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Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web (1973)
Hanna Barbera Studios, the animation empire behind The Flintstones struck out on the big screen with a charming animated adaptation of a classic children's novel called Charlotte's Web that still will provide entertainment for the youngsters.

Based on a novel by E B White, this is the story of Wilbur (voiced by Henry Gibson), a pig who was the runt of his litter, raised on the Arable farm. Wilbur is raised by the Arable daughter, Fern (voiced by Pamelyn Ferdin) until he's too big to be a house pet so the Arables sell Wilbur to Fern's uncle, Homer Zuckerman, whose first impulse is to sell Wilbur for ham and bacon. Wilbur is then befriended by a lovely gray spider named Charlotte (voiced by Debbie Reynolds) who, with the aid of the other Zuckerman barnyard animals, comes up with a plan to save Wilbur's life.

The appeal of this film is probably more aimed at folks who never read the novel, because for those viewers, there are definite surprises along the way. Charlotte's plan to help Wilber is quite clever and I liked the pied pier effect that Charlotte had on the other animals on the Zuckerman farm. It was fun watching Charlotte call a meeting of the animals on the next step in helping Wilbur and the animals would quietly and immediately report to Charlotte, with the exception of a lazy and shiftless rat named Templeton (brilliantly voiced by Paul Lynde), who doesn't care about anything except his next meal.

The film features a pleasant song score by Richard M Sherman and Robert B. Sherman (Mary Poppins) that includes "There Must Be Something More", "I Can Talk", "Mother Earth and Father Time", "Zuckerman's Famous Pig", and "A Veritable Smorgasbord."

The animation has sort of a "no frills" look to it, considering how far animation has come since 1973. BTW, though the IMDB lists the film as a 1973 release, the opening credits say that the film was released in 1972. Debbie Reynolds is lovely as Charlotte. The IMDB also states that Reynolds agreed to do the voice of Charlotte without salary because she loved the book so much. Gibson is adorable as Wilbur and I also loved Agnes Moorhead as the voice of a goose who liked to say words three times in a row. This film did feature a couple of reunions for voice actors involved. Dave Madden, who provided the voice of the ram worked on The Partridge Family with Danny Bonaduce, who does the voice of Avery Arable. And, of course, Paul Lynde, who voiced Templeton and Agnes Moorhead, who voiced the goose, worked together on Bewitched and even get to duet together on "A Veritable Smorgasbord." The film was remade as a live action feature in 2006.