Celluloid? It's the reel thing
During the making of classic Walt Disney films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, much of the original artwork was simply thrown away. Today, collections of animation celluloids are worth a small fortune.
An exhibition launched this week of vintage animation art work includes 150 original pencil drawings and hand-painted coloured celluloid, known as cels, from classic films.
It is being held at the Animation Art gallery in London, where the most valuable piece in the collection is a production cel from Snow White of the seven dwarves, which is now worth £10,000.
Collecting animation is not child's play. Nor can you get away with paying monopoly money for it. Original production cels are now worth a small fortune.
In the late 30s and early 40s Walt Disney hired large teams of artists to work on films like Snow White and Bambi.
The most collectable products from that period are cels which are used in the films themselves. The images were drawn on celluloid, then hand-painted, photographed and placed on to film to be used in the making of the film.
Once they had been used, the artwork was considered redundant and was often thrown away. Walt Disney thought this artwork had no value and was merely a tool of the job.
The lucky ones who own surviving relics are sitting on a treasure chest. The rarest image, but not the dearest, in the gallery's latest collection is a 40s cel of Pinocchio, worth £5,000. There is a cel from The Jungle Book, which in 1984 cost £200; today it's worth £4,000.
Demand for collecting animation is strong. Russell Singler, founder of the gallery, says the reason for this is simple.
"The reason why people collect animation art is probably the same as why I first started. The first ever film I saw was The Jungle Book and I wanted a piece of it. I bought my first cel because I knew that it was used in the film," he explains.
The rarest pieces of animation art are known as key set-ups. These are the original cels plus the original background, so what you get actually matches what you see on screen. They are rare because studios often discarded the background once it had been filmed.
So most of the backgrounds that people can buy today were repainted in the Courvoisier gallery in San Francisco back in the mid-30s to 40s.
A genuine key set-up will sell for serious money. "We sold one a couple of years ago, of Peter Pan flying over London, for £70,000," says Mr Singler. "Another, of Snow White in the forest, was sold four years ago for £120,000."
It is unusual to find these pieces in your attic, but not unheard of. "People come in to the gallery with something they have found in their house which has been passed down the in the family. One lady came in with a cel of Cinderella. But unfortunately we couldn't do anything with it as the paint had started to peel off," adds Mr Singler.
If you are considering starting a collection it is worth talking to professionals before you buy your first piece. Mr Singler advises people to buy artwork which shows the character in a recognised and strong pose or expression. Where possible, make sure the piece comes with a certificate of authenticity.
Talk to other collectors to get a feel for what is around and to learn what is a bargain. With the market growing at approximately 25% year-on-year, you may want to consider putting your money in cartoons rather than the ever-decreasing stock market.
Winning with game of cat and mouse
Andrew Rosario is an avid fan of Tom and Jerry animation. "I fell in love with Tom and Jerry when I was a child. I've always loved the humour and anarchy that Hanna-Barbera presented in the cartoon," he says.
It was finding out how cartoons were made that sparked his passion for animation collecting. "It's an incredible process. It starts as a pencil outline, which is then traced on to a cel. Then the artist individually hand-paints it. For every second of film you see, 25 cels have gone in to making it. I wanted a piece of that history."
Mr Rosario, 40, bought his first piece of animation 10 years ago. He now has 25 to 30 - most of which are framed and on his study wall. "I like to rotate what we've got on the walls. I've just had our house decorated and discovered some pieces that I forgot I had, so that was exciting. I've now got more room to display it all."
The rest of his pieces are sealed in plastic bags, waiting to be catalogued and framed. "I'm gradually getting them all framed, as it stops the paint on the cels drying out and prevents wear, tear and fading."
Mr Rosario buys most of his pieces from the Animation Art Gallery in London; others were bought in the US during holidays there.
His collection is made up of pencil drawings, story boards, layout drawings and cels. His biggest bargain was a cel bought in America. "It was from the Jungle Book, of Baloo the bear standing over Mowgli, who's bending down to pick a flower. I paid $1,200 for it." He suspects this may be worth more and is in the process of having it valued.
The most he has ever paid is £4,000. "It's a unique cel which has the full head of Tom and the body of Jerry, with the words Tom and Jerry underneath them. It's special because it was the only one made and it was used for all the Tom and Jerrys ever produced."
But his favourite is from the short film The Night Before Christmas; Jerry is poking his head out from behind a line of wooden toy soldiers.
For more details, contact Russell Singler on 020 7255 1456 or check out www.animaart.comJuly 27, 2002