Color Classics

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Color Classics were a series of animated short movies produced by Fleischer Studios for Paramount Pictures from 1934 to 1941 as a competitor to Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies. As the name implies, all of the shorts were made in color format, with the first entry of the series, Poor Cinderella, being the first color cartoon produced by the Fleischer studio. There were 36 movies produced in this series.

History[edit]

The first Color Classic was photographed with the two-color Cinecolor process. The rest of the 1934 and 1935 cartoons were filmed in two-color Technicolor, because the Disney studio had an exclusive agreement with Technicolor that prevented other studios from using the lucrative three-strip process. That exclusive contract expired during September 1935, and the 1936 Color Classic cartoon Somewhere In Dreamland became the first Fleischer cartoon produced with three-strip Technicolor.[1]

The first movie of the series, Poor Cinderella, featured Betty Boop (with red hair and turquoise eyes); future movies usually did not have familiar or recurring characters.

Many of the Color Classics entries make prominent use of Max Fleischer's Stereoptical process, a device which allowed animation cels to be photographed against actual 3 dimensional background sets instead of the traditional paintings. Poor Cinderella, Somewhere in Dreamland, and Christmas Comes But Once a Year all make prominent use of the technique. Disney's competing apparatus, the multiplane camera, would not be completed until 1937, three years after the Stereoptical Process's first use.[1] The Color Classics series ended during 1941 with Vitamin Hay, featuring characters Hunky and Spunky. A similar series would be started by Fleischer's successor Famous Studios during 1943, with the name Noveltoons.

Later statuses[edit]

During 1955, Paramount sold all rights to the Color Classics cartoons to television distributor U.M. & M. TV Corporation U.M. & M. altered the original beginning credits sequences for some of the movies, to remove all references to the names "Paramount Pictures" and "Technicolor", and to add their own copyright notices. Before the retitling could be finished, U.M. & M. was bought by National Telefilm Associates (NTA). Instead of refilming the openings, NTA obscured the references to the Paramount and Technicolor names by placing black bars over the original title cards and copyright notices. Only a few Color Classics had their title cards redone by U.M. & M., among them Play Safe, Christmas Comes But Once A Year, Bunny Mooning, Little Lambkins, and Vitamin Hay.

NTA distributed the Color Classics to television, yet allowed the copyrights of all of the movies to lapse except The Tears of an Onion. Many public domain video distributors have released television prints of Color Classics shorts for home video. The UCLA Film and Television Archive has, through the assistance of Republic Pictures (successor company to U.M. & M. and NTA), retained original theatrical copies of all of the movies, which have periodically been shown in revival movie houses and by cable television.

Ironically, original distributor Paramount has, through their 1999 acquisition of Republic, regained ownership of the Color Classics, including original elements. Olive Films (current licensee for Republic, and which currently has home video rights) has not announced any plans to release the Color Classics officially as DVD.

During 2003, animation archivist Jerry Beck conceived a definitive DVD box set of all the Color Classics, excluding "The Tears Of an Onion," and tried to enlist Republic Pictures' help in releasing this set. After being refused, Kit Parker Films (in association with VCI Entertainment) offered to provide the best available 35mm and 16mm prints of the Color Classics from Parker's archives to create the box set Somewhere In Dreamland: The Max Fleischer Color Classics. These "interim restored versions" contain digitally recreated Paramount titles; the U.M. & M.-modified prints had to have their title cards as well as their animator credits redone. The Tears of an Onion was not included in the set, as it remains copyrighted.[2]

Filmography[edit]

Many of the cartoons do not have recurring characters, but Poor Cinderella featured Betty Boop, and some featured Newlyweds, Hunky and Spunky, and Tommy Cod.

All cartoons released during 1934 and 1935, except for Poor Cinderella, which was produced with Cinecolor, were produced with two-strip Technicolor. All shorts from 1936 and onward were produced with three-strip Technicolor.

Title Characters Original release date
Poor Cinderella Betty Boop/Cinderella, Stepsisters, Prince, Fairy Godmother August 3, 1934
Little Dutch Mill Hans, Gretel, Duck, Miser, Townspeople October 26, 1934
An Elephant Never Forgets Animal Children, Duck Teacher November 9, 1934
The Song of the Birds Little Boy, Baby Bird, Robins March 1, 1935
The Kids in the Shoe The Woman in the Shoe, Kids May 19, 1935
Dancing on the Moon Animal Newlywed Couples July 12, 1935
Time for Love Swans September 6, 1935
Musical Memories Old Man, Old Woman November 8, 1935
Somewhere in Dreamland Boy, Girl, Mother, Three Merchants January 17, 1936
The Little Stranger Mother Duck and ducklings, baby chick March 13, 1936
The Cobweb Hotel Newlywed flies, spider hotelier May 15, 1936
Greedy Humpty Dumpty Humpty Dumpty, Mother Goose July 10, 1936
Hawaiian Birds Hawaiian Birds, Big City Orioles August 28, 1936
Play Safe Boy, Dog, Steam Engine, Red Engine, Other Engines (only seen with fake faces) October 16, 1936
Christmas Comes But Once a Year Grampy, Orphans December 4, 1936
Bunny Mooning Jack Rabbit, Jill Rabbit February 12, 1937
Chicken a La King Rooster, Chickens, Duckie Wuckie April 16, 1937
A Car-Tune Portrait Band Leader, Other Animals June 26, 1937
Peeping Penguins Penguins, Mother August 26, 1937
Educated Fish Tommy Cod October 29, 1937
Little Lamby Little Lamby, Fox, Sheep November 12, 1937
The Tears of an Onion Onion, Vegetable Children, Crow February 26, 1938
Hold It! Kittens, Dog April 29, 1938
Hunky and Spunky Hunky and Spunky, Miner June 24, 1938
All's Fair at the Fair Elmer, Mirandy, Dogbiscuit August 26, 1938
The Playful Polar Bears Mother Bear, Bear Cub, Other Polar Bears October 28, 1938
Always Kickin' Hunky and Spunky, Baby Bird, Hawk January 29, 1939
Small Fry Tommy Cod April 21, 1939
The Barnyard Brat Hunky and Spunky, Other Farm Animals June 30, 1939
The Fresh Vegetable Mystery Carrots, Potato-Cops, Orange, Egg September 29, 1939
Little Lambkins Lambkins, Animals, Father, Mother February 2, 1940
Ants in the Plants Anteater, Ants March 15, 1940
A Kick in Time Hunky and Spunky May 17, 1940
Snubbed by a Snob Hunky and Spunky, Two Racehorses, Bull July 19, 1940
You Can't Shoe a Horse Fly Hunky and Spunky, Horsefly August 23, 1940
Vitamin Hay Hunky and Spunky August 22, 1941

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Maltin, Leonard. Of Mice and Magic, p. 114
  2. ^ Treadway , Bill. Review for Somewhere in Dreamland DVD.

References[edit]

  • Barrier, Michael (1999). Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516729-5.
  • Maltin, Leonard (1980, rev. 1987). Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-452-25993-2.

External links[edit]