In 1917, film color processor Technicolor wowed audiences with some of the first moving color images ever projected on screen. But after that initial triumph, things proved a bit wobbly. Their second method, Process 2 Technicolor, which used two strip negatives in red and green to create a color image on screen, had at least solved the problem of needing to find skilled projectionists who could align the images correctly during film performances (a failure of the Process 1 Technicolor), but failed in nearly every other respect. Process 2 created images that were easily scratched, film that could (and often did) fall through projectors, and colors that could be kindly described as “pale,” “somewhat off,” “unrealistic”, or in the words of unkinder critics, “awful.” Undaunted, Technicolor went to work, created an improved Process 3—which projected moving specks onto the screen. Not only did this distort the images; audience members assumed they were looking at insects.
Perhaps understandably, audiences did not rush to see these colored films. So, with the Great Depression still lingering, several film studios considered dropping the costly color process altogether. By 1932, Technicolor faced potential ruin. But the company thought they had a solution: a new three strip color process that could provide vibrant colors that could, in most cases, reproduce the actual colors filmed by the camera. The only problem—a tiny tiny tiny problem—was that the process wasn’t quite ready for film yet. But it might—it might—be ready for cartoons.
They just had to find someone interested in a bit of experimentation.