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May 23

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May 23, 1931 – The Silly Symphony The China Plate is Released to Theaters

On May 23, 1931, the Silly Symphony The China Plate was released to theaters. The short was directed by Wilfred Jackson, and while entertaining, this is another example of the stereotypical view Hollywood had of other cultures during this time period.

The short opens on a collection of exquisitely decorated pieces of china: two cups with saucers, a teapot, and a plate. The audience zooms in on the plate, and the figures begin to move. Three Chinese servants prepare to serve food for the Emperor, and as he eats, the bowl slips away from him and knocks into the instruments of the sleeping band, who wake and begin to play. Three maidens appear and begin to dance to the music, and a poor cat that is walking along ends up getting stepped on and accidentally used as an instrument by the band.

The boy tries to cheer up the crying girl after her fall in the river

As the cat runs away in fright, he knocks into a screen, revealing a frightening face on an umbrella, which is held by another maiden. She gets distracted by the view of a butterfly and seeing the Emperor asleep, chases after it into the garden. As she chases it, the view moves to a young fisherman nearby, who uses a bird to help him catch the fish in the river. The girl accidentally falls into the river as she chases the butterfly, and the boy quickly rescues her and puts her on dry land. He tries to comfort her as she cries, and makes her laugh as he wipes away her tears. She points to the butterfly she was chasing, who is now perched happily on a sundial, and the boy lets her know that she can count on him to catch the elusive insect.

The two begin to chase the butterfly, and it flies into the Emperor’s palace where it tries to perch on the sleeping Emperor’s nose. The boy sees it flying by the chair and leaps up to catch it, inadvertently waking the Emperor. The Emperor, furious at the boy’s actions, grabs a sword, ready to execute him. The boy backs up against a wall where another sword falls down, and the two begin to battle, with the Emperor easily breaking the boy’s sword. The girl tries to plead for mercy, but the Emperor swats her away.

The boy bravely soldiers on, although the Emperor has a huge advantage

The boy continues bravely to fight, even though he has no advantage whatsoever. When it looks like the end with the boy cornered against a pillar, the boy accidentally knocks the vase at the top of the pillar down onto the Emperor’s head, knocking him out cold. The boy grabs the girl’s hand and they flee from the palace, stealing a cart as the Emperor follows close behind in a wheelbarrow. The cart breaks on a rock, but the two continue to run hiding behind a rock. The Emperor doesn’t see them, but thinks they have run into a cave nearby.

The cave, however, turns out to be a dragon, who gobbles up the Emperor and catches the girl in his claw. The boy tries to fight to protect her, but the dragon is too powerful. At one moment, the girl is able to escape, and the two race away once again, with the dragon following close behind. The pair manages to make their way up a hill where a boulder stands precariously on the edge. They push it off, where the dragon accidentally swallows it and is stuck at the bottom. The pair makes it back to the boat, where they embrace.

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