Flowers and Trees (1932)
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One can criticize this stuff - it's pretentious, it's full of itself, it thinks its so great. But what if it is just a splendid piece of artistic expression? There's a level of simplicity that I think found its way into a lot of those early Disney features, and the bedrock of that is here: no frills storytelling, clever visual flourishes, and here it borders on gags but one can take it a little more seriously. It's also the forerunner for Fantasia, of course; taking a piece (or in this case pieces) of classical music and finding a way to basically make the earliest films full of life and vitality - in brand-spankingly fresh Technicolor (and good lord does it look full of the synonyms you can think of for gorgeous).
It's not simply one of the superlative shorts of all time but one of the great music 'videos', with a fleshed-out story, conflicts and danger with the fire that spreads (and the teamwork to put it out), and the sentimental side, but wholly and expressed with passionate audacity to go for it. There's not a trace of a modern smirk or wink to the audience, no one is being talked or looked down on, and that's part of the purity: here's the trees, here's the flowers, here's the birds, here are the things that make up this crazy little world that Disney's created. It's what it is: beauty realized in a new way that, for those that can take it in some context, heartfelt.
The cable listing for this picture stated that it was about a young sapling that falls in love with a sycamore tree. I don't know that I would have figured out the sycamore part on my own, 'he' looked like just about any other tree you could come up with. There's a villain here in the form of a gnarly old tree stump who tries to steal the sweetheart tree from the sycamore. He starts a forest fire which seemed like overkill to me, but it did lead to another creative element when a flock of birds formed a cloud seeding operation to douse the fire.
I've recorded a few more Silly Symphonies from the Turner Classics channel, and based on this cartoon I'll be looking forward to watching the rest. The passage of over eighty years hasn't diminished their entertainment value as they're a treat for young and old alike.