Guest Writer: by Michelle Durst
I recently got a chance to watch the animated musical, Strange Magic, released in 2015. In a land of faeries and flowers, the princess Marianne is set to wed the dashing Roland. Meanwhile, tensions simmer along the border of the Dark Forest where the nefarious Bog King rules.
To start with, the art is spectacular. Lucasfilm Animation and Industrial Light & Magic knocked it completely out of the park. The characters have weight, they truly interact with their environment – soaring, twirling, dancing, and squirrel-riding.
I am not typically a fan of musicals as my own taste in music tends towards metal and Mongolian throat singing. Nonetheless, I stuck with it and I am so glad I gave Strange Magic a chance. The musical score truly grew on me. By the end I was singing along with young Dawn, Marianne’s sister, every time she opened her mouth.
But there is another side of Strange Magic that is very easy to miss. It is clear to see that the animation team lovingly rendered every leaf and every petal in the magical land. As I watched it, I grew more and more impressed. There are daisies and bluebells. California poppies wave in the breeze. Blueberries, ivy, mushrooms, hollyhock, and of course primroses all feature prominently among many more. As a fan of the old Victorian tradition of the language of flowers, I was stunned to realize that the flowers themselves tell a story.
Who has never given a red rose to one they love or a pink carnation to a dear friend? We still say words without speaking through a flower or three. But this film is the first I have seen where the entire storyline is being spoken not just by the singing faeries but shouted aloud by the floral background. A crown of daisies, that flower of innocence, being smashed to the stone floor. Mushrooms for suspicion, whispering to one another all the gossip of the dark. Poppies wave their sympathy while moss crawls with dissatisfaction and boredom. The primrose petals warning all who know floriography that the love was not fairly earned. I salute Lucasfilm Animation and Industrial Light & Magic for this enchanting use of an almost forgotten art.
For a wonderful book on Victorian floriography (writing with flowers) I recommend Floral Poetry and the Language of Flowers by the mysterious J. H. S. from 1877. As it is in the public domain, you can read a complete copy for free here. At the very back of the book are two excellent indexes summarizing many of the Victorian uses of flowers in easy to understand meanings.
Find more information about Strange Magic from my blog here, along with fun printables, crafts, and activities the whole family can enjoy!