Hello and welcome back to Through the Decades. This time I’m in the 1930s, which was a great year in terms of animation techniques and the development of Disney values that would last the decades.
With the success of Mickey Mouse short films, Walt Disney and his team of animators needed another series, and they found their commercial success with The Silly Symphonies.
Combining Technicolor and sound, the Silly Symphonies cartoons were to be influential and important in the development of later films.
In 1932, the first cartoon to grace the silver screen was Flowers and Trees.
The story focuses on the awakening of the forest on a new day and the blossoming romance of two trees. They use their natural habitat to further their intentions (what is the stereotypically male tree uses flower stems/roots to create a harp) until another tree comes to stake his claim and sabotage the budding relationship. However in Disney fashion, there is a happy ending.
What is great about the short film is the personification of the flowers and trees. This is possible in black and white but with colour it is more visually enhanced and more depth can be added to the story, especially when the plot takes a darker turn.
I think this is what makes Flowers and Trees such an important film for Disney and the development of their animation because the techniques used for this were continued and improved for features such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Its significance was felt across Hollywood too as it was nominated for and won the first Academy Award for the Animated Short Subjects category – a category that Disney would win for the next decade. It put Disney at the frontline and showed other studios that it was the benchmark for future films, and animation in particular. Whilst no other studio would be able to match the same quality and detail that Disney got from three-cell Technicolor technogy, it was the first solid foundation for any major Hollywood cartoon.
The continued improvement in the design of personified characters would also help some of the animators to become Disney legends and have important roles on some of Disney’s biggest films i.e. Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo etc.
Whilst the film was significant for its time, it no longer gets the same recognition in today’s culture. The film is included in the Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies collection but apart from that, I don’t think it has any other representation across the Disney properties.
In any case, it is still a charming and classic cartoon, and the only one to start of Disney in the 1930s.
Thank you for reading and have a brazzle dazzle day!