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Western Animation / Color Classics

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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.

Compare to Ub Iwerks' Comi Color Cartoons, and of course, Silly Symphonies.










Color Classics with their own work pages:


  • Aardvark Trunks: The anteater in "Ants in the Plants" has a trunk that functions very much like an elephant's, and it is even able to stretch and bend through the ant tunnels.
  • 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.
  • 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, so his ultimate fate of being spanked by the lightning inside the sun before plummeting to the earth and breaking is hardly undeserved.
  • 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.
  • Banana Peel: In "Tears of an Onion", a banana takes off its peel to swim, then comes out and slips on its own peel.
  • 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.
    • In "Little Lamby", the entire village chases after the fox after he takes the lamb.
  • 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.
  • Christmas Episode: "Christmas Comes But Once a Year", where Grampy plays Santa for an orphanage.
  • Comedic Spanking: In "Greedy Humpty Dumpty", King Humpty Dumpty's comeuppance for forcing everyone to build a wall high enough to reach the sun so he can get the gold he believes lies within starts when he cuts the sun open with an axe and a lightning being comes out to spank him.
  • Cool Ship: The rocketship from "Dancing On The Moon".
  • Cool Train: The train from "Play Safe!"
  • Disappeared Dad: It's implied that the father in "Small Fry" is dead, seeing as the mother is seen sobbing next to a photograph of a fish at one point.
  • 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.
  • Distressed Dude: I Fly in "Cobweb Hotel" gets a paperclip put on his wings and cornered into a spider web. His wife saves him and other flies in the hotel.
  • 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.
  • Foreshadowing: In "Greedy Humpty Dumpty", Humpty Dumpty was stacking up some coins, and when he put one more it falls down.
  • 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. It seems to be an abandoned office.
  • The Gay '90s: "Musical Memories" has elements of this.
  • Humiliation Conga: How Humpty Dumpty's "great fall" is depicted in "Greedy Humpty Dumpty". He receives a Comedic Spanking from a lightning being after he tries to cut open the sun with an axe. His tower is hit by fireballs launched from the sun, destroying not only it, but also Humpty Dumpty's castle. Any attempts for Humpty to hitch a ride on the debris is also thwarted by the sun, leaving him with only a single brick to hang onto before he hits the ground. Finally, while his royal subjects are able to put him back together initially, Humpty is no longer able to handle the weight of his crown, with an attempt to put it back on his head shattering him beyond repair.
  • 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.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: The old woman from "The Kids in the Shoe" reveals that the castor oil she threatened to feed to the children is actually apple cider. She chugs it down to end the cartoon.
  • 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.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The children from "The Kids in the Shoe" stop their jam session/pillow fight when the old woman threatens to feed them castor oil.
  • Mood Whiplash: "Christmas Comes But Once a Year" all over the place.
  • No Antagonist: Some of the shorts have no villains, such as "Small Fry" and "Somewhere in Dreamland".
  • 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.
    • Both the blue streamline engine and the red streamline engine had this when they are about to crash into each other!
  • Outliving One's Offspring: 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.
  • 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.
  • Swiss-Army Tears: The Playful Polar Bears handles this in a way that treats it seriously while also serving as a punchline to a Running Gag. Early on in the short, a recurring bit involves the main baby polar bear getting the urge to sneeze whenever a drop of water enters its nose, with the sneeze being powerful enough to send it into the sea (which it tries to avoid, as it doesn't like to be in the water). After an icicle knocks it out, the rest of the polar bears assume that the young cub was killed by a group of hunters. As the parent bear mourns the supposed death of its child, one of its tears falls into the young cub's nose, waking it up from its bout of unconsciousness and causing it to sneeze and fall into the sea, where it finally catches the fish its been chasing during the first half of the short.
  • 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.