Sturdy Branches and Silly Symphonies


While the theme parks are the main draw at Walt Disney World, its resort hotels offer plenty of recreational opportunities, as well. For example, active guests of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge looking for a place to work out or cool down after a long day can find a variety of fitness equipment and select spa treatments at “Sturdy Branches Health Club.” The facility also features a distinctly Disney detail: a reference to one of Walt Disney’s classic “Silly Symphony” cartoons.

Decorating the inside entrance to “Sturdy Branches” via the lobby of The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are lighting fixtures and windows displaying the likeness of an anthropomorphic tree lifting a pair of dumbbells. This character is the hero of the groundbreaking 1932 short “Flowers and Trees,” who fought to rescue his girlfriend from the clutches of an old hollow tree. Although its story is charming, the short is best known for being the first Disney film released in color.

During the 1930’s, multiple animation studios were experimenting with color film techniques, but those early results could only replicate a limited number of colors. However, when Walt Disney was approached by Technicolor about their new “Three-Strip” process, which could reproduce all the colors of the rainbow, he quickly saw the new technique’s potential. After convincing his brother and business partner Roy, who was initially skeptical of the added cost and technical challenges of switching to color, Walt signed an exclusive contract with Technicolor for the use of their process in animated films.

Walt’s instincts were vindicated when the colorful visuals of “Flowers and Trees” not only wowed the movie-going public but Hollywood’s elite as well. The film’s popularity brought new attention to the “Silly Symphonies,” which up to that point had played second fiddle to Disney’s popular “Mickey Mouse” series in the eyes of the public, and further cemented Walt’s position as the industry leader in animation. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences even presented its very first Academy Award in the category of Best Animated Short to “Flowers and Trees” during its 1932 ceremony. There may be many trees scattered amongst the wooded grounds of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, but only one can claim to have won an Oscar.

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