Defining Fantasy With Color
Georges Melies was born December 8th, 1861 in Paris France. The Father of Visual Effects, Melies' film fantasies expanded imaginations with magical visual experiences while taking audiences to entirely new worlds – including "A Trip to the Moon!" Audiences were enthralled with the trick photography, vibrant colors and delightful scenarios that unfolded with each reel and clamored for more!
Emphasizing spectacle and effects, Melies' early trick and fairy films were enhanced by color to punctuate and heighten the audiences belief in his fantasies. Melies shot his stories on sets designed and painted in monochromatic gray tones ranging from nearly white to almost black. Vibrant color dyes were later hand-applied thanks to the artistry of hundreds of women who colored his visual fantasies.
Melies earliest films were colored by the women of the Pathe Freres company, but due to costs, Melies worked exclusively with Elisabeth Thuillier of Paris. Mdm Thuillier ran a lantern film slide and postcard coloring company and expanded into hand-colorization of artisanal films, including the Melies's Star Films. "I employed two hundred and twenty workers in my workshop." Mdm Thuillier noted. "I spent my nights selecting and sampling the colors, and during the day, the workers applied the color according to my instructions. Each specialized worker applied only one color, and we often exceeded twenty colors on a film. It took long days to color a film."
These "moving paintings" were an expensive endeavor as color costs for a 300 meter film ran approx. a thousand francs per print and averaged about 60 prints per title to make it cost-effective. Recognizing the importance of color to his visual masterpieces, Melies regularly made the pricey investment in color to ensure the success of his fantasy films. Melies foresight, along with the artistry of these anonymous women artists of Madame Thuillier's studio, forever ensured the alignment of color and fantasy within our universal filmic experiences!