Animated films first became popular in the 1930s and have since spawned an entire category of movie collectibles that have proved to be almost as enduring as the cartoons themselves. The most sought-after animation artifacts are animation cels, which is short for celluloid. Cartoons were hand-drawn or painted, frame-by-frame, on these colorful transparent sheets. Put enough of them together and you had an animated movie.

Collecting animation cels and animation art is a relatively new phenomenon. Until the Whitney Museum mounted an exhibition of Disney animation art in 1981, cels were seen as fringe items. In fact, after making “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” in 1937, Walt Disney had to be convinced that the cels his illustrators had painstakingly inked were not garbage. Since the Whitney exhibition, the appeal of animation cels has taken off, and different types of animation art regularly appear at auction.

The person who convinced Disney not to discard his animation cels was Guthrie Courvoisier, the owner of a San Francisco art gallery. He thought he could market Disney’s production pieces as works of art. To that end, Courvoisier cut around the borders of the images and placed them on backgrounds. The cels were then displayed in frames or on mats. Courvoisier continued to sell Disney cels through the 1940s, and his pieces remain some of the most collectible animation cels on the market today. Unfortunately, few remain in good condition because of the inexpensive means with which he prepared them.

Animation cels come in a number of forms. In addition to the Courvoisier cels there are untrimmed full sheets, trimmed cels, and multi-cel setups, which combine more than one frame.

There were hundreds, if not thousands of animation cels made for each movie, as each cel represented an individual movement of a character or scene. The most collectible animation cels are from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, though there are examples of older cel art, such as Winsor McCay’s “The Sinking of the Lusitania” from 1918 and “Gertie the Dinosaur” from 1914.

Today Disney films are at the forefront of collectible animation cels. In addition to the “Snow White” cels, other popular early Disney animated films include “Pinocchio,” “Dumbo,” “Bambi,” “Cinderella,” and “Alice in Wonderland.” All of these productions left behind countless memorable animation-cel images, such as Dumbo flying with Timothy on his back or the witch offering a poison apple to Snow White.

In addition to animated movie cels, there was also a bevy of collectible cels produced for cartoon shorts. Some of the most popular Disney cartoons featured Donald Duck and Micke...

More recent animation cels include those produced by Hanna-Barbera. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were former animation directors at MGM. After leaving the studio, they formed their own animation shop in 1957 and are responsible for much of the art from animated television cartoons such as “Scooby Doo,” “Yogi Bear,” “The Jetsons,” and “The Flintstones,” among many others.

Less sought are the limited-edition serigraph cels, which are screen prints of animation-cel images that are created for fans after the fact rather than hand-painted originals used in an actual production.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Steves Disney Collection

Steves Disney Collection

Steve Lee’s large collection of original Disney art: pencil drawings from animated features produced during W… [read review or visit site]

Warner Bros. Title Card Gallery

Warner Bros. Title Card Gallery

Dave Mackey's filmography and title card gallery for 35 years of Warner Bros. cartoons. Browsable by year or alphab… [read review or visit site]

Steve McQueen Film Poster Site

Steve McQueen Film Poster Site

If you're a Steve McQueen fan, this site can't be beat. Roger Harris has put together a definitive collection of Mc… [read review or visit site]

Steven Hill's Movie Title Screens Page

Steven Hill's Movie Title Screens Page

If you're the type who likes watching the titles and credits at the beginning of movies, you'll love this site. Ste… [read review or visit site]

Cinema Treasures

Cinema Treasures

This user-contributed database of classic movie theaters currently lists over 17,000 theaters worldwide. Browse by … [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Original Hand Painted Disney Cels Animated Art Chip And Dale Celluloid PicturesWalt Disney 1983 Original Cel Of Tiny Tim "mickey's Christmas Carol" DisneyanaOriginal Production Cel - Batman- The Animated Series (wb)Look! ~ Dc Comics ~ Batman The Animated Series ~ Two Face Production Cel ~ BtasWalt Disney Rare "how To Play Golf" Goofy Le 5000 Framed Serigraph Art CelPatrick Ewing Signed Warner Brothers Cel Framed 24x27 Autograph 185/500 Coa 1996Warner Brothers Signed Patrick Ewing Cel The Legendary Big Man Rare CellOriginal Production Cel - Powerpuff Girls (cartoon Net)Warner Bros Chuck Jones Signed Cel Daffy Duck Dodgers Trio Marvin K9 Le 277/750Ducktales Disney Cel Scrooge Mcduck Money Pit Original Production Cel - Scooby Doo And The Witch's Ghost (cartoon Net)The Real Ghostbusters Original Production Animation Cel & Painted Bkgd #a6321Sherlock Daffy Ii Chuck Jones Signed Numbered Animation Art Cel Warner Bros 1994Great Lot 13 Pieces 'scooby Doo' Animation Art Production Cels Shaggy TitanicOriginal Production Cel - Batman Beyond (wb)Original Production Model Cel - The SmurfsChuck Jones Warner Bros. Signed Cel Ducklaration Of Independence Le 212/750Original Cel Jonny Quest Signed Hanna Barbera Production Animation Comic Art 95Batman The Animated Series "be A Clown" Limited Edition CelDoug Funnie Original Production Cel Cell Animation Art Coa Nickelodeon PorkchopWatership Down Dir Martin Rosen - Animation Cel -rabbit -wd 78.117.001Ren & Stimpy Production Cel Cell Animation Art Seal Coa Season 2 In The Army Studio Release X-men Animation Cel Magneto Villain Production Art Marvel Key 90s1990 Disney Fantasia Framed Le Serigraph Cel Art Ostrich Sericel - "the Dance OfWatership Down Dir Martin Rosen - Animation Cel - Rabbit -wd 78.62.001Tmnt Krang Production Cel Mint Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles CoaAuthentic Animated Art Taz - Baseball "!@#x!? Batter Up" Warner Bros Ltd Ed CelRockos Modern Life Original Production Cel Cell Animation Art Nickelodeon Coa1990 Disney Fantasia Framed Le Serigraph Cel Art "the Nutcracker Suite"Studio Release Archangel Storm X-men Animation Cel Key Marvel Art ProductionAnime Cel 2 Robot Carnival Original Animation Cels From PresenceMarvel 1995 Fleer Ultra Spider-man Clear Chrome Cel Bonus Chase Insert Cards LotWalt Disney Company "snow White And Prince Charming" L/e Serigraph CelOriginal Cel From Peanuts Charlie Brown And SnoopyAnimation Cel Art Commission Original 8x10 Repro Cartoon Anime 1character1990 Disney Fantasia Framed Le Serigraph Cel Art Pegasus - "the Pastoral"Cyclops Cable X-men Animation Cel Marvel Comics Art Superhero Xmen CellMike- Zeck -punisher- Rare- Matted Laser Cel #352 Of #500 GemBeast Animation Production Cel X-men Art Marvel Cartoon Comics Original Key 90s1985 Cartoon Series Ewoks Animation Cel From Star Wars Fan ClubRare The Real Ghostbusters Animation Cel 1/1 Card Ghostbusters Cryptozoic 5Rare The Real Ghostbusters Animation Cel 1/1 Card Ghostbusters Cryptozoic 4Sale! Anime Genga Not Cel: Toradora! #191 (set Of 1 Production Sketch)Rare Anastasia Hand Painted CelRen & Stimpy Original Production Cel Animation Art Nickelodeon Cell Coa SalveRen & Stimpy Production Cel Cell Seal Coa Animation Art Mad Dog Hoek John K Ren & Stimpy Production Cel Cell Animation John K Seal Season 1 Nurse Stimpy1990s Piggsburg Pigs 29 Cel Set Bacon Brothers Original Production Animation ArtDoug Funnie Original Production Cel Cell Animation Art Coa Nickelodeon PattiRen & Stimpy Production Cel Drawing Studio Seal Coa Animation Art A Dog''s LifeDisney Aladdin Serigraph Cel Limited Edition 1993Animaniacs Trading Card Set Foil Mini Cel 1995 Topps Warner Brothers CartoonSale! Anime Genga Not Cel: Ikkitousen Xx #92 (set Of 1 Production Sketch)Sale! Anime Genga Not Cel: Queen's Blade #142 (set Of 1 Production Sketch)Sale! Anime Douga Not Cel: Queen's Blade #140 (set Of 1 Production Sketch)Mckimson Bugs Bunny Ny Yankees Looneytunes Ltd (sp) Cel Proof 2 Of 5Ren & Stimpy Original Production Cel Cell Season 1 Seal Coa John K Secret ClubRen & Stimpy Original Production Cel Cell Nick Seal Coa Season 1 Ep 5 Dr. StupidRen & Stimpy Production Cel & Pencil Drawing Cell Coa John K Robin Hoek Season 1Beavis & Butthead Animation Art Original Painted Production Cel Cell Mtv Coa