One of the often overlooked ways that movie directors can tell a story is through a film's colors. The color palette used for a movie's scenery, the characters' clothing, and the props helps transport the viewer to magical kingdoms, outer space, or post-apocalyptic landscapes.

Dillon Baker, a junior interaction design student at the University of Washington, has created some fascinating data visualizations that demonstrate this principle. Baker used a computer program to calculate the average color of each frame for several popular movies. He compressed those colors into narrow vertical slices and arranged them in sequential order, from left to right, in the visualizations below.

We've turned the visualizations into a quiz. See if you can guess which films these graphics represent, before scrolling down to read more about the project.


Dillon Baker

Let's start with a colorful one. What beloved movie does this represent? 

Beauty and the Beast
The Wizard of Oz


Dillon Baker

Let's try something a little more subdued. What epic adventure does this color timeline show? 

Star Wars: The Original Trilogy
The Lord of the Rings: Complete Trilogy
Babe: Pig in the City


Dillon Baker

This movie's director is known for using distinctive color palettes. What is it? 

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Babe: Pig in the City


Dillon Baker

Here's one movie, beloved by kids and adults, where the color scheme played a big part in telling the story. What is it? 

Toy Story
The Lion King


Dillon Baker

This big budget film was a great one to see in the theater. What is it? 

The Martian
Jurassic World


Dillon Baker

One last chance. What animated film is represented here? 

Finding Nemo
The Lion King

Your score: 0 / 6

This isn't the first time films have been represented this way: The Colors of Motion and Movie Barcode are examples of somewhat similar projects.

Baker, who created the visualizations, tells us that, of all the examples above, WALL-E is his favorite, transitioning from a monochrome, deserted Earth to the vivid blues of space and back to a more vibrant, recolonized Earth. "Animation studios like Pixar often map out color scripts that directly convey the moods and stories behind their movies, and Wall-E is a great example of that process," he writes.

You can check out Baker's site and more visualizations here.

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