Western Animation: Color Classics
were a series of animated short subjects produced by Fleischer Studios
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, with the first entry in the series, "Poor Cinderella", being the first color cartoon produced by the Fleischer studio. There were 36 films produced in this series.
They are considered by some animation critics and modern audiences to be cheap knock-offs of Walt Disney
's own Silly Symphonies, but many of these cartoons are still highly regarded today, including Somewhere in Dreamland (1936), the Academy Award nominated shorts, Educated Fish (1937) and Hunky And Spunky
(1938, first in a subseries), and Small Fry (1939). The first film in the series, Poor Cinderella, featured Betty Boop
(in her sole color appearance in a theatrical cartoon, with red hair and turquoise eyes); future films were usually one-shot cartoons with no starring characters, save for one shot that guest-starred Betty's grandpa, Grampy. Two color classics - Educated Fish (1937) and Hunky and Spunky - were nominated for the Academy Award
for Best Short Subject (Cartoons); both lost to Disney shorts.
The Color Classics series ended in 1941 with Vitamin Hay, starring Hunky and Spunky. In its place, Fleischer began producing Technicolor cartoons starring Gabby, the town crier from the 1939 Fleischer/Paramount feature film Gullivers Travels
A similar series would be started by Fleischer's successor Famous Studios
in 1943, under the name Noveltoons
. Some of the one-shots in this series would be reminiscent of the Color Classics in terms of production value and story.
—info cited from The Other Wiki
's description of the series.
Several years ago, a DVD set containing almost all of the cartoons (save "Tears of an Onion" due to copyright) was compiled and released by historian Jerry Beck
, although almost all of the shorts save that one have slipped into the Public Domain
On that note, over a decade after his previous appearances, Hunky the Burro was brought back as a side-character for at least two Casper the Friendly Ghost
and Noveltoon shorts.
Compare to Ub Iwerks
' Comi Color Cartoons
, and of course, Silly Symphonies
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Betty's hair was always portrayed as jet black prior to "Poor Cinderella", where its shown to be an orange-red.
- An Aesop: Not uncommon due to the fairy-tale nature of the shorts.
- Animation Bump: Any scene which uses the three-dimensional setback. Play Safe! (skip to 4:00) takes it even further and has a stop motion train sequence!
- Asshole Victim: Humpty Dumpty. He ignored everyone's warnings and made everyone work on his wall by threatening their lives.
- Bad Guys Play Pool: Subverted with the pool parlor in "Small Fry", in which Small Fry plays hooky from school and comes here to try and be a tough big fry with some of the actual tough big fry, only to be, in polite terms, in over his head.
- Balloon Belly: Played for Drama in "Snubbed by a Snob". After Spunky and a thoroughbred colt tease a bull, the colt takes a break by gorging on apples and drinking water until his belly reaches the ground. Spunky finds this hilarious until he has to save the colt from the vengeful bull.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: In "Dancing On The Moon", the animals have no problem walking onto the moons surface, singing and dancing, with no explosive decompression happening in the process.
- Big Damn Heroes: In "Little Dutch Mill" to stop the old miser from burning the children' tongues out, their pet duck runs to the village and rallies the citizens to fight back.
- Hunky literally arrives in the nick of time to save Spunky in "A Kick In Time" when his hoof is caught on a track, and is about to be ran over by a trolley car.
- Big Eater: Small Fry manages to wolf down a fairly large sandwich in one go.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Small Fry the fish, from the short of the same name. Spunky the Burro is also quite good at getting himself in trouble.
- The Cameo: Olive Oyl and Grampy briefly appear in a couple of these shorts.
- Chewing the Scenery: The bull in the Hunky and Spunky short, "Snubbed by a Snob".
- Cool Ship: The rocketship from "Dancing On The Moon".
- Cool Train: The train from "Play Safe!"
- Disney Acid Sequence: The ending of "Small Fry".
- Disney Fication: This series was the point when the Fleischers were starting to abandon much of their earlier cartooniness in favor of trying to emulate Disney, no doubt due to pressure from Paramount. It's especially prominent in the Hunky and Spunky cartoons, which are Fleischer cartoons In Name Only.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: The short "Peeping Penguins".
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: They're color cartoons that retroactively became classics.
- Fantastic Racism: The colt in "Snubbed by a Snob" is admonished by his mother for trying to make friends with Spunky, telling him not to associate with their kind. Later, the mother and Hunky scoff at each other when they call for their children but make amends when Spunky saves the colt.
- Hell Hotel: In "Cobweb Hotel".
- Mama Bear: Hunky the burro; Do not hurt Spunky, or this ass will kick your ass.
- Mood Whiplash: "Christmas Comes But Once a Year" all over the place.
- Not So Above It All: Mother penguin in "Peeping Penguins".
- Officer O'Hara: "The Fresh Vegetable Mystery" milks this trope for all its worth. There is also the Irish police horse Hunky meets while searching for Spunky in "A Kick In Time".
- Predators Are Mean: The portrayal of the larger bird that tries to eat the little chicks in "The Little Stranger", the the spider who catches flies in "The Cobweb Hotel", the wolf who tries to eat a baby lamb in "Little Lamby", the worm who tries to eat anthropormorphic fruits and vegetables in "Tears of an Onion", and the anteater in "Ants in the Plants".
- Public Domain Animation: All of the cartoons save for "Tears of an Onion" are in the Public Domain.
- Remake: Song of the Birds would later be remade as a Little Audrey cartoon.
- Scenery Porn
- Sentient Vehicle: The train from "Play Safe!"
- Stubborn Mule: Spunky has shades of this, due to him being a little kid.
- The Gay Nineties: "Musical Memories" has elements of this.
- Those Two Guys: Hunky the Burro and her wayward son Spunky.
- Through A Face Fullof Fur: In An Elephant Never Forgets, the elephant's face turns red from embarassment when after boasting that "an elephant never forgets", reveals he doesn't know 2+2.
- Tongue Trauma: The miser in "Little Dutch Mill" attempts to burn the tongues out of the two little kids who discovered his gold.