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
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"...
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
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.
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!
Click on thumbnail for full size image
Submitted by eutychus
Model SheetSubmitted by ToonStar95