#93) Tulips Shall Grow (1942)
OR “Pal the Ally”
Directed & Written by George Pal
Class of 1997
The Plot: Quintessential Dutch tropes Jan and Janette sing and dance together amongst the tulips and windmills of Holland. Their beautiful day is ruined by an invasion from the Screwballs, a group of metallic soldiers that are definitely not Nazis. The Screwballs tear the couple apart, but all hope is not lost in this stop-motion short.
Why It Matters: The NFR’s write-up discusses George Pal and his creation The Puppetoons, while an essay by animator Mark Mayerson gives us the film’s historical context.
But Does It Really?: The Puppetoons were a brief but important moment in film animation. George Pal used the series as a springboard for bigger and better things, but the shorts are still entertaining due to their unique animation style and bold storytelling. “Tulips Shall Grow” is the perfect candidate to represent the Puppetoons in the NFR (a distinction it now shares with “John Henry and the Inky-Poo”).
Everybody Gets One: George Pal spent most of his early adult life moving about Europe in an effort to avoid the Nazis’ continued growth. He lived in the Netherlands for a few years before his visa to the United States was finally granted in 1939. The German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940 hit George hard, and once Paramount was evicted from Germany a few months later, “Tulips Shall Grow” was rushed into production.
Wow, That’s Dated: I mean, the whole thing has such strong WWII imagery throughout how could it not be 1942?
Seriously, Oscars?: “Tulips Shall Grow” was nominated for Best Short Subjects, Cartoons, one of four nominees that year that tackled the war. The winner was the short that tackled Nazis the hardest: Disney’s controversial “Der Fuehrer’s Face”. This was George Pal’s second of seven unsuccessful Oscar nominations, although the Academy did give him an honorary Oscar the next year for the Puppetoons series.
- The voices of Jan and Janette go uncredited, and many online sources incorrectly list Rex Ingram and Victor Jory as the (nonexistent) narrators. Anyone actually know who the voices are?
- What makes Puppetoons different from traditional stop-motion animation? In stop-motion a figure has a metal skeleton that can give it a variety of movements. For the Puppetoons, each individual movement has its own interchangeable piece. More time-consuming to be sure, but the end result was three-dimensional figures that appeared to have the fluid movement of two-dimensional drawings.
- George Pal eventually transitioned from animation to live-action, producing many sci-fi classics of the ‘50s. Most notably, “The War of the Worlds”.
- George also once said to his bride, “But when worlds collide, I’m gonna give you some terrible thrills.”
Further Viewing: If you can track it down 1987’s “The Puppetoons Movie” is a compilation of the very best of George Pal. Subsequent releases included even more Puppetoon shorts.