Annie, born Annie Bennett in the theatrical adaptations and later known as Annie Bennett-Warbucks, is the protagonist of the comics, the Broadway musical, and the films of the same name. She is a spunky, energetic eleven-year old girl. She has curly red/orange hair (although she actually has straight auburn hair in the 1999 telefilm version, though it sometimes shown to be curly near the end). In the 2014 film, Annie had darker skin and her hair turned brown. Annie is friendly, good-natured, and usually positive. In the films, she was stated to have been born on October 28; the original comic strips state that she was born on February 29.
Comic strip universe
Little is known or revealed about Annie's origins in the comic strips. Kenneth Barker's article in Nemo, the Classic Comics Library #8 mentions that Annie had been in Miss Asthma's orphanage since infancy. Annie describes the first thing that she remembered: "Bein' in th' 'Home' and how mean Miss Asthma was. I guess I must have been there, right from th' time I was born, almost." There were in fact family records for Annie and her parents, but these were lost when the orphanage was razed on November 18, 1928. Despite much persuasion from Daddy Warbucks, Asthma refused to divulge what she remembered about Annie's biological family, apart from being left as a founding in front of the home.
The novelization of the Broadway musical establishes that Annie was born to David and Margaret Bennett, two struggling and impoverished painters from Iowa who moved to New York in 1921 to study art at Cooper Union. A young couple, the Bennetts knew no immediate relatives in New York or back in Iowa, and when Margaret fell ill, her husband David left two-month old Annie at the orphanage in a last-ditch effort, leaving with the baby a note assuring Annie that they will be back for her. Since then, she hoped her parents would come to get her someday, counting each new year that has passed since. Annie has been miserable in the orphanage, no thanks to the orphanage's headmistress, Miss Hannigan, since Hannigan often forces Annie and the rest of the orphans into labor all while she spends most of her earnings to alcohol. She also forces them to say, "I/We love you, Miss Hannigan." to her, which the orphans sarcastically or begrudgingly comply.
Fed up with the drudgery and yearning to find her true parents, Annie made her first attempt to escape from the orphanage, but not without getting caught by Hannigan. This didn't deter the orphan however, when Annie saw an opportunity by way of a laundry chute by a man named Bundles McCloskey. Annie smuggles herself into the chute and out of the orphanage. She later spends the next few months on the run from the orphanage, initially spending the winter as resident staff in Bixby's Beanery, a low-grade café run by couple Fred and Gert Bixby, before escaping after she finds Sandy. She then spends several months living in the Hooverville with Sophie and the Apple Seller (who is named as G. Randall "Randy" Whitworth Jr, a former stockbroker left destitute by the Depression) who, in the novelisation, are adult characters and a couple. Annie's stay at the Hooverville was pleasant to say the least, as the denizens welcomed her better than the Bixbys, let alone Hannigan. But this came to an abrupt end when a police officer named Lt. Ward broke up the Hooverville and captures Annie, who spent the next day in a jail cell along with the other Hoovervillites.
Annie almost always maintains a good, positive attitude. She has a fairly good relationship with the rest of the orphans, though she has had a few quarrels with them, most especially with Pepper. In spite of her innocence and good-natured attitude, Annie does show her tomboyish side at points, being headstrong and more than willing to stand up for herself and her friends, such as when she got into a brawl as she rescued a stray dog (whom she later christened as Sandy) from a pack of street boys who were mistreating the dog.
Being a young girl of eleven years, Annie does display skills typical of a child of the era. She is a skilled hand-to-hand combatant, able to knock out or out-punch boys and/or girls of her age (such as when she defended Sandy from a band of bullies in the original musical, and tackled a girl named Kate McGuire who was coerced by Hannigan to pose as Annie in exchange for a huge sum of money in Annie II: Miss Hannigan's Revenge) and even hold out on her own against older people; she however only uses this as a last resort and would often resort to diplomatic means such as when she broke up arguments and fights between her peers at the orphanage. Such was her tenacity that even Pepper, the oldest among the orphans, was afraid of her; the two would band together at school as a way to defend themselves and their fellow orphans from those who bully them. This made her the de facto leader of her group, especially when it comes to dealing with Miss Hannigan.
She also proved to be adept at schoolwork, having taken interest in reading and geography and won the spelling bee at school, though her victory would be rendered null and void by the teachers who viewed her and the other orphans as pariahs due to their social status as destitutes.
Similarities to other fictional characters
Annie's backstory bore some similarities to Cosette and Cinderella but different personalities. The three were all subjected to slavery and cruelty from their respective masters or relatives, Cosette for one being forced into servitude in a similar manner to Annie, eventually being taken by Jean Valjean as his ward, and in the end became better off at life.
A loose parallel may also be drawn with Victoria from Hitman Absolution, as both Annie and Victoria had spent some time at an orphanage and is subsequently rescued by well-to-do bald men who vowed to protect and care for the girls. Both Annie and Victoria were cruelly exploited and abused whilst under the care of their initial guardians, Annie and her fellow orphanage peers being forced into labour by Hannigan, and Victoria by Benjamin Travis of the ICA, who conceived her as an efficient and ruthless killing machine. Annie would later be taken in and eventually adopted by Oliver Warbucks who vowed to give the orphan a better life; similarly, Agent 47, who is more or less as well-to-do as Warbucks but maintains a low profile due to his criminal livelihood as an assassin, also made a similar promise to Victoria, as both 47 and his handler Diana Burnwood did not want to see the girl live a violent lifestyle.
- All three original debuting actresses' names started with an "A", just like the character's: Andrea McArdle, who first played the role on Broadway; Aileen Quinn, who played the role in the 1982 Columbia film, and Alicia Morton, who played the role in the 1999 Disney telefilm. She is played by Quvenzhané Wallis in the 2014 film. That went double for Ashley Johnson (though she wasn't introduced in this role) when she played the role in the 1995 (1996 internationally) TV sequel Annie: A Royal Adventure! (See the picture above with all 4 of these Annies).
- The first person to actually play her that doesn't start with an A is Lea Salonga. She has played her in the Broadway. If you want to see her sing. You can check three videos singing Tomorrow, It's the Hard Knock Life, and Maybe online. This is also her first time to act on public. The reason why she's not that known to play Annie because she only played Annie when the Broadway went to Philippines.
- Similarly Ariana also made her debut by playing the role of Annie a video of her singing Tomorrow is found online. This was also mentioned on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
- Although in the original Broadway show and 1999 film, Annie's hair starts out straight and auburn, in the 1982 film, her hair is curly and red the whole time like Annie's appearance in the original comic strip, Little Orphan Annie.
- The 2014 rendition of Annie is of African-American ancestry, a departure from the classic character who is hinted to be of Irish descent.
- Pepper is portrayed in the film by Rosanne Sorrentino, who played Annie in the 3rd National Tour of the musical. Sorrentino originally wanted to be Annie in the film, but was too old.