Color Classics were a series of animated short movies 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 format, with the first entry of the series, Poor Cinderella, being the first color cartoon produced by the Fleischer studio. There were 36 movies produced in this series.
The first Color Classic was photographed with the two-color Cinecolor process. The rest of the 1934 and 1935 cartoons were filmed in two-color Technicolor, because the Disney studio had an exclusive agreement with Technicolor that prevented other studios from using the lucrative three-strip process. That exclusive contract expired during September 1935, and the 1936 Color Classic cartoon Somewhere In Dreamland became the first Fleischer cartoon produced with three-strip Technicolor.
Many of the Color Classics entries make prominent use of Max Fleischer's Stereoptical process, a device which allowed animation cels to be photographed against actual 3 dimensional background sets instead of the traditional paintings. Poor Cinderella, Somewhere in Dreamland, and Christmas Comes But Once a Year all make prominent use of the technique. Disney's competing apparatus, the multiplane camera, would not be completed until 1937, three years after the Stereoptical Process's first use. The Color Classics series ended during 1941 with Vitamin Hay, featuring characters Hunky and Spunky. A similar series would be started by Fleischer's successor Famous Studios during 1943, with the name Noveltoons.
During 1955, Paramount sold all rights to the Color Classics cartoons to television distributor U.M. & M. TV Corporation U.M. & M. altered the original beginning credits sequences for some of the movies, to remove all references to the names "Paramount Pictures" and "Technicolor", and to add their own copyright notices. Before the retitling could be finished, U.M. & M. was bought by National Telefilm Associates (NTA). Instead of refilming the openings, NTA obscured the references to the Paramount and Technicolor names by placing black bars over the original title cards and copyright notices. Only a few Color Classics had their title cards redone by U.M. & M., among them Play Safe, Christmas Comes But Once A Year, Bunny Mooning, Little Lambkins, and Vitamin Hay.
NTA distributed the Color Classics to television, yet allowed the copyrights of all of the movies to lapse except The Tears of an Onion. Many public domain video distributors have released television prints of Color Classics shorts for home video. The UCLA Film and Television Archive has, through the assistance of Republic Pictures (successor company to U.M. & M. and NTA), retained original theatrical copies of all of the movies, which have periodically been shown in revival movie houses and by cable television.
Ironically, original distributor Paramount has, through their 1999 acquisition of Republic, regained ownership of the Color Classics, including original elements. Olive Films (current licensee for Republic, and which currently has home video rights) has not announced any plans to release the Color Classics officially as DVD.
During 2003, animation archivist Jerry Beck conceived a definitive DVD box set of all the Color Classics, excluding "The Tears Of an Onion," and tried to enlist Republic Pictures' help in releasing this set. After being refused, Kit Parker Films (in association with VCI Entertainment) offered to provide the best available 35mm and 16mm prints of the Color Classics from Parker's archives to create the box set Somewhere In Dreamland: The Max Fleischer Color Classics. These "interim restored versions" contain digitally recreated Paramount titles; the U.M. & M.-modified prints had to have their title cards as well as their animator credits redone. The Tears of an Onion was not included in the set, as it remains copyrighted.
All cartoons released during 1934 and 1935, except for Poor Cinderella, which was produced with Cinecolor, were produced with two-strip Technicolor. All shorts from 1936 and onward were produced with three-strip Technicolor.
|Title||Characters||Original release date|
|Betty Boop in Poor Cinderella (final standalone short produced by Max Fleischer and at Fleischer Studios and only standalone short in two-strip Cinecolor and distributed by Paramount Pictures and A Paramount Color Classic Picture)||Betty Boop/Cinderella, Stepsisters, Prince, Fairy Godmother||August 3, 1934|
|Little Dutch Mill (first Max Fleischer Color Classic series short, first short in two-strip Technicolor, first appearance of Miser, first and only theatrical animated two-strip Technicolor appearance of Miser and only Miser short in the Max Fleischer Color Classic series)||Hans, Gretel, Duck, Miser, Townspeople||October 26, 1934|
|An Elephant Never Forgets||Animal Children, Duck Teacher||November 9, 1934|
|The Song of the Birds||Little Boy, Baby Bird, Robins||March 1, 1935|
|The Kids in the Shoe||The Woman in the Shoe, Kids||May 19, 1935|
|Dancing on the Moon||Animal Newlywed Couples||July 12, 1935|
|Time for Love||Swans||September 6, 1935|
|Musical Memories (final short in two-strip Technicolor)||Old Man, Old Woman||November 8, 1935|
|Somewhere in Dreamland (first short in three-strip Technicolor)||Boy, Girl, Mother, Three Merchants||January 17, 1936|
|The Little Stranger||Mother Duck and ducklings, baby chick||March 13, 1936 (Friday the 13th)|
|The Cobweb Hotel||Newlywed flies, spider hotelier||May 15, 1936|
|Greedy Humpty Dumpty||Humpty Dumpty, Mother Goose||July 10, 1936|
|Hawaiian Birds||Hawaiian Birds, Big City Orioles||August 28, 1936|
|Play Safe||Boy, Dog, Steam Engine, Red Engine, Other Engines (only seen with fake faces)||October 16, 1936|
|Christmas Comes But Once a Year (only Grampy short in the Max Fleischer Color Classic series)||Grampy, Orphans||December 4, 1936|
|Bunny Mooning||Jack Rabbit, Jill Rabbit||February 12, 1937|
|Chicken a La King||Rooster, Chickens, Duckie Wuckie||April 16, 1937|
|A Car-Tune Portrait||Band Leader, Other Animals||June 26, 1937|
|Peeping Penguins||Penguins, Mother||August 26, 1937|
|Educated Fish||Tommy Cod||October 29, 1937|
|Little Lamby||Little Lamby, Fox, Sheep||November 12, 1937|
|The Tears of an Onion||Onion, Vegetable Children, Crow||February 26, 1938|
|Hold It!||Kittens, Dog||April 29, 1938|
|Hunky and Spunky (first appearances of Hunky and Spunky)||Hunky and Spunky, Miner||June 24, 1938|
|All's Fair at the Fair||Elmer, Mirandy, Dogbiscuit||August 26, 1938|
|The Playful Polar Bears||Mother Bear, Bear Cub, Other Polar Bears||October 28, 1938|
|Hunky and Spunky in "Always Kickin'" (first of two Hunky and Spunky shorts in the Max Fleischer Color Classic series)||Hunky and Spunky, Baby Bird, Hawk||January 29, 1939|
|Small Fry||Tommy Cod||April 21, 1939|
|The Barnyard Brat (only Max Fleischer Color Classic short featuring Hunky and Spunky)||Hunky and Spunky, Other Farm Animals||June 30, 1939|
|The Fresh Vegetable Mystery (first short released in World War II)||Carrots, Potato-Cops, Orange, Egg||September 29, 1939|
|Little Lambkins||Lambkins, Animals, Father, Mother||February 2, 1940 (Groundhog Day)|
|Ants in the Plants||Anteater, Ants||March 15, 1940|
|A Kick in Time (final Max Fleischer Color Classic series short, second and final of two Hunky and Spunky shorts in the Max Fleischer Color Classic series and final short in three-strip Technicolor)||Hunky and Spunky||May 17, 1940|
|Snubbed by a Snob (first of three Max Fleischer Hunky and Spunky Color Classic shorts)||Hunky and Spunky, Two Racehorses, Bull||July 19, 1940|
|You Can't Shoe a Horse Fly||Hunky and Spunky, Horsefly||August 23, 1940|
|Vitamin Hay (third and final of three Max Fleischer Hunky and Spunky Color Classic shorts)||Hunky and Spunky||August 22, 1941|