Monday, March 26, 2018

Two-Color Cartoons

Still from "Hell's Fire," 1934
 For a period of time in the 1930s, some studios made cartoons with a two-color process.

At first, Walt Disney exclusively controlled the full Technicolor method in animation, so other companies were forced to devise a system called Cinecolor or ComiColor that used a more limited palette.

The subtractive system used two sets of film stock, one filtering the image to yield the red hues, and the other blue or green.

These were later recombined, resulting in a complementary gamut that looked complete, even though it lacked strong yellows, greens, or purples.

Compared to black and white, these early color cartoons feel like full color. Complementary gamuts are appealing because a color scheme is powerful not so much for which colors you put into it, but for which ones you leave out of it.

The color quality can be simulated when you're doing a painting by restricting the mixtures on your palette or by using a limited number of tubes of paint, such as Prussian blue plus flame red.
Find out more
Here are some cartoons by Ub Iwerks that use this process:
Happy Days
Brementown Musicians
Balloon Land
Tom Thumb
Hell's Fire

More about color gamuts in my book Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter

Websites about the 2-color cartoons: Color Cinema History  and Wikipedia on Cinecolor

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