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Monochrome to Color

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Rowlf: Hey, psst. You're in black and white.
Miss Piggy: I'm supposed to be in black and white; the color comes in a minute!
Rowlf: Oh. Don't adjust your sets, folks!
The Muppets Go to the Movies, in a segment parodying The Wizard of Oz

Oftentimes, a work will include a bit of deliberate monochrome, often to signify suppression of creativity or emotion, or to otherwise cast a drab feeling. Of course, another popular thing to do is to have color be restored to the setting (justified or not).

This can symbolize many things, among them being joy being restored to the land or personal self-discovery — it is almost always used to show something positive.

On the flip-side, showing a previously colored work to decay into black and white generally symbolizes depression or other negative feelings.

Another thing worth noting is that The Wizard of Oz is perhaps the Trope Codifier, as the transition between the sepia-tone Kansas scenes and the Technicolor Oz ones are one of the most famous parts of said movie, inspired by the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz novel describing Kansas as grey, and Oz as very colorful. (The transition was also done to highlight the fairly recent color technology — in fact, this is why Dorothy's ruby slippers were changed from silver.) Thus, most parodies of said film will use this trope as well.

Coloring in the World is a Sub-Trope where turning a monochromatic setting into a colorful one is an active part of the plot, usually as a positive change just as this trope is commonly used.

See also Splash of Color and Monochrome Past, for other tropes about monochrome and color mingling. For the TV equivalent, see Switch to Color.


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    Anime and Manga 

  • One ad for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cookies shows a monochrome lunchroom where the kids march in and methodically eat their cookies (a state referred to as "cookie boredom") until one kid brings the color back by releasing the Ninja Turtles from his cookie box, making things fun again.
  • A series of commercials for Trix Yogurt started in black and white, then changing to color when packs of the yogurt were opened (in order to highlight the product's colorfulness).

    Comic Strips 
  • This Garfield Sunday strip shows the titular cat bemoaning Mondays, rendered in black and white. When he gets the paper and discovers that it's Sunday, the last panel regains its normal coloration.
  • One Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip was drawn in black-and-white (without lines even) as a visual metaphor for Black-and-White Morality, with only the last panel being colored after the metaphor ended.

    Fan Works 
  • In a rare text-based example, the rewritten version of Can You Imagine That? shows the Film Noir world of Tracer Bullet in monochrome, and when the other Calvins arrive he observes color seeping into his person.

    Films — Animation 
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • Alice in Wonderland: When the White Rabbit's watch goes crazy, the screen turns an intense red until the March Hare smashes it with a mallet. For one brief shot, the screen turns black and white to show the watch expiring, before turning back to normal colors in the next scene.
    • Fantasia: In the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" sequence, all color disappears after Mickey hacks the living broom to bits, with the color gradually reappearing when the bits turn into new brooms.
    • Fantasia 2000: The "Firebird Suite" segment has the forest after the Firebird destroys it shot in dull ashen grey. The color returns once the Sprite restores it.
  • Get a Horse! shows this when Mickey enters the real world and becomes a colored 3D model, as opposed to the 2D black and white cartoon from which he came, to show how far animation has come.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Wizard of Oz used this to show the splendor of Oz, as well as to show off the Technicolor.
  • Oz the Great and Powerful uses this technique to show how wonderful Oz is when Oscar lands there.
  • Pleasantville has the two main characters, Jennifer and David, Trapped in TV Land in the world of a black-and-white TV show called Pleasantville. As they interact more with that world and cause the people in it to act more individualistic, like people in the real world, it gains more and more people and objects with Splashes Of Color, until by the end of the movie the world of Pleasantville is fully color just like the real world.
  • Thirteen Days has a number of scenes which are black-and-white, as much of the news coverage of the day was, and one sequence has Jack and Bobby Kennedy and Kenny O'Donnell discussing their dire situation in monochrome, then as they march to the Situation Room to begin dealing with it the color fades in.
  • The U2 concert rockumentary Rattle and Hum is black-and-white, until the last quarter of the film switches to color for no obvious reason.
  • Clerks II starts out in black and white, much like in the original film, until the Quick Stop burns down. The rest of the movie is in color until the final scene, when the Quick Stop is restored.
  • In Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme, when Gordon visits the Three Blind Mice's office, the scene is in black and white.
  • The first scene of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is in a sepia-toned black-and-white, likely in order to establish the old-timey 1898 mood. After Butch finishes casing a bank and Sundance has a confrontation over a poker game, they leave town, and the film switches to color.
  • Casino Royale's Action Prologue is in black-and-white, then switches to color during the opening credits.
  • Memento has two narrative threads, one running Back to Front in color, the other in chronological order and black and white. When the two meet near the end of the film, it switches from black and white to color over a shot of a Polaroid developing.
  • Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez: The opening of the first movie, set in a small village of the French Alps, is in black and white. Then it switches to color with the arrival in the much more colorful town of Saint-Tropez. It also provides a nice bit of Reality Subtext for Louis de Funès, who rose from minor roles to first billing with this film, most of his former movies being in black and white.
  • The Resurrection of Broncho Billy is a 1970 short film about a lonely young man leading a dull existence who retreats into a fantasy world where he's a cowboy in The Wild West—he even goes out and about in downtown Los Angeles dressed up as a cowboy. All of the film is black and white until the last scene, where the boy's inner fantasy life is finally shown in an Imagine Spot. That scene, in which he comes galloping across the prairie on his horse, is in full color.
  • The Reluctant Dragon, in which humorist Robert Benchley tours the Walt Disney Studio, starts out in black-and-white. The film switches to Technicolor upon Benchley entering the studio's camera department, which he promptly lampshades.
  • The bulk of 1972 Soviet film The Dawns Here Are Quiet, about an Amazon Brigade fighting the Germans on the Eastern Front of World War II, is in black and white. However, the several flashbacks and imagine spots, all used to fill in the backstories of the women before they joined the battalion, are all in color. This is probably meant to symbolize the better times the women were experiencing before the Germans invaded and ruined everything.
  • An early script of The Rocky Horror Picture Show starts off in black and white as a nod to The Wizard of Oz. The first thing we'd see in color would be Frank's lips, while everything else would change after "Sweet Transvestite" and go back to black and white during "Superheroes". The 25th anniversary DVD has the Oz recut which starts in black and white and switches to color when Riff Raff opens the ballroom door during the Time Warp.
    • In the remake when Brad starts singing "Once In A While", it starts with his face on a black and white monitor but zooms in and fades to colour.
  • They Shall Not Grow Old: The initial scenes are unchanged black and white archival footage, but when we get to the trenches, it zooms in to 1.85:1 and the footage becomes restored and in full colour. The opposite happens at the end.
  • Almost all of 29-minute 1958 short film The Kiss, a movie about a lonely young man searching for a girlfriend, is shot in black and white. That is, until the final minute, when he kisses his date, and the film suddenly switches to color, symbolizing the young man finding love at last.
  • The 1949 film version of The Secret Garden is in almost noir-ish black and white, until the garden is restored. After that, scenes set in the garden are in vibrant color.
  • In the children's movie Wee Sing in Sillyville, Genki Girl Sillywhim wears a black-and-white jumpsuit. She explains that it used to be every color of the rainbow, but when the chromatically arranged groups of Sillyville stopped interacting with each other, the outfit faded into monochrome as a reflection of their lack of unity. When the Sillyvillians reconcile at the movie's end, the jumpsuit regains all of its bright colors, much to everyone's delight.
  • Two-strip Technicolor was in use by the early 1920s (that's right, before sound), but it was very expensive. There were a couple of all-color features, but when Technicolor was used in the silent film days, it was usually as a special effect, typically in an important scene or a scene in an ornate setting with lavish set dressing where the color would be impressive.
    • The famous 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera shows the masked ball scene in color.
    • The 1925 Ben Hur is mostly in black and white but shows every scene with Jesus in color, as well as Ben Hur's triumph (parade) scene.
    • Beverly of Graustark is in black and white except for the big fancy royal ball at the end, which is shown in color.

  • In The Numberlys, soon after the letters of the alphabet are invented and start settling in the world, color soon starts filling it up when they're named.
  • In The Giver, Jonah discovers that the world he is living in has no color and begins to see color through memories, starting with red.
  • In The Great Divorce the narrator begins his journey through the afterlife in the Grey Town, a dismal and monochrome place; from where he takes the bus to the Valley of the Shadow of Life, which is beautifully described in the brightest colors.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The TV special "Aunty Jack Introduces Colour" promoted Australia's full transition to colour TV broadcasting in 1975.
  • Every episode of García! opens with a black-and-white flashback of García's life as a Section Nine agent in the 60's, switching to color when the scene cuts to the present. Any additional flashback shown during the episode will also be presented in black and white.
  • The short-lived 1990's sitcom Hi Honey, I'm Home! played with this — it revolves around the Nielsen family, stars of a cancelled 1950's sitcom, who are relocated to the real world post-cancellation. They still retain their black and white coloration, presumably in order to highlight their isolation from reality, but use a device called the "Turnerizer" to turn colored in order to put on a facade of normalcy.
  • The rarely seen 1950's BBC documentary This Is the BBC is entirely in black and white, until a shot of a set of greyscale bars suddenly switches to a set of colour bars, beginning the final sequence discussing experimental colour broadcasts.
  • Lovecraft Country opens with Atticus—a Korean War veteran and science fiction fan—having a dream that looks like a monochrome 1950's war movie. He's surprised when a napalm explosion is suddenly rendered in color, whereupon he finds himself in a flying saucer movie with a Red Skinned Space Babe and tentacled horrors that bleed green when you crush them with a baseball bat.
  • The season 2 premier of Married... with Children begins in black and white, as it's a send up of Psycho. Then a caption appears to tell you not to adjust your set and that yes, you are watching the correct show. It then moves to color once the Bundys enter the story.
  • The 1992-3 Australian Police Procedural Phoenix would, after the Title Sequence, show a few seconds of the episode in monochrome before changing to color. This was probably to give it a gritty noir feel.
  • Episode 2 of WandaVision ends with the show receiving color after the titular couple embrace each other. It is kept for the rest of the series.

  • "Billie Jean": The video is first in grayscale but becomes colored when Michael Jackson steps into the frame. This is also a subtle example of Break the Fourth Wall as it mimics Jackson's ability in the video of making anything he touches glow, implying that Jackson also brought color to the video itself with his presence.
  • "Sunny Side Up" by Faith No More begins in an old-age home. When the band begins to play, the residents get their living will and their color back.
  • In the music video/comeback trailer for BTS' "Epiphany", the video starts at black-and-white and turns into color during the chorus. Zig-Zagged though, as it turns back into monochrome at the end — likely (as implied by multiple versions of Jin throughout the video doing similar actions) in reference to the repetitions and cycles (figurative and literal) present in the still-unresolved "Groundhog Day" Loop story of the BTS Universe.
  • The Animated Music Video to the song "Love to Live By" by "m-flo loves Chara" has an Inkblot Cartoon Style (mixed with Animesque) starring a Betty Boop-esque lead. The music video starts out in monochrome, but towards the end, switches to full color.
  • The Australian Football League released a DVD called "Rockin' Footy", consisting of AFL footage set to Australian rock music. The video for "Living in the 70s" by Skyhooks shifts from black-and-white to color to mark the introduction of color television in Australia in 1975.
  • The video for "Livin' On a Prayer" by Bon Jovi starts in black-and-white, but as the second chorus begins, Jon Bon Jovi literally kicks the video into color.
  • Honeybee by Steam Powered Giraffe begins in monochrome, then switches to color.

    Print Media 
  • The Timbertoes comic featured in Highlights for Children switched to color in spring 2003 with a story about a rainy day (shown in black and white) giving way to a rainbow (turning everything colored in the process).

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Alekon: Fictions in Dream's Doorstep have been rendered colourless by Dullness. To restore them, you need to take a picture of that Fiction somewhere in the Realm of Fiction, which will give it back its colour and liveliness.
  • de Blob is a game all about the titular character and his friends going through levels splashing paint over the world after the villainous I.N.K.T. Corporation sucked all the color out of it. Each level starts out in a patternless, monochrome city before deBlob gets through it.
  • The opening video of God Eater 2 has the first part Deliberately Monochrome with Splash of Color for the characters' eyes and clothes, it shows short clips hinting about their backstories. It then switches to full color in an Avengers Assemble shot, and has them fighting as a team against some aragami. the transition implies "these people had their own problems, now they are bought together as one and must support each other".
  • The first stage in Mickey Mania, based on Steamboat Willie, starts off black and white. As the stage progresses, it slowly starts to have colors.
  • GRIS, a game about the Five Stages of Grief, revolves around this trope. The protagonist starts out in a grey, desolate wasteland, and progressing through the game gradually restores color and life to the world around her.
  • The Saboteur represents the Nazi-occupied zones as monochrome with some Splash of Color at most. The zones would gain color once they're liberated out of Nazi control.
  • The Sonic hack Sonic 1 Color Contrast alters the game's levels to be completely gray, along with the music being more downbeat. Sonic's goal is to find monitors that restore color to himself, the enemies and level, the background, and make the music normal again.
  • In terms of "real" Sonic games, Sonic Generations's Hub Level shows each level in white (as each act has been frozen in time), and gradually becomes more colorful as you clear both acts.
  • Tower of Heaven is mostly in green hues to deliberately mimic the color scheme of a Game Boy. The ending however is depicted in full color.
  • In Warframe, everything connected to the mysterious realm of Duviri is rendered in monochrome. Promotional material for the upcoming The Duviri Paradox expansion shows that any break in the influence of Dominus Thrax, such as objects that come from outside Duviri, allows color to return to the realm.

    Web Animation 
  • The online short "Orange" shows a monochrome world where an orange man is forced to paint himself gray to fit in. When it rains and washes off the paint, he finds that he can transmit the color to the rest of the citizens, making the world fully colored and bringing across a message about individuality.

  • Kevin & Kell switched to colour in June 2000, transitioning with a story about a chameleon therapist called Chamilla Moodring. Initially only Chamilla was in colour, with colour being added elsewhere at the end of the story.
  • Mousou Telepathy is Deliberately Monochrome in the real world, to reflect the protagonist Aya's mindset. Only thoughts get any color. However, when the school festival comes around, this is Played for Drama: the world is suddenly very colorful again, but only because Aya is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of thoughts that now permeate throughout the school and because she is having a Freak Out wondering if her telepathy is real.
  • Skin Horse switched to colour in August 2013, during the "My House is Me" storyline. The shift came as they exited the screening room where they saw Whimsy's Last Message, with Tip suggesting that they could have experienced a sensory change based on inner perception shifts.
  • Copper eyes: One of the side effects to Loveless seems to be an inability to see color, the first thing happening to Darcy after he forgets to take his pill is that he starts seeing the spectrum blue before the other colors slowly come after.
  • In Philler Space, Alex shows up to announce the comic switching from (mostly) greyscale to colour.
  • The Fantasy Book Club: The If They Were Monsters AU is in black and white, until the very end; where it's revealed that Fiona became Matriarch, with a full-colour panel of Fiona with a ripped dress, broken shackles, and covered in blood.

    Web Original 
  • Played for Drama in the SCP Foundation article SCP-8900-EX. The world used to be monochrome, but the invention of anomalous methods of photography resulted in people seeing colour. These anomalous photos ended up causing parts of the world to actually become coloured, resulting in mass containment breaches around the world that indirectly resulted in many deaths. The O5 Council eventually gave up due to the expenses needed for its futile containment, and ended up spreading memetic agents around the world that caused people to think that the world was always in colour, and that the lack of it was because photography wasn't as advanced.

    Western Animation 
  • Garfield in the Rough uses this in its intro, as the title character bemoans how boring life at home is (with a Do Not Adjust Your Set warning).
  • The Care Bears once found themselves in a place called Drab City, a dull, gray place where something is draining the life (and color) out of the citizens, leaving them uncaring and apathetic. As the Care Bears spend more time, there, they begin to be affected by it as well, until they finally find the cause, some kind of strange meteor. Once they get rid of it, the color instantly returns along with all the life and feelings.
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore: Everything is rendered black and white by the hurricane, symbolizing the devastation of Katrina. When the books come to people they turn color again, starting with Morris when he enters the library. The books sweeping overhead also turn the grass green.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man (2012), "Return to the Spiderverse Part 3", Spidey returns to Spider-Man Noir's home dimension and restores color to the world. Joe Fixit is astonished to learn he's green, not grey.
  • Inverted and Reverted in Tex Avery's "Lucky Ducky": Two hunters and a duck run off past a sign reading "Technicolor Ends Here" and find themselves and everything around in black and white. They quickly run back, and the color is restored.


Rosa returns the color

After the Rose restores its good mood, the world around it becomes colored.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / MonochromeToColor

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