Technicolor Tests (1933–1936, compiled 1954) | MoMA FILM VAULT SUMMER CAMP

Technicolor was formed in 1915, but toiled through years of technical development and studio resistance to color before launching its lauded three-color process in 1932, with Walt Disney’s animated short Flowers and Trees. This new three-color process was at last able to capture the full hues of the spectrum.

This series of tests, compiled from multiple reels by MoMA in 1954, reveals an often hidden side to filmmaking. The footage is a showcase for how Technicolor tried to present this new process to its clients in the film industry, while also demonstrating the need for extensive behind-the-scenes testing of actors, costumes, make-up, lighting, sets, and even visual effects techniques. (Keep your eyes open for a stop-motion dinosaur animated by Willis O’Brien, of King Kong fame).

This footage and several other reels of Technicolor tests and supporting documentation—including some we presented in last year’s Film Vault Summer Camp—were gifted to the Museum in 1939 by Pioneer Pictures, a production company formed in 1933 by MoMA trustee John Hay Whitney and his cousin Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney to make productions exclusively in Technicolor.

Watch this more early color shorts:

The Voice of the Nightingale (1923)

The Infernal Cave (1905)

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The comments and opinions expressed in this video are those of the speaker alone, and do not represent the views of The Museum of Modern Art, its personnel, or any artist. 

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