The Life of Trees
A lady bug and a glow worm use visuals and comedy to teach their class about the amazing things trees do. On the way, they must fight an evil spider, befriend a talking tree and find the true meaning of friendship.
In this animated, educational short film, a spunky ladybug named Delores and her best frenemy, Mike the glow worm, set out to teach their classmates about the wonderful and interesting life of trees for a class project. The two encounter some interesting characters, present a lot of scientific facts, and exchange a lot of banter which is intended to be funny but only ends up being hurtful.
Let’s start with the good: The Life of Trees does accomplish its goal of teaching viewers about, well, trees. I personally learned a lot from the short, and the information was presented concisely, and in an order, and medium, that made sense. The animation for the flora and fauna themselves is good; there are several really beautiful shots that pan through the inside of the hollowed-out tree trunk the bugs all live in that are quite lovely. The concept is creative, using a day at “insect school” as the basis for the presentation, and utilizing the child-like characters of Delores and Mike to present the information. The character design for Delores and Mike is cute and easy to digest for kids, and the juvenile humor will probably appeal to younger viewers. Now, the not so good…
From the beginning of the film to the nearly the very end, Mike and Delores exchange insults and “pick on” one another, and other characters, constantly. They are very rude to almost everyone they encounter, including each other; saying things like “you’ll never find a husband” or “you’re just a glow worm,” demanding that people get out of their way, or bullying their partner on the project which is a bug with glasses (implying he is “nerdy”). Their behavior doesn’t have any consequences and there is no redeeming story line; they’re simply mean the whole way through, until the very end in which Delores gives the “nerdy” bug a kiss on the cheek and compliments Mike. Their disrespectful and rude behavior is never reprimanded by an elder bug, although they do mention to one another once or twice to be “nice,” which is promptly ignored by both bugs. The information that is presented, while helpful and easy to understand as an adult viewer, uses sophisticated vocabulary and technical terms that might confuse younger viewers. I’m not sure what audience the writers were aiming for, but the choice of words in the film would fly right over the heads of small children. A child nearing the end of elementary school/beginning of middle school would have a better grip on the content being presented. After a while, the presentation can sort of feel dragged out and repetitive; as most scenes are very similar and the insects are usually just speaking directly to the audience or each other.
Furthermore, the main characters attribute nature, its beauty, and the creation of life to “Mother Nature,” which in itself may seem harmless but could leave a lasting impression on young people seeking answers about creation. The film does send a positive message about caring for the earth and appreciating/enjoying nature, and one can learn a lot from Delores and Mike about trees — just not any lessons on friendship or kindness. There are no faith elements to speak of, and very little in the way of integrity, given the main character’s bad behavior and lack of character arc. As an educational resource, The Life of Trees can be a useful tool — but as an entertaining, morally beneficial short for kids, the film falls horribly short.
Because there is no other questionable content aside from the insults and poor character integrity, The Life of Trees is awarded the Dove Seal of Approval for All Ages; however, if you choose to share this film with your class or family, perhaps you can use it as an opportunity to not only educate children on the beauty and science of nature, but also the value of being kind and a good friend.
The Dove Take:
The Life of Trees aims to teach kids about nature and true friendship, but misses the mark, becoming an educational film with little to no moral substance.