About The Art


Cel is short for celluloid acetate, the transparent material upon which traditionally animated films are created. Each movement of a character requires an individually hand-painted cel. One or more cels are then laid over a background painting and photographed in an animation camera to create a frame of the finished film. By painting on clear cels, animators are able to create the illusion of life as characters move throughout the environment created by the background painting.

Through our affiliation with the world’s leading animation studios, Animation Connection offers our collectors an opportunity to own these one-of-a-kind cels, as well as several types of limited edition cels.

Original Production Cels

Original production cels are one-of-a-kind pieces of art that were used in the creation of an animated film or television show. Each has been hand-painted by studio artists on a piece of celluloid acetate, and has been photographed over a background painting to create a frame of the finished production.

Production cels are highly sought after by animation fans and collectors, with very rare pieces from the early days of animation fetching prices in the tens, and even the hundreds of thousands of dollars. See Why So Few Vintage Cels Have Survived for more information on the rarity of early production cels.

Production cels from the 1980’s and 90’s are available at considerably lower expense, but the move to computerized animation has severely curtailed the supply of new production artwork in the market, and has put upward pressure on prices of what is still available.

Production cels from the same film, or even the same scene, can have significantly different values depending on their desirability. Factors influencing value include which character(s) are visible, their size, facial expressions and much more.

Animation art fans and collectors approach the purchase of original production cels in many different ways. Some focus on a particular character, television show, or film while other seek a wide variety of cherished memories. Some prefer cels with multiple characters while others prefer larger, single character portrait-style cels. One regular client of ours simply says he buys whatever makes him laugh.

Whatever your taste, and whatever your budget, an original production cel is a wonderful way to own and display a “moment in time” from a film, a show, or a character that you love.

Original Production Drawings

Original production drawings are one-of-a-kind pieces of animation art. Prior to the creation of cels, each character pose and action must be drawn in pencil. These drawings are the artistic backbone of the film or television show, and are much in demand by collectors.

Original production drawings are one-of-a-kind pieces of art that were used in the creation of an animated film or television show. Prior to the creation of production cels, each character pose and action must be drawn in pencil. These drawings are the artistic backbone of the film or television show, and are much in demand by collectors.

There are two main types of original production drawings: rough drawings and clean-up drawings.

As the name suggests, rough drawings are imperfect in their lines, often featuring multiple pencil strokes, erased elements, and sometimes scale measurements (for instance indicating the size of the body in relation to the size of the head). Some animation art lovers prefer rough drawings for their raw artistry and out of appreciation for the fact that this is where the animators put pencil to blank paper and began the creative journey.

Clean-up drawings are recognizable by their smooth, singular lines and the absence of the trial and error strokes seen in roughs. A clean-up drawing is made from each rough by the animator placing a fresh sheet of paper over a rough drawing, illuminated from below with a lightbox, and tracing the best lines to create the ideal image for that moment in the film. Some fans and collectors prefer clean-up drawings for their beauty, simplicity, and because this is the actual drawing that led to the next step in the process, the creation of the production cel.

While original production drawings lack the vivid color of cels, they are very desirable for two main reasons. Many collectors prefer drawings because it is at this stage that the animators really exercised their talents and brought the characters to life. Another appealing aspect of drawings is that they almost always cost significantly less than a comparable production cel.

Original production drawings are a wonderful addition to any animation collection, and a great way to enjoy the artistry behind your favorite characters. See What To Look For In A Good Original Cel Or Drawing for more on choosing the right piece or pieces for you.

Hand-Painted Limited Edition Cels

Hand-painted limited edition cels showcase legendary characters and recreate classic moments from great cartoons, using the same materials and techniques as were used in making the originals. Some limited editions are exact reproductions of frames from the films they represent, while others, such as Chuck Jones’ limited editions, are based on the artist’s interpretations of classic animation characters and scenes.

In either case, the animator’s drawing is transferred onto acetate cels, then each is meticulously hand-painted by studio artists. Cel painting is a time-honored, and extremely exacting process requiring that each color be individually applied by hand. Many hand-painted limited edition cels are made up of more than a dozen individual colors, and in some cases several dozen paints are used. It takes the skilled hand of a highly skilled and experienced cel painter to bring these fine art pieces to life.  

Each piece is hand-numbered in small edition sizes (generally between 100 and 750) and comes with a studio-issued certificate of authenticity detailing the origins, techniques, and size of the edition. In some cases the finished cels are signed by the animation legends upon whose work they are based. Pieces signed by Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, Matt Groening and other animation pioneers are very much in demand by collectors.

As the great majority of original production cels from the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s are no longer in existence, hand-painted limited edition cels allow collectors an unparalleled opportunity to enjoy some of the greatest moments in the history of animation.

Limited Edition Serigraph Cels

Limited edition serigraph cels are created by silk screening each individual color onto the acetate cel, one at a time. Each serigraph cel contains anywhere from 10 to 50 colors. This time-consuming process results in a beautiful piece of art which faithfully reproduces the beauty, detail, and magic of the original.

Some serigraph cels are exact reproductions from the episodes and films they represent, while others have been created by artists at Walt Disney, Warner Bros., Chuck Jones Productions and other studios to pay tribute to the greatest characters, films, and scenes in their iconic histories.

Produced in limited editions of between 1000 and 7500 pieces, and each accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the issuing studio, serigraph cels offer the most affordable entry into collecting animation fine art.

Limited Edition Hand-Pulled Lithographs

Dating back several hundred years to the work of European fine art printmakers, hand-pulled lithography is a time-honored means of producing high quality fine art reproductions. Once the artist has painted the original work of art, skilled artisans create individual printing plates for each color represented in the piece. Depending on the number of colors, there will often be dozens of individual printing plates required.

Each plate depicts only that part of the piece which is to receive that color. Paint is applied by hand to the first plate, and it is pressed onto the paper, often with the use of historic presses dating back to the 1800’s. Once the first color has dried, the second plate is painted and applied. This painstaking process continues until all colors and all parts of the original image have been recreated.

Hand-pulled lithographs are created on high quality acid-free rag paper, and are generally done in limited editions of no more than 750 pieces. They are often signed by the artist.

The quality and artistic heritage of hand-pulled lithographs make them a beautiful addition to any home and a central component of many fine art collections.

Limited Edition Giclees

Sometimes described as "digital lithographs", giclees are created using extremely sophisticated computer equipment to create a reproduction virtually indistinguishable from the original.

Most giclees start with an original painting or illustration in oil, watercolor, or charcoal. The original work is scanned and color corrected under the supervision of the artist before being printed with a extremely high resolution giclee printer. From the French term for "spray of ink", giclee printers lay down millions of microscopic ink droplets with such precision that the images, colors, and subtle nuances of the original piece are reproduced with tremendous accuracy and beauty.

Giclees are created on high quality acid-free rag paper or on canvas, and are generally done in limited editions of no more than 750 pieces. They are often hand signed by the artist.

Limited edition giclees are a beautiful addition to any home and any art collection.

Limited Edition Etchings

In order to create limited edition etchings, a studio-authorized artist etches or scrapes an image into a copper plate. This plate is then inked and pressed into high-quality acid-free rag paper to create the black outline of the character. Each piece is then meticulously hand-painted with watercolors to bring the image to life.

Generally created in hand-numbered limited editions of 500, etchings make wonderful gifts and beautiful accent pieces for lovers of classic animated characters and films. Their relatively small size and modest price creates great possibilities to display two, three, four, or even more etchings together as a set.

Why So Few Vintage Pieces Have Survived

Although thousands of individual cels are required to make an animated film, few cels remain from the classic Disney and Warner Bros. productions of the 1930’s - 1960’s.

The simple fact is that no one believed that the cels and drawings had any artistic, historic, or monetary value. They were making movies, and the artwork was just a means to that end. Once the film was complete, the majority of the artwork was destroyed or discarded and the artists moved on to the next project.

In some cases the cels were washed clean so they could be reused. Many were destroyed for lack of sufficient space to store them. Some were given to children who visited the studios, and often they were encouraged to cut the characters out of the clear background to make them easier to play with. Some were taken home by animators and cel painters, leading to some amazing stories of valuable and historic discoveries in grandma or grandpa’s keepsakes.

It wasn’t until the 1970’s and 80’s that people began to look back at the animated films of the past and begin to recognize the incredible artistry upon which they were built. Sadly, those vintage cels and drawings that survived the years are an extremely small fraction of what once existed.

What To Look For In A Good Original Cel or Drawing

It can’t be stressed enough that the first and most important aspect of choosing any piece of art is that you love it. Art is a very personal thing, and what appeals to one person may not appeal to another. That being said, there are a few rules of thumb used by many collectors:

Full figure images are generally preferred, however, close-up facial images can be very expressive and very desirable.

Frontal images with eyes open are usually best, although sometimes side shots better depict action.

The larger the painted image the better. We work with the studios to select the largest and most desirable images possible for our inventory. We’ve heard stories of collectors buying pieces from less than reputable dealers and discovering that the painted image is much smaller than they expected because a zoomed-in scan was shown. We always scan and display the entire cel or drawing. When it comes to originals, size matters.

Cels and drawings depicting characteristic poses and expressions are very desirable. The perfect Bugs Bunny looks confident and composed; the ideal Daffy Duck looks a little flustered; villains are best when they look evil and powerful. Homer Simpson with a beer, a donut, or in a memorable setting or scene is generally going to sell more quickly than others. 

As far as the choice of which character or characters to purchase, there are two very different ways of looking at it. Some believe that star characters are most desirable. These collectors focus on Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Winnie The Pooh, Fred Flintstone, Homer Simpson and other famous superstars. Their thinking is that these lead characters are the ones around whom the cartoons are built, and they are the most important.

Others prefer the unusual characters who appeared in very few films or episodes. Some of these lesser-known characters have developed a strong following, and their added rarity makes them a must-have item if and when one becomes available. Ultimately the choice comes down to which piece has the most appeal to you.

The bottom line is buy what you love and you’ll always cherish your artwork.

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