First Animation Art
First Quality Art from the Animated Film!
2036 Fifth Avenue SE  
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52403

Phones 319-862-1169
Toll Free 1-888-921-1001

John Cairns

Wanda Lunn
our 37th year in
Cedar Rapids, Iowa!
Please call or email to confirm availability when making your selection.
Our one of a kind art sells quickly and although we do our best to keep our website up to date,
all art is subject to previous sale.
The Disney / Courvoisier Art Program

Some of the most striking examples of animation art surviving today exist due to the forward thinking of art dealer
Guthrie Sayle Courvoisier. Courvoisier was the first person to build a mass market for original artwork created by
the Walt Disney Studios for use in their animated classics.

Quick to recognize the phenomenon developing around the merchandising of the films of Walt Disney, Guthrie saw an
opportunity for the Courvoisier Galleries to do for Snow White what Ingersoll watches had done for Mickey Mouse.
Throughout the early part of 1938 Courvoisier entered into dialogues with Walt Disney and his brother Roy detailing
his idea to market the production-art created for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" as original works of fine art.
Guthrie believed that the artwork could be as successful as the film itself, if properly marketed.

In 1938, Courvoisier agreed with the Disney brothers granting the Courvoisier Galleries the exclusive right to market
original Disney art starting with about 7,000 cels from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". Prices varied from
piece to piece but were test marketed from $5 to $35 on up to some cels at $75. In September 1938, cel paintings
consigned through Courvoisier sold rapidly when exhibited at the Julien Levy Galleries in New York City, the
Leicester Galleries in London and the Charles Sessler Galleries in Philadelphia. Cels sold at Sessler gallery became
part of the collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney's Museum of Modern Art. The favorable
outcome from these early gallery sales of

"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" cels proved Courvoisier could establish a fine art market for Walt Disney
artwork. Three new types of animation artwork were introduced: key animation and inbetweeners production
drawings; master production watercolor backgrounds; and story sketches used during the production of Disney films.
Besides "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", art from "Ferdinand the Bull" (1938),  "Brave Little Tailor" (1938),
"Wynken, Blynken and Nod" (1938),  "Donald's Golf Game" (1938), "The Ugly Duckling" (1939), "Donald's
Penguin" (1939), "The Practical Pig" (1939), "The Beach Picnic" (1939) and "The  Pointer" (1939) was released for
sale at this time. Even some of the multi plane oil paintings from Walt Disney's second feature "Pinocchio" (1940)
soon followed.

Initially the art was matted and prepared for sale within the Disney studio. In the late 1930's Disney employed twenty
people to prepare the animation art for the Courvoisier Galleries. This Cel Setup Department was headed by Helen
Nerbovig, one of the women from the Ink-and-Paint Department.

The cels were cut down in size or individual characters were trimmed from the cel and covered with a blank cel
sheet. The cel sheets were then taped to different kinds of backgrounds: hand-painted backgrounds that resembled the
production  backgrounds, airbrushed backgrounds that merely suggested the elements of the original background,
mounted wood veneer backgrounds, often containing airbrushed  shadows, elements of the original backgrounds or
the name of the particular character or backgrounds comprised of a piece of thin, patterned wrapping paper.

These simplified background illustrations were then glued to cardboard. Each piece of art distributed through
Courvoisier came with a mat that often contained a handwritten inscription with the character's name or film title
running parallel under the mats lower left opening. A number of small labels were attached to the backside of the
frame identifying the art as being from a certain production. Some early labels also warned the owner: "This material
inflammable. Handle with care. Frame under glass."

From 1940 (after the release of artwork from "Pinocchio") until September 1946 Courvoisier assumed responsibility
for preparing the art for sale and remained the sole source for the sale of Disney artwork. They continued to
distribute art from numerous short subjects and feature films. On September 30th, 1946, both the Disney's and
Courvoisier agreed that Disney Productions would resume the marketing of their art.

In recent years, a business has purchased the name "Courvoisier Gallery" and has confused the animation art market
by marketing art with new Courvoisier labels descriptions. Animation collectors should be aware of these. At First
Animation Art, we only handle the art form the original art program than ended in 1946.