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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.


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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  • 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.

  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The TV special "Aunty Jack Introduces Colour" promoted Australia's full transition to colour TV broadcasting in 1975.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • "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.

    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).
  • In the late 90's, the New York Times began publishing in color instead of the black and white it had used for decades.

    Video Games 

    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.

    Web Comics 

    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, "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.