Color Classics were a series of animated short subjects produced by Fleischer Studios for Paramount 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" (starring Betty Boop in the title role), 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), 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 Gulliver's 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.
- Poor Cinderella: August 3, 1934. This short is also notable for being a runner-up on The 50 Greatest Cartoons list.
- Little Dutch Mill: October 26, 1934
- An Elephant Never Forgets: December 28, 1934
- The Song of the Birds: March 1, 1935
- The Kids in the Shoe: May 19, 1935
- Dancing on the Moon: July 12, 1935
- Time For Love: September 6, 1935
- Musical Memories: November 8, 1935
- Somewhere in Dreamland: January 17, 1936
- The Little Stranger: March 13, 1936
- Cobweb Hotel: May 15, 1936
- Greedy Humpty Dumpty: July 10, 1936
- Hawaiian Birds: August 28, 1936
- Play Safe: October 16, 1936
- Christmas Comes But Once a Year: December 4, 1936
- Bunny Mooning: February 12, 1937
- Chicken a La King: April 16, 1937
- A Car-Tune Portrait: June 26, 1937
- Peeping Penguins: August 26, 1937
- Educated Fish: October 29, 1937
- Little Lamby: December 31, 1937
- The Tears of an Onion: February 26, 1938
- Hold It!: April 29, 1938
- Hunky and Spunky (introduction of characters who would star in a few more Color Classics indicated below): June 24, 1938
- All's Fair At The Fair: August 26, 1938
- The Playful Polar Bears: October 28, 1938
- Always Kickin' (Hunky and Spunky): January 29, 1939
- Small Fry (Possibly a sequel to "Educated Fish"): April 21, 1939
- The Barnyard Brat (Hunky and Spunky): June 30, 1939
- The Fresh Vegetable Mystery(Possibly a sequel to "Tears of an Onion"): September 29, 1939
- Little Lambkins: February 2, 1940
- Ants in the Plants (last non-Hunky and Spunky entry): March 15, 1940
- A Kick In Time: May 17, 1940. Notable for animation by Shamus Culhane and Al Eugster.
- Snubbed by a Snob: July 19, 1940
- You Can't Shoe a Horse Fly: August 23, 1940
- Vitamin Hay: August 22, 1941
Color Classics with their own work pages:
- Adaptational Villainy: Greedy Humpty Dumpty turns the nursery rhyme character, who was neutral at most, into a ruthless tyrant.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Betty's hair was always portrayed as jet black prior to "Poor Cinderella", where its shown to be an orange-red.
- Adult Fear:
- The mother in "Somewhere In Dreamland" was completely destitute, and burst into tears after one of her two children told her he was still hungry after she fed him all the food she could afford (which was a very stale piece of bread she split between the two). She herself was stick-thin, too.
- The Song of the Birds and The Playful Polar Bears both feature young animals are nearly killed by gunfire (The Song of the Birds has a baby bird getting shot by a boy's BB gun, while The Playful Polar Bears has a young polar bear get hit on the head by a giant icicle that fell due to gunfire by a hunter, knocking it out), with their parents (and all the other adults of their respective species) mourning their supposed deaths.
- 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.
- 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.
- Big Eater: Small Fry manages to wolf down a fairly large sandwich in one go.
- Black Face: "Little Dutch Mill" briefly features a black shoeshiner (or rather a shoe shaver-and-painter) who is designed in this manner.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Small Fry the fish, from the short of the same name.
- Break the Haughty: Greedy Humpty Dumpty does this to himself (literally, in fact, just like in the original nursery rhyme) when he learns the hard way that the sun is not made of gold.
- Brick Joke: The ending of "An Elephant Never Forgets": Near the beginning of the short, the Jerkass gorilla student picks on the elephant in the classroom repeatedly, ending with the elephant warning the gorilla with the eponymous statement. When the animals are going home, the gorilla tries to kick the elephant while he's not looking, only to instead injure himself when he ends up kicking a washboard that the elephant was hiding in his pants. An elephant never forgets, indeed.
- The Cameo: Olive Oyl and Grampy briefly appear in a couple of these shorts.
- Cool Ship: The rocketship from "Dancing On The Moon".
- Cool Train: The train from "Play Safe!"
- Disney Acid Sequence: The ending of "Small Fry".
- Disneyfication: 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.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Greedy Humpty Dumpty forces his subjects to built him a wall high enough for him to reach the sun. Sound familiar?
- Dream Reality Check: At the end of "Somewhere in Dreamland", as the children are enjoying the food and sweets gifted to they and their mother by the shop-owners in town, the little boy begins to doubt that what's going on is real and jabs himself in the rear end with a fork to make sure he and his sister aren't still dreaming. One loud "OWWW!!" later, he realizes that this is indeed reality and he and his sister laugh as they continue eating their cake.
- Elephants Never Forget: In "An Elephant Never Forgets", the elephant student cheerfully reminds the other animals of this trope every time they forget the answer to the teacher's questions, but is shamed when he can't recall what 2+2 equals. At the end, however, when a monkey who had been hitting him on the head with a washboard earlier goes to mock him, the elephant turns out to have stuffed the board down the monkey's overalls and hits him over the head instead, cheerfully repeating that an elephant never forgets as the episode ends.
- Everybody Cries: Those poor orphans when their sorry-looking Christmas presents fall apart at the beginning of "Christmas Comes But Once a Year."
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: They're color cartoons that retroactively became classics.
- Expy: The mother in "Somewhere In Dreamland" bears a striking resemblance to Olive Oyl.
- Gold Fever: In "Greedy Humpty Dumpy", Humpty Dumpty is a greedy king who becomes convinced the sun is made of gold, and orders his subjects to build the walls of his castle high enough to reach the heavens.
- Grow Old with Me: The old couple in "Musical Memories" had been married for many, many years. They're still completely smitten with each other.
- Hell Hotel: In "Cobweb Hotel". Well, it's a Hell Hotel to flies, anyway.
- The Gay '90s: "Musical Memories" has elements of this.
- Hypocritical Humor: The mother penguin in "Peeping Penguins" repeatedly admonishes her four children for letting their curiosity get the better of them... only for her own curiosity to almost immediately afterward get her into trouble herself.
- Land of Tulips and Windmills: In "Little Dutch Mill'', though the Miser provides a darker element to the trope.
- Level Ate: "Somewhere in Dreamland".
- Makeover Montage: The miser from "Little Dutch Mill" gets a haircut, a bath, a shave, and some new clothes, courtesy of the villagers. By the end, he's a whole, new man.
- 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 with the potato cops.
- Oh, Crap!: The fly couple when they realize the Cobweb Hotel is a trap upon seeing another fly stuck on a web bed.
- Panty Shot: The little Dutch girl, Freida, from "Little Dutch Mill". Her short, white undies/bloomers are shown from behind as she bends over and she, the little Dutch boy (Hans), and a duck stick their heads under a curtain, looking inside an open window. Prior to this, two, other, little Dutch girls' undies are shown from behind, as they churn butter in an up-and-down motion, their skirts move along with their motions.
- Predators Are Mean: The portrayal of the larger bird that tries to eat the little chicks in "The Little Stranger", 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, while the Casper the Friendly Ghost short True Boo is basically a remake of Christmas Comes But Once a Year once the Once per Episode bit of Casper scaring away others is done.
- Scenery Porn
- Sentient Vehicle: The train from "Play Safe!"
- Star Scraper: Greedy Humpty Dumpty has King Dumpty order his subjects to make his wall higher until it reaches the sun, so he could get to the gold he believes is there.
- Through A Face Fullof Fur: In An Elephant Never Forgets, the elephant's face turns red from embarrassment 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.