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Comi Color Cartoons was a short lived series of cartoons, produced by former Disney animator Ub Iwerks for Celebrity Pictures from November 1933 to September 1936. The series was produced by Iwerks to compete with Walt Disney's then-smash hit Silly Symphonies series, and to make up for the losses of Flip the Frog and Willie Whopper.
While it would be easy to write off these cartoons as low budget knockoffs of Disney's lavish cartoons, closer examination of the shorts will reveal that they do have several things going for them. For starters, while Disney made his Symphonies shorts increasingly sentimental and idealistic, Ub kept a more gritty, down to earth approach to his fairy tales, as evident in shorts like "Balloon Land", "Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp" and "Dick Whittington's Cat". Ub also outright ignored Disney's push for more realistic animation, instead opting for a more stylized version of the early 30's rubberhose style that is indisputably influenced by the early works of Fleischer Studios--supported by that Iwerks had at least four ex-Fleischer staffers on board: Grim Natwick (who often supervised, designed and animated for the shorts in Iwerks' steed), Berny Wolf, Shamus Culhane and Al Eugster.
Although the characters were typical one-dimensional cyphers, the stories were handled in a workmanlike fashion, and the animation in some of the shorts is fairly well done--Balloon Land in particular is full of principles such as squash and stretch and overlapping action. And, being a Silly Symphony clone, lavish color was up front and center, with lush, sumptiously painted backgrounds in each cartoon, and the cartoons were backed up with lively scores supplied by Iwerks mainstay and future Looney Tunes composer Carl Stalling. Another standout feature of the cartoons was the occasional use of a proto-Multiplane Camera that Iwerks himself built out of parts of a junked chevrolet car, which actually precedes the completion of Disney's own Multiplane apparatus.
Despite this, the series was doomed from the beginning. Unlike with Flip and Willie, Iwerks no longer had MGM to distribute the cartoons, with his boss Pat Powers having to distribute the cartoons himself. And, as expected, Iwerks shorts simply couldn't compete with Disney's own lavish shorts. After a three year stint of 25 shorts, the series folded and Ub was forced to close up shop, prompting a return to Disney in the following years.
Many of these shorts have been re-released on the two Cartoons That Time Forgot: Ub Iwerks DVD sets, and research copies of the whole series are available via Jerry Beck's Cartoon Research website. Several of these shorts have slipped into the Public Domain.
- Jack and the Beanstalk (Nov. 30)
- The Little Red Hen (Feb 16)
- The Brave Tin Soldier (April 7)
- Puss in Boots (May 17)
- The Queen of Hearts (June 25)
- Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (Aug 10)
- The Headless Horseman (Oct 1)
- The Valiant Tailor (Oct 29)
- Don Quixote (Nov 26)
- Jack Frost (Dec 24)
- Little Black Sambo (Feb 6)
- The Bremen Town Musicians (March 6)
- Old Mother Hubbard (April 3)
- Mary's Little Lamb (May 1)
- Summertime (June 15)
- Sinbad the Sailor (July 30)
- The Three Bears (Aug 30)
- Balloon Land (Sept. 30)
- Simple Simon (Nov 15)
- Humpty Dumpty (Dec 30)
- Ali Baba (Jan 30)
- Tom Thumb (March 30)
- Dick Whittington's Cat (May 30)
- Little Boy Blue (July 30)
- Happy Days (Sept. 30)
- Ash Face: Towards the end of "Mary's Little Lamb", the lamb is covered in soot after the teacher takes him out of a stove. As the teacher gives him a spanking, this causes a cloud of soot to form in the air and be removed from him. The lamb is no longer covered in soot, but now the teacher is covered in it.
- Baleful Polymorph: Done in "Puss in Boots", as the princess is turned into a bird.
- Bittersweet Ending: The end of "The Brave Tin Soldier". It was also the only short to feature this, as Pat Powers was ordered to tell Iwerks to never put another sad ending into this film, according to Shamus Culhane's autobiography.
- Captain Ersatz: The cat characters from "Puss in Boots" are the exact same designs of the cats Shamus Culhane designed and animated for the Van Beuren Studios cartoon "Merry Kittens".
- Color Failure: In "Little Black Sambo", the titular character turns white with fright upon encountering a tiger.
- Follow the Leader
- Fluffy Cloud Heaven: A Toy version of it appears in the end of "The Brave Tin Soldier".
- Luminescent Blush: Goldilocks from this series's version of "The Three Bears". When she samples the first bowl of porridge, which is the Papa Bear's, it's so hot her face turns red in reaction and she breathes fire.
- The balloon boy and balloon girl at the end of "Balloon Land". Both their faces turn red after they kiss each other on the lips.
- The angry sun in "Summertime" gradually turns a deep shade of red, as it uses its rays and heat in an attempt to melt Jack Frost.
- Humpty Dumpty, Jr. from "Humpty Dumpty" blushes coyly when handling out a bouquet to Easter Egg.
- The lamb from "Mary's Little Lamb" blushes after entering the schoolhouse, sheepish by the students cheering him on and applauding twice; the teacher in the same short gets red-faced after realizing the back of her skirt had ridden up, revealing her spotted, shin-length, lace-trimmed bloomer. She embarrassingly grins and pulls her skirt back down in place.
- Marilyn Maneuver: Goldilocks from this series's version of her namesake and the Three Bears. Her skirt begins to rise while running at one point, but she keeps it down as she slides to a halt.
- Panty Shot: Goldilocks has her white, frill-trimmed panties revealed several times. Mama Bear has some of her short, lace-trimmed bloomers that are originally plain white, but then red polka dots are added.
- Little Bo Peep from "Little Boy Blue". Her white, long bloomers are shown when she rolls and falls down the chimney towards the camera.
- Mrs. Dumpty has this when running over to Humpty, Jr. to catch him when he falls from a great height in "Humpty Dumpty". Easter Egg has several, as do the can-can dancing female eggs.
- Mary from "Mary's Little Lamb" has several of these in laced-trimmed white, due to her short skirt. The teacher has several, shin-length, spotted bloomer shots, such as when she goes up and down while holding onto a rope to ring the school bell.
- Public Domain Animation: Some of the shorts have slipped into the public domain.
- Stock Footage: "Mary's Little Lamb" has a brief scene where the schoolhouse desks move in perspective, which was recycled from a previous Iwerks short, but reshot in color this time.