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In case you forgot that history wasn't in black and white (results may vary).

Colorization is the use of various techniques and technologies to add color to a work that was originally made in black and white. The concept existed for a long time, even being used in some of the earliest films produced via general tints (such as purple or bronze), but the overall painstaking process and lackluster results did not do much for the field. It wasn't until digital colorization developed in the 1970s that you could make more naturalistic colors and overall pass for having been originally filmed in black and white.

The use of colorization is often controversial, as changing the look and tone of a film after it was made is seen by many as equivalent to defacing art. Also, choosing the colors that are going to be used is often just guessing since there's no way to know how the movie set, props and costumes really were when the movie was filmed. In fact, the real-life color was likely chosen for how well it reads in greyscale and may not resemble explicit statements on the matter.

Like most things, it can also be used in service of the story and attract attention to an Updated Re-release. In comics, at worst, it can lead to complaints.

Compare Deliberately Monochrome and Decade-Themed Filter.


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    Comic Books & Manga 
  • Most of the Warrior Cats manga were originally drawn and released in black-and-white. A decade later, James Barry colorized the ones he'd illustrated and they were re-released.
  • Bone was initially published (serially from 1995 to 2004) with just Jeff Smith's black-and-white line art. Then from 2005 to 2009, all the individual volumes were republished with colors added by Steve Hamaker. Fortunately, these haven't replaced the original editions of the comic, and both versions remain in print.
  • The first Titeuf comic was monochrome but later got a colorized edition. The colorized edition is recognizable by the cover as it have an added stamp showing Titeuf with various colors as if the character himself was painted over.
  • The original Mirage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were printed in black and white. First Graphic Novel later released colorized collections.
  • The original 1988 Epic Comics release of AKIRA, one of the first complete English translations of a manga series, was digitally colored and flipped to read from left to right.
  • In early 2013, Shueisha began releasing Dragon Ball fully colored in both digital and print formats.
  • In late 2018, as Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba had entered its final stretch with the Infinity Castle arc, Shueisha hired a professional digital colorist to begin working from Chapter 140 onwards, it followed all the way to the series’ end in Chapter 205; the effort was done in order to promote the digital print of Weekly Shounen Jump at the time.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The first major controversy involving this trope occurred in the 1980s, when some library management companies such as Hal Roach Studios and Ted Turner's holdings started using the then-new colorization technology to alter black and white films like Miracle on 34th Street, King Kong (1933), and most infamously, Casablanca.
    • In the case of Roach, not only were his classic films colorized, but films such as It's a Wonderful Life got the same treatment because they were in the public domain and were free to license and alter. Many film purists and actors such as Jimmy Stewart complained, claiming that the films were being vandalized, while defenders argued that altering the films would make them widely available as television stations gave little love to black-and-white films. (In actuality, the restoration process applied to the original black and white prints helped preserve the original films). Particularly controversial was when Turner joked about colorizing Citizen Kane. Orson Welles allegedly told someone shortly before he died to "keep Turner and his damn crayons away from my movie." This was before the Internet, so many feared that the colorized versions would "replace" the original black and white versions forever. The process fell out of favor after a few years, not because of criticism, but because the technology was not good enough at the time to produce color that did not look artificial, in addition to its high costs. Though hundreds of films were colorized by Turner and Hal Roach in the 1980s/early 1990s, few of these versions are available today outside ancient VHS releases and TV recordings. Ironically enough, George Lucas actually testified in Congress to oppose this practice. Ted Turner eventually regretted his actions regarding colorization: the launch of the much-loved Turner Classic Movies is considered by some to be his mea culpa to cinephiles.
    • The origins of the controversy stemmed from a reneged agreement between Frank Capra's production company and Colorization Inc., a Toronto-based colorizing company. Capra and Colorization Inc. signed a contract in 1984 that would allow the filmmaker to oversee the color conversion of It's a Wonderful Life, with both parties sharing ownership of the new version. However, when the latter party realized that the film was out of copyright, they used a legal loophole that got Capra ousted from the project, which caused him to join the anti-colorization debate.
  • The second wave of controversy over colorization occurred in the mid-2000s when Columbia released a series of newly colorized The Three Stooges DVDs. However, the process is more accepted nowadays because of the improved technology, and the fact that DVD/Blu-Ray format allows both colorized and black and white versions to appear on the same medium. Film purists also now understand better that the restoration process for the original black and white prints does help preserve the original films, and some industry veterans like Shirley Temple even assisted in the colorizations of their own films. Also, odd cult film colorizations that played up the camp value of the original work, such as Legend Films' colorization of Reefer Madness, helped win over some skeptics and critics of the process. The fact that, in most cases, the original black and white versions remain widely available also helped alleviate concerns.
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968) deserves a mention. It's been colorized three times with varying results. It can be interesting comparing the different versions. For instance, in the 1986 colorization from Hal Roach Studios, Barbra and Johnny's car was yellow, in the 1997 version from Anchor Bay, it was blue, and in the 2005 version from Legend Films, it's red. The real color of the car? Green. Also the zombies were colored green for the 1986 and 2005 versions, but more of a greyish tint for the 1997 version.
  • Three of Ray Harryhausen's black and white films (It Came from Beneath the Sea, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, and 20 Million Miles to Earth) were colorized for their debut on Blu-ray. This is an unusual case because Harryhausen actually planned for all three of those films to be shot in color but had to settle for black and white for budget reasons, so colorizing them is actually restoring his original vision in a way. However, Harryhausen himself wasn't directly involved in the colorization process, and viewers ultimately weren't impressed with the strange color choices (rendering the octopus in It lime green probably being the biggest head-scratcher). Thankfully the Blu-rays all include the black and white versions as well.
  • In 1977, filmmaker Luigi Cozzi created a heavily altered and colorized version of Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (itself an altered version of Gojira) for Italian audiences. This version, nicknamed Cozzilla, was colorized using the very crude method of rephotographing the film frame by frame and animating color gel cutouts over the footage. The movie also got a new surround sound mix, spooky electronic music,note  and footage spliced in from various other movies as well as archival war footage. The reasoning for this was that Italian theaters refused to show a black-and-white film that was less than 90 minutes long (as he could only get the shorter US cut). Additionally, Cozzi lacked the time and money to use a more in-depth colorizing—the coloured gels only covered very general areas. This may be the first ever instance of a fully black and white movie getting fully colorized for a rerelease.
  • Critics of colorization in the 1980s pointed to the Hal Roach Studios version of Suddenly as a prime example of everything wrong with the process, namely that they thought Frank Sinatra had brown eyes instead of blue despite him being known as "Ol' Blue Eyes." Twenty years later, another colorized version was released where Sinatra's eyes were in the proper shade of blue.
  • Before the 1990s, any show or movie that wanted Stock Footage of the Titanic sinking would almost invariably take it from A Night to Remember. Since that movie was in black and white, the footage would often be colorized when reused.
  • An inversion happened in some showings of Raging Bull, which was Deliberately Monochrome except in footage of a family home movie. The projectionist interpreted it as a mistake and had the footage altered to black and white like the rest of the movie.
  • They Shall Not Grow Old uses colorization to great effect, which along with other techniques (speed correction, framerate boosting, scratch removal) brings the footage of World War One back to life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The first two seasons of Bewitched, which were filmed in black-and-white instead of color like the rest of the series, were released to DVD in two versions: the original B&W and colorized, however, only the colorized versions are available overseas and in the complete series boxset. However, when Mill Creek Entertainment got the sub-license to release the series to DVD, their releases only include the black-and-white versions of those seasons.
  • The same can be said word-for-word for the first season of I Dream of Jeannie.
  • The first season of Gilligan's Island was shot in black-and-white, but the second and third were shot in color. The DVDs feature the original B&W version of the first season, but those episodes were colorized for syndicated reruns back in the 1980s, and can currently be seen on MeTV.
  • I Love Lucy has had several episodes colorized. Notable is the Christmas special, which aired on CBS in 1990 and 2013 onwards colorized. Interestingly, its flashback sequences were presented in their original black and white for the first two colorization jobs, while 2015 saw CBS air the entire special in color. "Lucy Goes to Scotland" was also colorized as a bonus feature for the 2007 I Love Lucy Complete Series DVD. However, the episode was originally supposed to be filmed in color, but the studio couldn't afford it, so the episode was colorized based on the color home movies shot by Desi Arnaz. When CBS televises the colorized Christmas special, they follow it up with a color version of an iconic episode — such as "Lucy's Italian Movie", "Job Switching", "Lucy Does a TV Commercial", or "Lucy Gets In Pictures" — to pad the timeslot to an hour. May 2015's I Love Lucy Superstar Special features color versions of "LA at Last!" and "Lucy and Superman". May 2016's Superstar Special applies this treatment to "Lucy Visits Grauman's" and "Lucy and John Wayne". By 2019, CBS had colorized enough episodes to run a marathon in movie theaters.
  • In December 2015, CBS aired two episodes of The Andy Griffith Show colorized: "The Christmas Story" and "The Pickle Story".
  • In December 2016, CBS aired two episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show colorized: "That's My Boy??" and "Coast to Coast Big Mouth".
  • A single episode of The Munsters, "The Munsters Family Album" has been colorized, and is included on the DVD set as a bonus feature.
  • A rare example of colorization as an actual restoration tool occurred with Doctor Who. A number of early 1970s episodes survive only in black-and-white or badly color-degraded prints. Colorization processes were used to restore— or replace (in the case of the color-degraded prints)— color on these episodes for home video release. Usually the process was done automatically by recovering leftover color artifacts from the black-and-white prints, though for "The Mind of Evil" the network had to manually recolor the first episode due to a lack of adequate artifact information (the first episode of "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" also lacks sufficient artifacts for an accurate recolor, but as of 2020 the BBC have chosen not to manually restore the episode in part because the serial is much more poorly regarded). The BBC would later reuse these techniques for other color programs that existed in similar states, such as Dad's Army and Steptoe and Son. Colorization was also employed in the 2013 episode "The Name of the Doctor" to allow character footage shot in 1964 to be integrated into new footage filmed in 2013.
  • In 1963, when German TV was still black-and-white, the NDR recorded the British vaudeville sketch Dinner for One. It has been aired on many German TV stations each New Year's Eve since a few years later and thus become a Cult Classic. Decades later, the NDR decided to colorize it. Millions of viewers weren't pleased, to say the least. So the colorized version was shelved, and it's black-and-white again.
  • Zorro: In 1991, Disney had the series digitally colorized for airing on The Disney Channel.
  • Seventeen Moments of Spring received a colorized update in 2009, which was moderately controversial, though mainly because the studio doing the remastering chose to cut the Aspect Ratio from the original 4:3 to 16:9, discarding parts of the original footage (and because Stirlitz's actor Vyacheslav Tikhonov disliked it with a passion).

  • Deliberately invoked in the music video for Green Day's "Basket Case". To add to the surreal aesthetic of the visuals, the video was shot on black and white film and then colorized, save for the inmates wearing sumo masks.
  • This was a fairly common technique in the 90s to create surreal-looking music videos. In addition to 'Basket Case' listed above, it was used the exact same way for Hole's "Celebrity Skin," and select shots in Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box" (mostly the footage of the band playing.) Colorization was also used in a much less controlled manner in The Wildhearts' video for "Just in Lust."

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    Western Animation 
  • Classic Disney Shorts:
    • In the early 1980s, Disney had a few Mickey Mouse shorts colorized in preparation for a planned cartoon anthology show for CBS. The show didn't get picked up, but scenes from those colorizations appeared in clip shows throughout the decade.
    • In 1991, many black-and-white Mickey shorts (and a few Silly Symphonies) were digitally colorized for airing as part of Mickey's Mouse Tracks and Donald's Quack Attack on The Disney Channel.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In 1968, Warner Bros.-Seven Arts had 78 black-and-white shorts redrawn and colored in South Korea, and the results are often lambasted as sloppy and inferior to the original animation. One particularly egregious example of this sloppiness occurs in the altered version of Ali Baba Bound, in which one frame was photographed with a fly trapped underneath the cel!
    • Throughout the early 1990s, Warner Bros. had a larger number of black-and-white shorts colorized, this time by digitally coloring them frame-by-frame, thus preserving the original animation quality.
  • Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: Universal planned on colorizing several Walter Lantz-produced shorts in the mid-1970s, and they commissioned a redrawn version of 1934's The Toy Shoppe as a test. Apparently, they weren't satisfied with the result, and plans for more colorized shorts were scrapped.
  • Popeye: In 1987, Turner had 87 black-and-white shorts redone in color by hand in Korea, similar to the Looney Tunes example above. Again, the results are criticized for being poorly drawn and colored, especially when it came to Fleischer Studios' three-dimensional "stereoptical" backgrounds.
  • Some select Betty Boop shorts were retraced and colorized in South Korea for a television release, but this made the cartoons look choppier and no syndicator wanted them. Clips from 35 of these shorts were redubbed, rescored, and spliced together into the feature-length Hurray For Betty Boop (also known as Betty Boop for President) with an original narrative of Betty Boop becoming president of the United States. Originally assembled in 1976, it was retooled and slated for a theatrical release in 1980 but instead dumped straight to early cable and from there VHS by New Line Cinema.

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius Volume One was initially published with just black-and-white line art, then the series switched to color with Volume Two. A few years after transitioning from a print comic to a webcomic, Volume One was replaced with colorized version to better match the rest of the series. The use of color in this version ties in with the plot: pages are shaded but still completely grayscale while Agatha's wearing her Power Limiter. Then once the limiter is gone, color seeps back in, alternately growing vibrant and diminishing in parallel with Agatha's Spark waxing and waning.
  • After Girls with Slingshots ended in 2015, its creator Danielle Corsetto re-released the strips in color from the beginning as "GWS Chaser".


    Films — Live-Action 
  • Parodied in Gremlins 2: The New Batch, when an announcement at Billy's office says that they will be showing a version of Casablanca "Now in color, and with a happy ending".

    Live-Action TV 

    Web Animation 
  • In the Homestar Runner April Fool 2014 cartoon, one of Homestar's ideas to update the website after years of inactivity is to take the Old-Timey cartoons and "colorarize" them. Cue a clip of an Old-Timey cartoon with ill-fitting pastel colors, where Sickly Sam (Strong Sad's Old-Timey counterpart) has also been partially redrawn with beefy human legs instead of skeleton ones and the Old-Timey Homestar comments that he is now "an affront to God and man".

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy: In "Screwed the Pooch", Ted Turner mentions that he plans to colorize the moon.
  • The Simpsons: In "Bart the Lover", Bart watches an old romance movie on Colorization Theater, in which the actors have purple skin.

Alternative Title(s): Colourisation