots in Common"
- "Deep in the Dark/Charlotte's Web"
- "Mother Earth and Father Time"
- "A Veritable Smorgasbord"
- "Zuckerman's Famous Pig"
Dates are in order of release:
- United States: February 22, 1973
Behind the scenes
- Fern is clearly modeled after Wendy Darling from Disney's animated film Peter Pan.
- At the time the first newspaper took Wilbur's photo, it was the month of July.
- Mrs. Arable wants Fern to stop spending time alone and more time with other kids her age, but she doesn't make it that simple. Instead, she makes for a lousy disciplinarian, as forbids Fern from going back to Uncle Homer's farm, but can't give her proper instructions on an alternative, simply telling her to "go outside" which she was doing anyway.
- When Templeton rips off a piece from the popcorn box, there isn't a single letter written down, but when he returns to Charlotte, it says "Crunchy."
- The crate for Wilbur that reads "Zuckerman's Famous Pig", leaves out the comma, although this mistake isn't made again on the reservation note at the fair.
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In other languages
In popular culture
- In the Sister, Sister episode "Slumber Party", a poster of Charlotte's Web (not the one featured in the infobox) is on the wall of a video rental store Tia and Tamera and their parents check out.
- RoadRunnerCoyote20 (April 16, 2017). "Charlotte's Web (1973) - deleted scene with Jeffery (Swedish version w/ translated subtitles)". YouTube. Retrieved May 18, 2020.