| One of the best kept secrets in Disney animation collecting is the variety of original
production available to collectors. Collectors who are introduced to cartoon art by
inexperienced sellers on line or at the theme parks, are often told that ‘originals’ no
longer exist. “...all the cels were washed off.” , “...the paper was mostly reused” are
some of the phrases heard by novice collectors in many stores. This makes the studio
limited edition and modern production art seemingly the only choice for them.
But what the studios don’t want you to know is that we can find many wonderful
original cels, drawings and pre-production materials. These are not acquired through
the studios, but by searching private collections around the country.
Limited edition art is attractive because it can capture an entire scene from films with
multiple characters.In contrast, production art captures a specific moment or idea and
will generally feature a single character.
Be realistic in your search. Remember, an original production cel or drawing is a way to
have a unique rarityfor your collection, not necessarily the perfect moment from the
film that you remember.
But how to judge, and what to collect? First you have to know what art is out there and
how it was used.
Here’s a quick primer:
Production cels are the finished hand painted images on clear acetate or nitrate that
were actually filmed when making the cartoons.
Production drawings will be either roughs of characters - (loose construction drawings
of the characters in motion), or clean-up drawings - (precise finished pencil drawings
ready to be transferred to cels.)
Color model drawings are like clean-ups in that they are precise finished images used
as guides in the ink and paint department to identify colors on the different parts of
the character’s body or costume.
Color Model Cels are the finished painted images used as color guides by the inkers
Concept sketches in graphite or charcoal or pastels - these are the drawings used in
planning the look of the character and sometimes vary widely from the finished image.
Storyboard sketches are small drawings, pastels or charcoals used to plot the
sequences and action in a film.
Pencil Model Sheets are a group of character sketches, either on one paper, or they are
several images cut out and mounted together on a larger sheet.
Ozalid and Lithograph Model Sheets were made in a very small number from the
original pencil model sheets. These were used as drawing guides by the animators and
in between artists.
Background layouts are sketches that will generally be in blue or gray pencil used to
create the final watercolor backgrounds.
Production Backgrounds are the actual watercolor paintings used to film with the
cels. They are especially rare and valuable.
Here are some general points to understand:
Generally, feature film cels and drawings will cost more than short films, and the older
the art, the more well known the character, the more you are likely to pay. Most cels
and drawings from the vintage era will be single character images. You also need to
understand the time periods in which the art was used and what still exists. We like to
think of vintage Disney animation art falling into 6 time periods; all under the direction
of Walt Disney himself.
The Short Film Era : 1928 - 1937
This is the time period when Disney produced hundreds of wonderful short films. Some
of your favorite characters were “born” in this era, including Mickey, Donald, Goofy,
Pluto, the Three Little Pigs and many others. Cels that still exist from this time period
are quite rare for main characters and are very sought after. Concepts, backgrounds and
model sheets will not be bargains, but good values can be found if you concentrate on
lesser characters and scenes. Keep in mind that the first color Mickey cartoon was in
1935 and most vintage cels before that date are in black and white.
Best Values: Look for original pencil art of the main characters to get the best bang
for your buck. We've
seen Mickey production drawings from this era in some pretty classic images from his
short cartoons. Some very early films like Steamboat Willie, and Plane Crazy are very
rare and will be more expensive than other 1930’s films. Donald art is more plentiful
from later years, but can also fall in this same price range. For cels, search for images
of secondary and odd characters for lower prices. They can capture the flavor of this
early era and be surprisingly affordable.
1937-1949 The Early Features and the War Years
The release of Snow White in 1937 turned the page on animation art collecting. For
the first time, Disney cels and other forms of animation art were sold as fine art
through a few galleries. Thank goodness the studio decided to do this marketing from
1938 through 1945. This release saved a great number of delightful production art that
might have been reused as cost saving measures or recycled for the war effort. This is
the era that produced many favorite films including Bambi, Pinocchio, and Fantasia
and some of the less familiar such as Fun and Fancy Free and Make Mine Music.
Wonderful artwork survived in the private collections of studio employees and many of
these gems have found their way to the secondary market today. But art from this time
period is not plentiful and time and patience is necessary to find your favorites.
Best Values: This is a great time period to look for Donald Duck artwork since he
appeared in many war era films. Cels and drawings can be very good values. Look to
pencil art for main characters from the features. Snow White, Pinocchio and Bambi
can be found for much less than original cels and also in lovely poses from their classic
moments. Remember to recognize minor characters can steal the show in your
collection and are great values. Disney did lots of experimenting in this era. Concept
art can be fun and reasonable. Pencil background layouts from less known features or
shorts can be a delight and very detailed. Keep your eyes and mind open to the
unusual from these years.
The Fantasy Years 1950-1959
Disney returned to the classic fairy tale in this era, releasing such memorable features
, the famous chipmunks, Alice in WonderlandChip and Dale and GoofySleeping
Beauty. made some delightful films as an Donald Duck, and “everyman” human-like
character. The studio marketed cels through the Disneyland Art Corner store for as little
as $1.50 and many great images still exist in private hands. Cels from Cinderella, Alice
and Peter Pan tend to be a bit harder to find since the films were released before the
theme park opened in 1955.
This is the era to find great cels from the features. Most secondary characters are very
affordable and even the biggies like Alice and Cinderella are not necessarily out of
sight. Goofy is affordable and fun in this era as well as Chip and Dale. Humphrey the
Bear is always fun! Kings and Queens from the features are fun to collect and not hard
to get in a very reasonable price range for cels! Lady and the Tramp cels of the
sidekick dogs can be found for great values in most cases and even the lead characters
can be great deals. Remember that ideal portrait-like poses will push prices up, but fun
close-ups and action poses can be much more affordable.
Walt’s final films 1960-1967
Disney’s use of the new xerography outline technology changed the way cartoons were
made. 101 Dalmatians was made possible in 1961 with this new technology. The
Disney Sunday television show brought back old characters such as Tinkerbell and
Jiminy Cricket, and introduced some great new ones like Ludwig Von Drake. By this
time Disney was no longer releasing theatrical short cartoons, so some of the best
affordable art survives from television animation. Feature films with animation include
Sword in the Stone, Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book.
Look for some great classic characters in new roles. Jiminy Cricket, Mickey, Donald,
Tinkerbell and even some of the Seven Dwarfs were used on the Disney Sunday
show. Ludwig Von Drake is a favorite from this era and can be found in cels and
drawings. Sword In The Stone cels are more affordable than 101 Dalmatians and
Jungle Book. Best bets from Dalmatians are the puppies, human and non Dalmatian
dogs. From the Jungle Book, Mowgli and Baloo and Kaa are very popular and can be
found! Villains from this era will be very reasonable compared to the Early Years.
So now you have some work to do and here’s the place to start. If you are collecting
animation art already, make an inventory of your current collection. What do you
already have hanging on your walls? What does your collection tell you about what you
like? The point is that you need to be able to communicate your on one studio, film, or
a specific group of characters? Do you see a reoccurring theme in your favorite art?
Realistic communication with your specialist will open new avenues of collecting for you.
Take the time to sit give us a call and make up that wish list. The art on our website
is just a taste of what we have available. You never know what they can find for you
unless you ask!
Wanda Lunn has 40 years of experience in helping collectors acquire quality animation art.
She was instrumental in the success of Gallery Lainzberg - at one time the nations first large
showcase of animation art. She is the owner of First Animation Art in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
| Disney Affordable Treasures
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