“Tulips Shall Grow” is a short film made during WWII that exists to give weight and artistic design to the phrase, “hope springs eternal.” It tells the story of a Dutch boy and girl romancing each other in a storybook Eden before mechanical screws render it a wasteland, only for divine intervention to enact cosmic justice and restore this autumnal paradise. It is not subtle about it’s political convictions, but it is gorgeous to look at.
An uncredited Ray Harryhausen was the primary animator on here, and his genius is all over this production. The Screwballs, a goose-stepping mechanical monsters invading and terrorizing our young lovers, are eccentric designs with the ability to seemingly change their physiological makeup on a whim. Their warplanes resemble the exoskeletons of a avian creatures, and tanks are dropped down from the sky using umbrellas to gently land for causing chaos. If the political allegory gets heavy-handed, then at least “Tulips Shall Grow” offers a variety of quirky sights to enthrall.
The entire short resembles Little People toys running around a pop-up book. Sure it’s propaganda through and through, but I appreciate in the face of potential jingoistic sermonizing it replaces it resilience, faith, and hope. Not only does prayer bring about a torrential storm to turn the Screwballs into rust, cause the earth to swallow up their tanks, and lightning to grasp their warplanes, but it brings about a healing reunion. “Tulips Shall Grow” culminates in the boy and girl reuniting and skipping into the sunshine while tulips blossom immediately in their wake and a giant V forms out of clouds in the sky. Ridiculous? You had better believe it, but a fine caper to a strange, dark little short.