Adapted from Maurice Maeterlinck's play, a sister and brother seek happiness in the past, a luxurious palace, and the future, but find it at home.
Trespassing Myltyl (Shirley Temple) and Tyltyl (Johnny Russell) catch a bird in the royal forest but don't share it with sick Angela (Sybil Jason). Mummy Tyl (Spring Byington) and Daddy Tyl (Russell Hicks) say they are late. Myltyl complains they are poor. Daddy Tyl learns he must report for the war against Napoleon's invasion. Fairy Berylune (Jessie Ralph) tells Myltyl and Tyltyl they must look for the bluebird of happiness. Their dog and cat become human as Tylo (Eddie Collins) and Tylette (Gale Sondergaard). Light (Helen Ericson) appears to guide them. They go back to the past by a graveyard. Scared Tylo falls in a grave and runs away. Their grandparents awake and greet Myltyl and Tyltyl when they think of them. Myltyl can't find a blue bird but sings "Lady-O." Myltyl says they have to return, and her grandparents go back to sleep.
Tylette leads them to the land of luxury, and they enter a palace and meet Mr. Luxury (Nigel Bruce) and Mrs. Luxury (Laura Hope Crews); but Tylo has to stay in the kennel. Myltyl and Tyltyl fight over the pony. Myltyl can't sleep and finds Mr. Luxury has gout. Tylo cries, because he has no pedigree. He and Myltyl decide to leave, and she apologizes to Tyltyl. Tylette breaks an urn, and they flee. Mrs. Luxury says they are too young to appreciate luxury, and Mr. Luxury says they are too old to escape it.
Light suggests Myltyl sleep. Tylette calls Oak to summon the trees. Tylette and Oak tell them to terrorize the children of the wood-cutter. During a storm Myltyl, Tyltyl, Tylo, and Tylette run scared as trees fall and burn. They have to leave Tylette in the fire. Light guides Myltyl and Tyltyl to the future. They see children who are not yet born and meet a scientist and a reformer who will be destroyed. A boy is sad to leave a girl as many are called to earth; but most are eager to go. Myltyl, Tyltyl, and Tylo return home and say good-bye to Light. Mummy Tyl wakes Myltyl and Tyltyl, and they are glad to see their parents. They learn of a treaty. Myltyl sees her bird is blue, and she is happy. Myltyl shows her bluebird to Angela, but it flies away. Myltyl says they will find it again, because now they know where to look.
This mystical story conveys many spiritual truths about
the attitude of happiness and shows the continuity of life after
death and before birth. (Maeterlinck also wrote about karma and
reincarnation.) The timeless message is that selfishness and greed
lead to quarrels and war, while love and understanding nurture
peace and happiness.