Silly Symphonies

film 18 of 61

Flowers and Trees

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 6, 2015

If we were grading these films, we’d bump this one up a point or two just for that colour. There had been lots of experiments but here’s the very first three-strip Technicolor (where’s the trade mark key on this keyboard?) film released to theatres. What must people have felt when this process was introduced? It’s a knockout, and it’s no wonder that all subsequent Sillies followed suit.

I like the mushrooms, and the black-faced, calisthenical daisies. The way the various flowers and trees uproot and run around makes me wonder if there shouldn’t be a few consistent rules about vegetable mobility. Like vampires, for instance. Except Edward, of course, who seems to mostly do whatever he wants.

Flowers and Trees is madly anthropomorphic. Kind of moonily so, too, what with the rather inelegant distribution of characters. There were doubtless technical challenges with which the animators had to grapple. But couldn’t they have found more to do or say than a pair of blandly attractive lovers and a rival made hissable by the fact that he’s old and ugly? That’s morality for you. (And Griffith, and Pickford, and maybe real romance too.) Mind you, there’s a frisson when we cut to our last glimpse of the antagonist, face down and burnt to death. It’s a little like Malvolio’s last departure in Twelfth Night. Suddenly we doubt ourselves. Have we done right by him, in portraying him this way?

It’s fun how the birds burst the clouds, and how that last little flame is the author of his own demise. Kind of like Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” except opposite.