A Colour Box is a 1935 British experimental animated film by Len Lye.
Commissioned to promote the General Post Office.
Robert Herring called it “the first ballet in film”
Lye and sound editor Jack Ellitt went through hundreds of records looking for music
to use as the soundtrack. They selected a beguine called “The Belle Creole” by Don Barreto
and his Cuban Orchestra. After the music was transferred to film, Lye made cue marks on
the sound track, which he used as a guide as he painted on the image track.
Lye painted long, continuous patterns on the 35 mm film stock, without frame lines to
separate individual film frames and with few splices used. He used combs or sticks to
create linear patterns on the film stock.
The film had its international premiere in October 1935 at the International Cinema Festival
in Brussels. The jury created a special “fantasy film” category so that they could award A Colour
Box with a Medal of Honour. The film was later screened at the 1936 Venice Film Festival,
where Nazi viewers labeled it degenerate art and protested the film. They stomped their
feet loudly, leading to the three-minute film being stopped before its completion.