The Giving Tree by author Shel Silverstein will turn 60 in 2024. The well-known and much-beloved children’s book tells the story of a boy who ages right along with the titular tree, which provides things he needs as he goes about his life.
Less known is a short animated film released in 1972 that adapted the book. And unlike many such projects, this one features narration and even music by Silverstein himself. Take a look:
The 10-minute film was directed by Charlie O. Haywood and was considered an Academy Awards hopeful for Best Short Subject (Animated), though it wasn’t nominated. The Oscar that year went to an adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
The Giving Tree did not have a promising beginning. When former Playboy cartoonist Silverstein went looking for a publisher, he found some editors were concerned the book was too sad for younger readers and too simplistic for older ones. After four years of trying, Silverstein eventually found a home with Harper Children’s, though the book did wind up being slightly divisive. While the tree could be viewed as offering companionship and love, some regard the tree as a pushover and the protagonist an opportunist who “uses” the tree for his own selfish needs.
“My interpretation is that that was one dum-dum of a tree, giving everything and expecting nothing in return,” said William Cole, an editor at Simon & Schuster. (He turned down the book, in case you were wondering.)
Silverstein himself insisted the book had no hidden meaning or message.
Does the animated segment put things in a different context? Watch and see.
[h/t Open Culture]