Western Animation / Comi Color Cartoons

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Comi Color Cartoons was a short lived series of cartoons, produced by former Disney animator Ub Iwerks for Celebrity Pictures from November 1933 to September 1936. The series was produced by Iwerks to compete with Walt Disney's then-smash hit Silly Symphonies series, and to make up for the losses of Flip the Frog and Willie Whopper.

While it would be easy to write off these cartoons as low budget knockoffs of Disney's lavish cartoons, closer examination of the shorts will reveal that they do have several things going for them. For starters, while Disney made his Symphonies shorts increasingly sentimental and idealistic, Ub kept a more gritty, down to earth approach to his fairy tales, as evident in shorts like "Balloon Land", "Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp" and "Dick Whittington's Cat". Ub also outright ignored Disney's push for more realistic animation, instead opting for a more stylized version of the early 30's rubberhose style that is indisputably influenced by the early works of Fleischer Studios—supported by that Iwerks had at least four ex-Fleischer staffers on board: Grim Natwick (who often supervised, designed and animated for the shorts in Iwerks' steed), Berny Wolf, Shamus Culhane and Al Eugster.

Although the characters were typical one-dimensional cyphers, the stories were handled in a workmanlike fashion, and the animation in some of the shorts is fairly well done—Balloon Land in particular is full of principles such as squash and stretch and overlapping action. And, being a Silly Symphony clone, lavish color was up front and center, with lush, sumptiously painted backgrounds in each cartoon, and the cartoons were backed up with lively scores supplied by Iwerks mainstay and future Looney Tunes composer Carl Stalling. Another standout feature of the cartoons was the occasional use of a proto-Multiplane Camera that Iwerks himself built out of parts of a junked chevrolet car, which actually precedes the completion of Disney's own Multiplane apparatus.

Despite this, the series was doomed from the beginning. Unlike with Flip and Willie, Iwerks no longer had MGM to distribute the cartoons, with his boss Pat Powers having to distribute the cartoons himself. And, as expected, Iwerks shorts simply couldn't compete with Disney's own lavish shorts. After a three year stint of 25 shorts, the series folded and Ub was forced to close up shop, prompting a return to Disney in the following years.

Many of these shorts have been re-released on the two Cartoons That Time Forgot: Ub Iwerks DVD sets. Thunderbean Animation is currently working on an restored Blu-Ray collection of these films, with release date TBA. Several of these shorts have slipped into the Public Domain.

It is also worth noting that one of these shorts, Balloon Land, was a runner up on the list of The 50 Greatest Cartoons ever made.


    Filmography 

1933

  • Jack and the Beanstalk (Nov. 30)

1934

  • The Little Red Hen (Feb 16)
  • The Brave Tin Soldier (April 7)
  • Puss in Boots (May 17)
  • The Queen of Hearts (June 25)
  • Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (Aug 10)
  • The Headless Horseman (Oct 1)
  • The Valiant Tailor (Oct 29) Public Domain.
  • Don Quixote (Nov 26)
  • Jack Frost (Dec 24) Public Domain.

1935

1936


Tropes:

  • Animated Adaptation: All but a handful of the shorts are based on pre-existing stories. Only a few of them, such as Summertime, Balloonland and Happy Days, are original stories.
    • Jack and the Beanstalk is based on, obviously, Jack and the Beanstalk.
    • The Little Red Hen is based on the traditional story The Little Red Hen and the Grain of Wheat from A Child's Book of Stories (1911).
    • The Brave Tin Soldier is based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Steadfast Tin Soldier.
    • Puss is Boots is based on Puss in Boots.
    • The Queen of Hearts is loosely based on the character and settings from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
    • Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp is based on the story of Aladdin from the Arabian Nights.
    • The Headless Horseman is an adaptation of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
    • The Valiant Tailor is based on the Brothers Grimm story The Brave Little Tailor.
    • Don Quixote is loosely based on the Miguel De Cervantes book Don Quixote.
    • Jack Frost is inspired by the fairy tale character of the same name.
    • Little Black Sambo is based on Helen Bannerman's The Story of Little Black Sambo.
    • The Brementown Musicians is loosely based on the German folk story The Bremen Town Musicians.
    • Old Mother Hubbard is inspired by the old English Nursery Rhyme.
    • Mary's Little Lamb is inspired by the English nursery rhyme Mary Had A Little Lamb.
    • Sinbad the Sailor is based on the story from (later editions of) the Arabian Nights.
    • The Three Bears is based on Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
    • Simple Simon is inspired by the Nursery Rhyme of the same name.
    • Humpty Dumpty is very loosely inspired by the Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme.
    • Ali Baba is based on the story Ali Baba and His Forty Thieves from the Arabian Nights.
    • Tom Thumb is loosely based on the first English folklore story.
    • Dick Whittingtons Cat is loosely based on the English folklore story Dick Whittington and his Cat.
    • Little Boy Blue is a mashup of the English Nursery Rhyme and the Big Bad Wolf from Three Little Pigs.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Done in "Puss in Boots", as the princess is turned into a bird.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The end of "The Brave Tin Soldier". It was also the only short to feature this, as Pat Powers was ordered to tell Iwerks to never put another sad ending into this film, according to Shamus Culhane's autobiography.
  • Captain Ersatz: The cat characters from "Puss in Boots" are the exact same designs of the cats Shamus Culhane designed and animated for the Van Beuren Studios cartoon "Merry Kittens".
  • Christmas Episode: "Jack Frost".
  • Follow the Leader
  • Fluffy Cloud Heaven: A Toy version of it appears in the end of "The Brave Tin Soldier".
  • Lighter and Softer: Nowhere as raunchy as the Flip the Frog or Willie Whopper cartoons Iwerks previously made, but their earthy, comedic tone still lingers in these shorts. On the other hand, compared to the competing Disney shorts, the tone of the Iwerks Comicolors tended to be more grey and goofy.
  • Public Domain Animation: Some of the shorts have slipped into the public domain.
  • Stock Footage: "Mary's Little Lamb" has a brief scene where the schoolhouse desks move in perspective, which was recycled from a previous Iwerks short, but reshot in color this time.

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