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Flowers and Trees

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : July 30, 1932

Running Time : 7:50

Synopsis

An idyllic dance of flora; until an wretched old tree stump tries to cut in the dance. Rebuffed, he proceeds to set the woods on fire!

Credits

Director
Bert Gillett
Animation
Johnny Cannon
Les Clark
Norm Ferguson
Rodolfo "Rudy" Zamora
Frenchy de Tremaudan
Gerry "Clyde" Geronomi
Dave Hand
Charles Hutchinson
Hardie Gramatky
Fred Moore
Bill Mason
Joe D'Igalo
Frank Tipper
Hamilton Luske
Frank Kelling
Ed Love
Jack King
Dick Lundy
Tom Palmer
Music
Bert Lewis
Frank Churchill

Awards

Academy Award (Short Subjects - Cartoons)

Milestones

The first Disney short produced in color.
The Academy Award given to this short was the first awarded for an animated film.

Video

United States
Cartoon Classics : First Series : Volume 5 : Disney's Best of 1931-1948
France
Les Chefs-d'Oeuvre de Walt Disney
Italy
I Capolavori di Walt Disney

Laserdiscs

United States
Disney's Best of 1931-1948
Japan
The Academy Award Review of Walt Disney Cartoons

DVD

United States
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Germany
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
France
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Italy
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Sweden
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
United Kingdom
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies

Blu-Ray

United States
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs : 3 Disc Blue ray + DVD Combo Pack

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 29: Goin' Outside with the Silly Symphonies
The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 1: Award Winners
The Mickey Mouse Club : March 11, 1958

Technical Specification

Color Type: Technicolor
Animation Type: Standard animation
Sound Mix: Mono
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Negative Format: 35mm
Print Format: 35mm
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Original Language: English

Released by United Artists Pictures

Comments

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : There are certain milestones in Disney animation that everyone points to – Steamboat Willie (the first Mickey cartoon released), The Skeleton Dance (the first Silly Symphony) – and we have reached another one today with Flowers and Trees. The milestone here is the very first use of Technicolor’s three color process in animation, bringing us the first Disney short in full color.

As such, this short has to be evaluated a little differently. Did the animators use the addition of color to their benefit? Is the short different because of the color? Does the color enhance the storytelling? I think I can safely say the answer is “yes” to all three questions.

Flowers and Trees is simply charming. There’s not a better way I can think of to describe it. It harkens back to the earlier “season” shorts like Spring or Summer in that it is really a pastoral cartoon. Obviously, featuring flowers and trees in bloom would lead to that, but there’s more than that here. There is a sense of peace, tranquility and happiness that permeates the opening scenes.

The storytelling here is superb. The short really is a sort of throwback, in that it’s more of an interpretation of a piece of music, but it does feature a continuous story from beginning to end. Two trees have fallen in love as spring erupts all over, only to be menaced by a dark, horrible tree that wants to steal the female.

After the inevitable denial, the evil tree goes for the gusto by setting the forest on fire! It’s here where the colors really pop off the screen, as the “firelings” attack the various forest creatures. Before this the color was limited with various browns and greens, but the hot orange flames really stand out, and you feel the menace as they run around attacking the landscape.

Ultimately, when the fire clears, the evil tree is dead, and the good trees join together in a mock “wedding” complete with a ring made of a caterpillar. The final scene even features a rainbow, which is a stunning piece that would not have been possible to show in black and white.

The other question to answer is why use color on the Silly Symphonies? Surely, investing in color for Mickey Mouse, the studio’s most popular character, would make more sense, right? In truth, no, it wouldn’t. Walt looked at all the angles, and despite the myth making, he was a shrewd businessman. The Silly Symphonies were lagging in popularity behind Mickey, so Walt put color into the mix to boost lagging sales. And it worked. From this point forward, the Silly Symphonies would grow in popularity, although they would never reach the heights of Mickey Mouse.

Flowers and Trees, though, is just a great short, in both animation and storytelling. You feel for the characters, because of great personality shown by the trees and the mushrooms and more. The spring pastoral is soothing for the soul, which is what some of the best Disney shorts give you. Flowers and Trees is one of those best Disney shorts.


From Mac : Great review of this milestone short, Ryan. It's certainly a different experience watching the first color short after seeing all the earlier black and whites in order. Color is quite tastefully used in this one. You might expect the first Technicolor cartoon to make immediate use of bright, garish colors, really getting the whole spectrum in. Instead it's quite subdued, evoking a nice picture-book feel, with natural, earthy colors appropriate for the woodland setting.

The title card for this cartoon is surprisingly bland, however. I'd have expected more colors to have been incorporated into the design, rather than the brown design featured here – it almost sepia tone! I suppose Disney didn't want a load of bright colors having anyone's eye out after viewing a black and white newsreel in the cinema! Also the colors here fit well with the rest of the short.

Another thing that's different about the title is that it now reads "Mickey Mouse presents" rather than simply "A Walt Disney Silly Symphony". We've seen this before, but only on reissue titles. The Mickey Mouse byline seems to have started with the United Artists pictures (so was probably on Just Dogs and The Bears and the Bees too) and is included on the posters for the UA cartoons. It's interesting that this clever device – associating Mickey's famous name with the less popular series in order to boost their appeal - is only starting to be used now. There had been something of a dry spell for the Sillies in early 1932 which does seem kind of telling.

As for the order of color and black and white cartoons, according to Merritt and Kaufmann's Silly Symphony book, the final black and white Silly Symphony, Bugs in Love is actually next, with King Neptune and all the other color ones following after. Bugs was actually in production around the same time as Flowers. With this in mind, the final black and white Silly makes more sense!


From Jerry Edwards : Two young trees in love are threatened by a jealous old stump who attempts to win the affections of the female tree by defeating the young male tree in combat. When the stump uses fire to try to destroy the young male tree, the fire consumes the stump instead. Although the forest is set afire, birds help put out the fire by boring holes through the clouds, causing it to rain. The forest revives and celebrates the wedding. Excellent job of giving human characteristics to the flowers and trees. The old stump even has a snake as a tongue to give him the extra aura of evil. It is a bit weird to see vultures circling the burned corpse of the old stump, though.
From Ryan : I used to have this short on video back when I was younger. We donated it to the library where my mom used to work. It has been quite a long time since I've seen this cartoon. I remember when my grandpa was watching this short with me, he liked the scene where the flower was brushing its teeth (He probably saw this cartoon when it first came out). People were probably quite amazed to see color in a cartoon for the first time ever.
From Gijs Grob : Although now appearing rather silly and old fashioned, "Flowers and Trees" contains some good visual jokes (flowers brush their teeth, a pine is portrayed as a hen) and fine drama, when the wood is set on fire. The colors are not only used as a novelty, but add to the drama, as do quotes from Schubert's "Erlkönig."
From Chris Purdue : I give this short a 10. Awesome! I love the Silly Symphonies series, especially the later ones in color. Even though I am legally blind, I can see the beautiful colors. Very good animation for this time period.
From Baruch Weiss : This is one of the best Disney cartoons, I really loved it. It was the first cartoon to win an Academy Award for Best Short Subject because an Award for the Short Subject field simply didn't exist until this cartoon!
From Bill I. : Although I have seen most of the Silly Symphonies, I never thought they were in the same league as the Mickey shorts. However, Flowers And Trees is top-notch. I have seen it over and over and am still amazed how Walt gave all the forest denizens human-like qualities. The trees waking up in the morning, the girl and boy tree falling in love and even the evil qualities of the jealous dead tree were very well done. The human aspect of revenge is perfectly shown when the dead tree can't have his way; he tries to burn down the forest. The whole short was filled with great animation. and like any good ending, he gets his just desserts and everyone lives happily ever after. The fact that this was the first 3 color process for Disney made it even better. A Solid 10.
From Rich : What better way to firmly establish Disney as the King of Animation in addition to the creation of Mickey Mouse? Historians have noted that this began as a black and white film, and to me it plays out as a black and white film that just happens to have color and very little else. It's primitive, but still very entertaining.

My biggest beef with the colors in this film is that they don't seem to be bright enough. Maybe Natalie Kalmus ran her mouth too much. I can understand though why they didn't take more time with this than they did and that was because they were waaaay behind schedule having tossed the black and white footage, but not the artwork.

I think the Technicolor process was better established in King Neptune than it is here, however as all of us animation buffs know, it is personality and not novelty that sells a picture as proved by Three Little Pigs, where color, by that time, was just a backdrop. Then came "Disney's Folly"...


From Sydney : This is the first silly symphony in cartoon. It could be perfect for Earth Day. Though, I think it should be called Flowers Trees and Birds because it has birds involved in this cartoon too. It starts with a bird waking up every flower and tree, even that scary looking old stump that had vultures sleeping on top of him. He had a crush on a female tree but she already had a boyfriend. He tries to take her away from this tree playing a song for her on his harp. When the other tree sees what is going on, he tries to rescue the girl tree. But the old stump starts a fire that brings danger to the other flowers and trees. So the birds poke holes in the rain clouds to put out the fire. Fortunately, the old stump gets burnt in the fire and never will be able to get up again. The vultures soar over his dead stump. The male tree uses a caterpillar for a wedding ring to put on the female trees finger. And every other bird and flower and tree celebrate.

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