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Western Animation / Flowers and Trees

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"Flowers and Trees" is a 1932 Silly Symphonies short subject, directed by Burt Gillett. It covers the very basic story of two trees falling in love, only for an ugly, rotten tree to try and wreak havoc with a fire.

"Flowers and Trees" was already in production as a black and white cartoon before Walt Disney saw Herbert Kalmus's three-strip Technicolor tests. Deciding that Flowers and Trees would make a perfect test for the process, he completely scrapped the black and white footage and had the short redone in color. As a result, Flowers and Trees was a commercial and critical success and thus won the first Academy Award for Animated Short Subjects—another step forward to animation becoming a respected medium.

As a result of the success of Flowers and Trees, all future Silly Symphonies cartoons were produced in three-strip Technicolor, and the added novelty of color helped to boost the series' previously disappointing returns. Disney's other cartoon series, the Mickey Mouse shorts, were deemed successful enough not to need the extra boost of color, and therefore remained in black-and-white until 1935's "The Band Concert".

Disney's exclusive contract with Technicolor, in effect until the end of 1935, forced other studio imitations of the series such as Ub Iwerks's Comicolor Cartoons, Warner Bros.'s Merrie Melodies, and Max Fleischer's Color Classics to use Technicolor's inferior two-color process or a competing two-color system such as Cinecolor.

"Flowers and Trees" provides examples of:

  • Animation Bump: Besides the added benefit of lush color, the animation is much more polished than the typical Silly Symphony of the time.
  • Big Bad: The evil tree, who wants to get rid of the hero tree to gain the girl tree's affection.
  • Circling Vultures: After the fire is out, the two vultures that were originally perched on it circle over the body of the evil tree.
  • Desert Skull: A rare non-desert example. The evil tree lives in a dead patch of the forest which has the skull of a cow (or some similar animal) on the ground.
  • Evil Living Flames: When the evil tree tries to burn down the forest out of jealousy over the protagonist tree getting the girl, the fire is represented as little impish flames chasing the forest's denizens around and setting things alight. They're put out when a flock of birds starts up a rainstorm but not before the flames tackle the evil tree, killing him.
  • Exposed Animal Bellybutton: During his duel with the protagonist tree, the evil tree suddenly gains a hole in his trunk that resembles a belly button, which the protagonist tickles with his improvised sword.
  • Flynning: The protagonist and the evil stump engage in this with two sticks.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The evil tree fittingly meets his end when he gets burned alive by the very flames he made.
    • One of the animated flames manages to escape the rainstorm by hiding under a leaf... until its top burns a hole in it, allowing the water collected in the leaf to pour down and douse the flame.
  • Kill It with Fire: The evil tree is burned to the ground by the fire he started.
  • The Killjoy: The evil tree is a jaded old stump who tries to destroy the bright and colorful world he lives in, only to end up being destroyed himself.
  • Lohengrin and Mendelssohn: The wedding march from A Midsummer Night's Dream plays at the end when the boy tree and the girl tree get married.
  • Nameless Narrative: None of the characters are named.
  • Obviously Evil: While the other characters are beautiful, colorful flora and fauna, the evil tree is rotten and gray, has a lizard in his mouth that acts like his tongue, lives in an area with dead trees and a skull, and is introduced with vultures perched on him and bats flying out of his mouth. You'd better be-leaf he's evil.
  • Planimal: A pine tree acts like a chicken, leading its chicks/seedlings to safety during the fire.
  • Plant Person: All the characters in the cartoon, except for some birds and insects, are animated trees and flowers.
  • Scenery Porn: For the first three-strip color cartoon, they got it started with a bang!
  • Silence Is Golden: There is no dialogue.
  • Standard Snippet:
    • The "Dawn" part of "The William Tell Overture" is heard when the male tree courts the female tree with the worm ring.
    • Chopin's Funeral March plays when it appears that the evil tree died after his duel with the hero tree.
    • Schubert's "Erlk├Ânig" and the "Storm" part of "The William Tell Overture" play during the forest fire.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The main characters since at one point there's a clear path for the trees to run away from the flames — but, instead, the male tree tries to put out the flames with his foot.
    • The evil tree, whose plan to set a fire to threaten the other trees evidently never factored in that he is also made of flammable wood, directly leading to his own demise.
  • Treants: The short focuses on three such beings, two lover trees and one evil tree who pines for the female tree, out of a larger population inhabiting a forest also home to animated flowers and woodland critters. Out of rage after his attempts to woo the female tree fail, the evil tree tries to burn the forest down but is killed in the ensuing fire.
  • Villainous Badland, Heroic Arcadia: The protagonists live in an idyllic open woodland full of living trees and flowers and friendly woodland critters. The evil tree, by contrast, lives alongside a pair of vultures in a barren patch of the forest full of broken stumps and sickly gray soil.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The evil tree loses his fight with the protagonist tree by having his bellybutton tickled.