Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950)
The thing that stands out above all in Gerald McBoing-Boing to me at least, is the way they utilize color as an unsung supporting character. In my opinion the way a designer or director chooses to use, (or not use) color is an all too often overlooked aspect of modern filmmaking, especially in the world of "modern" animation. All too often in animation it is decided early on what colors a character or background will use, and regardless of the changes in their environment, emotions & circumstances these colors can never deviate from the approved design. It seems that no matter whether a character is freezing his balls off on Antarctica battling a giant mutated penguin, or being wooed by a lovely mermaid temptress hell bent on world domination on some mysterious tropical isle there is no perceived need to make any changes in color. Everything is bland and Boring and adds nothing to the feeling and emotion that is supposed to be conveyed.
One recent exception that subscribes to a lot of what UPA is doing in the grabs below, would be "My Life As A Teenage Robot" which has terrific color design that changes and adapts as necessary to the situation or mood and serves to heighten the drama and deepen the sorrow as intended.
In Gerald McBoing-Boing, the color changes to suit the mood and environment. When gerald braves the cold outside world after being made to feel the outcast, his world and even his own appearance changes from the warm earthy tones of the interior world to stark cold blues and deep reds of a snow stormy night. And when a strange man appears out of nowhere to help Gerald in his plight, we see those deep blues lighten slightly and build back into the warmth of the radio studio where Gerald becomes a Star. The limited use and careful selection of colors used in Gerald McBoing-Boing also serve to direct your attention to the appropriate areas and build upon the composition of each and every frame. Watch most any modern cartoon and this aspect again sticks out like a sore thumb where the backgrounds and characters battle it out in a multicolored melee that is more often than not so indecipherable that your eyes don't know where to concentrate and you can barely tell what the hell is going on in any given scene where the sun is always shining and every surface has been candy-coated with a technicolor turd.
I'm beginning to think I've rambled on far too much already and hope that I at least got within the neighborhood of making a clear point as to what it is I find most inspiring about this award-winning classic cartoon.