The Silly Symphony short Flowers and Trees began as a black and white production but was quickly scrapped when the decision was made to use a new Technicolor three-strip color process. Up until the release of Flowers and Trees all the Disney animated shorts had been black and white. Walt Disney, convinced of the potential of this new color process, negotiated a contract with Technicolor for the exclusive use of three-strip process in animation. This effectively prevented other animation studios from using the process until after September of 1935, giving Disney a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Flowers and Trees showcases nature in all its springtime glory coming to life, literally with anthropomorphic trees and flowers as the characters. The trees and flowers begin by waking up, yawning, and washing. Once refreshed, a male tree creates a harp-like instrument by stretching some vines down from a bent tree trunk and playing music. A female tree begins to dance slightly while another tree conducts a group of chirping birds on its arm-like limb and flowers dance about.

The music was composed by Bert Lewis and Frank Churchill and uses a number of familiar classical tunes. Musically the short starts out with a serene quality, which could be seen as harkening back to the same Midwestern roots Walt Disney had with his experiences in Marceline, Missouri. Many of the scores for the Silly Symphony shorts have a simpler, more languid, symphonic quality in comparison to the jazz based themes found in the Fleischer cartoons, a main competitor to Disney, being produced in New York at the time.

That symphonic pastoral score plays as the courtship begins between the young male and female tree characters with the guy giving a flower tiara to the girl. The music quickly changes as a villainous old tree grabs the girl and starts dragging her off. The introduction of conflict was something that was absent from some of the earlier seasonally themed shorts and adds tension to the storyline of this short.

The young male tree rescues her and does battle with the old villainous tree. Eventually, the young male tree forces the villain backwards where he trips over a rock. The villain falls on his back, arms folded and pretending to be dead. A flower walks onto his chest while the well-known Funeral March theme by Chopin plays. But the villainous tree is not dead. Getting up, he starts a fire as revenge against the young tree couple.

The final three to four minutes of Flowers and Trees are virtually a medley of well-known classical favorites. Aside from Chopin’s Funeral March, a menacing fire certainly warrants the frightful but stirring music of Schubert’s Die Erlkonig, and Rossini’s famous “Storm” sequence from his Overture to William Tell. The forest comes back to life to the appropriate accompaniment of The Dawn, also from the William Tell.

Eventually a group of birds punch holes into a cloud allowing rain to dowse the fire. Vultures circle the charred remains of the villain tree and the forest is renewed to a sense of order once again. The short ends with nuptials for the young couple and the ubiquitous Wedding March in C major by Felix Mendelssohn. This is one of Mendelssohn’s best-known pieces – one that he wrote for a suite of music to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

S E S S I O N spiva

Produced in collaboration with Four Larks, SESSION featured the world premiere of The Body Overcome by Derrick Spiva Jr, hindustani vocalist Saili Oak, a US premiere by composer Juan Pablo Contreras and works by Conor Brown, Salina Fisher and Reena Esmail.

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