"To Boldly Grow: Some Celluloid Bonsai (Part II)"

by Robert J. Baran

Originally published in the ABS Bonsai Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1, Spring 1996, pp. 14-16.
© 1996 American Bonsai Society, reprinted by permission

{ Additional information not in the original publication is included below in italics between braces. }

      Part II of this historical guide follows the exposure that bonsai has enjoyed in the entertainment world from 1990-1995.  Most of the sightings occurred on television and were frequently featured on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Perhaps now, you will view the "reruns" with a keener eye...

Maxwell House Coffee 
     In the spring and summer, a Maxwell House coffee commercial included a tree.  A small, wired, slanting style maple was visible in the upper left of the screen on a bookshelf/divider in the kitchen of an English-speaking woman of Japanese heritage.

"The Victory Garden"
     Two episodes this year showed bonsai: a visit to the Osaka Expo with a brief glimpse of the exhibit including Imperial Household trees { airdate June 30 } , and a visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to view their collection { airdate Oct. 6 } .

Karate Kid, Part III 
     The third chapter of "The Karate Kid" saga was released, taking place back in California where Daniel-san and Mr. Miyagi have set up a bonsai shop.  Of special interest is the fact that the sensei's juniper, originally from Okinawa, is used as a "wishbone."  It actually had breakaway "stunt trees," designed by the movie's "Bonsai Plant Advisors," James Barrett, and Roy Nagatoshi.   { Big oops: this movie was released on June 30, 1989 actually.  And per contributor Patrizia Kane, three trees "played" the potted juniper, with different size, branch and foliage arrangements from each other and the yamadori specimen originally collected by Miyagi. }

TV - Fox
"Parker Lewis Can't Lose"
     Early this year, this series had an episode showing a juniper in a medium/small blue glazed rectangular pot on the right-hand side of the replacement principal's desk.  Dictatorial Dr. Pankow (Gerrit Graham) is shown trimming a wired, informal upright tree with scissors.  He pronounces "bonsai" correctly, and comments about his "little island of order, train it and it responds."
     This same juniper, further developed, is in a scene near the end of a mid-February episode in Dr. Pankow's personal office.  The room has a partial Japanese decor.  In order to get Pankow's attention, Parker Lewis (Corin Nemec) prunes all the foliage off the bonsai using what appears to be a fencing foil.

TV - Fox 
Star Trek {: The Next Generation} episode
"The Wounded"
{ and 
"A Matter of Time" }
     Two Star Trek episodes were set decorated with miniature trees this year.  "The Wounded" had a bonsai on board the U.S.S. Enterprise in the room of Chief O'Brien's wife, Keiko { airdate Jan. 26 } .
     And in the fall, "A Matter of Time" had one plant briefly seen in a room of the suite given to Prof. Rasmussen (Matt Frewer).  That tree is apparently a small juniper -- or pine with jin -- in a black glazed rectangular pot { airdate November 16 } .

"Night Court"
{"Santa on the Lamb" episode}
     In the Christmas party scene, public defender Christine Sullivan (Markie Post) reviews gifts for a small child.  The list includes "a chain saw, curling iron, hedge clippers, wine goblets, a 'bonn-zye' tree?"  A small commercial-style juniper in a blue glazed rectangular pot is held up for everyone to see { airdate December 11 } .

TV - Fox
Star Trek {: The Next Generation} episode
"The Offspring"
     "The Offspring" episode showed a bonsai briefly in one scene about twenty-five minutes into the show.  In the child-care supervisor's office, the tree is on a ledge by the observation window to the arts and crafts room { oops, airdate March 10, 1990 } .

TV - Fox
Star Trek {: The Next Generation} episode
"Data's Day"
     Five small bonsai are seen very briefly on window ledges behind Keiko Ishikawa (Rosalind Chao) on board the Enterprise in a room filled with many assorted plants.  Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) went to talk with Chief O'Brien (Colm Meany).  Near the end of the episode at the Japanese-style wedding (and briefly at the beginning of the episode), an old style octopus-shaped tako-zakuri pine in a drum pot sits just to the side on the floor { airdate January 5, 1991 } .

Jan. 1, 1992
Tournament of Roses Parade
     The Princesses' Award-winning entry towards the end of the Tournament of Roses Parade was a float which had a large depiction of a nineteenth century traditional Japanese garden.  In it were persons in native costume, flowering shrubs, and at least one similarly over-scale flowering bonsai in a deep rectangular pot.  All were made out of the required flowers and other vegetative parts.

TV - Fox
Star Trek {: The Next Generation} episode 
"New Ground"
     Another tree -- with grayish-green foliage and perhaps over a rock -- is briefly seen behind the instructor's chair in her office in a couple of other scenes { airdate Jan. 4 } .  No special lighting is used for these trees' growth.  Just a coincidence (see celluloid entries for 1941, 1986, 1990, and 1991): the biolab is later subject to an explosion and fire.

TV - Fox
Star Trek {: The Next Generation} episode
"Imaginary Friend"
     In two scenes in a children's art/crafts room on the Enterprise, three small bonsai in an open and backlit display case are seen on the right side of the room.  On the left side is an unlit display case that holds at least two more trees.  In the botanical gardens of the ship, five more bonsai sit along a raised lower ledge, each in its own backlit niche { airdate May 2 } .

TV - Fox
Star Trek {: The Next Generation} episode
     There are three bonsai in the living room of Chief O'Brien and his wife, Keiko.  Six more small trees are seen often in the children's arts/crafts room.  Three bonsai, two conifers and one deciduous, are in an unlit display case/bookcase, and three others are in a backlit case.  This room is a focal set in this episode { airdate November 2 } .

TV - Fox
Star Trek {: The Next Generation} episode
"The Quality of Life"
     Twenty-five minutes into the episode in the room of Lt. Commander Data, a bonsai is seen in a low dark brown rectangular tray.  It is possibly a juniper with roots over a light gray rock -- it is never focused upon during the panning shot -- but its { large and light-colored } roots may have even been white-taped into place { airdate Nov. 14} .

TV - Fox
Star Trek {: The Next Generation} episode
     In the season finale, "Descent" (airdate in May {June 19} ), the opening scene has Lt. Commander Data playing cards on a "holodeck" with representations of Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Steven Hawking.  A small bonsai on an illuminated shelf is seen over Data's shoulder.  The tree is triangular in shape in a blue glazed pot.

"Jack's Place"
     An episode has the character, Kevin, remark that a woman he took out on a first date had an "incredible collection of little bonsai."  He considered going to the Japanese gardens for their second date.  After a misunderstanding, he gives her a small juniper in a blue glazed pot as a peace offering { oops, airdate July 7, 1992, re-run? } .

"The Victory Garden"
     In a late October episode, tropical bonsai are seen in one part of the 3-acre Barbados garden of Hetty and Arthur Ackinson, including Ficus benjamina (with aerial roots), podocarpus, sea grape, and bougainvillea.

TV Magnavox Ad      In December, a Magnavox TV ad featuring John Cleese includes a bonsai.  It can be seen over his left shoulder as he talks back to an obnoxious salesman on his television set.

     This telefloral service offers several floral gifts, the second one being a conifer bonsai in a deep square pot "as appreciation for a special client."

TV - Fox
Star Trek {: The Next Generation} episode
"Preemptive Strike"
{ and
"All Good Things..." }
     The episode shows an over-the-rock bonsai in a dark blue oval pot in the room of Lt. Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes) { about ten minutes into the May 14 show } .
     An hour and fifteen minutes into the series' final episode, "All Good Things..." (airdate in May 21 ), three thin, long-trunked junipers with nearly pom-pom-shaped apex foliage in a single pot { raft style } are seen against a rear wall in Capt. Beverly Crusher's room { Gates McFadden } .

"Long Shadows"
     This September docudrama about the Japanese wife (Fumi Dan) of U.S. Ambassador Reischauer (Matt Frewer, again), of course, has a few bonsai.  At least three are seen at an outdoors press conference, where Mrs. Reischauer says, "Oh, there are so many kinds of bone-zye" [sic].  Other trees are seen in the Ambassador's hospital room after he is attacked by a nationalistic sympathizer.   {www.imdb.com gives an August 24 air date: RJB may have seen a repeat}

"Home Improvement"
{"He Ain't Heavy, He's Just Irresponsible" episode}
     A mid-October {18th} episode of this series has a scene in which neighbor Wilson (Earl Hindman) is chanting while meditating with his workbench-perched bonseki (a close cousin of our art).  He carries it over to Tim Taylor (Tim Allen), explains what the object is (saying the term, for what may have been the first time on network television), and then carries it back to his workbench. 

TV - WTTW, Chicago
Kidsongs Television Show
"Around the World"
     This episode includes a thirty-five year old "bonn-sigh" trimmed by a Mr. Yamaguchi.  About a foot and a half tall, the juniper with jin and shari located near the right-hand edge of the host's desk and is partially visible in many of the scenes with the two children {hosts} .

"Sea Quest"
     A January { 22 } episode of this series has Capt. Nathan Bridger (Roy Scheider) trimming a medium-sized juniper and what appears to be a red-berried olive-like tree.  He explains his activites to one of his { female } co-stars during the brief scene.
       Who knows what teachers of tomorrow may be inspired by one of these passing portrayals?  Stay tuned..............


  Celluloid Bonsai I
Celluloid Bonsai III
Celluloid Bonsai IV

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