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    

#1 Vtg Walt Disneys Mickeys A Christmas Carol Animation Cel Lot X2 Mouse CartoonDisney Animation Art Le Leading Ladies 2 Ii Ariel Belle Mulan Sericel Signed CelOriginal Production Cel - Batman- The Animated Series (wb)S329. Secret Of Nimh L/e Framed Animation Cel Signed By Don Bluth & More (1982)[1955 Disney Lady And The Tramp Production Cel Huge Cel Wide EyedOriginal Production Cel - Pinky And The Brain - Opening Sequence (wb)Original Production Cel - Pinky And The Brain (wb)Lot Of 6 Warner Brothers 1991 Sericels Bugs Bunny Art Cel Authentic Duck Dodgers1932-1934 Walt Disney Mickey Mouse Pluto Dog Production Animation Drawing Cel Don Bluth Dragon's Lair Hand-painted Studio Publicity Animation Cel Dirk #2 Vtg Walt Disneys Mickeys A Christmas Carol Animation Cel Lot X2 Mouse CartoonNice Lot 11 Pieces 'scooby Doo' Animation Art Production Cels 2 W/vincent PriceBugs Bunny Daffy Duck Showstoppers Wb Virgil Ross Signed Masters Cel 22/500 Nr90s Marvel X Men Cartoon Phoenix Lilandra Gladiator Animation Production Cel ArtOriginal Production Cel - Johnny Bravo - Bravo Dooby Doo (cartoon Net)Ren And Stimpy 1990s Nickelodeon John K Cartoon Original Animation Title CelOriginal Production Cel - Ed, Edd And Eddy (cartoon Net)Animaniacs "yakko, Wakko & Dot" Original Production CelOriginal Heavy Metal Production Cel Of Digger Finding Loc-narDisney 2000 Le Worldwide Welcome Mickey Epcot Spaceship Earth Art Serigraph CelNice Lot Of 11 Pieces 'the Jetsons' Animation Art Production Cels Robot ElroyFriz Frelang Signed 1991 Bugs Bunny Rhapsody Rabbit Wb Animation Cel /7501990 Marvel X Men Cartoon Wolverine Animation Production 5 Cel Progression Art1990 Marvel X Men Cartoon Wolverine Close Up Large Animation Production Cel ArtThe Simpsons Original Production Animation Cel - Homer And MargeDisney 2008 Le 500 Two Gun Mickey Minnie Mouse 80th Anniversary Art Laser Cel Lot Of 11 Pieces Of 1980's'the Smurfs' Animation Art Production Cels CollectionNice Lot Production Art 'super Powers Team:galactic Guardians' 4 Cels Firestorm Original Production Cel - Simpsons (fox Television) Don Bluth Dragon's Lair Hand-painted Original Animation Cel 1983 Dirk W/drwnOriginal Disney "the Fox And The Hound" Production Animation CelOriginal Production Cel - Superman (wb)Rabbit Of Seville 2 Bugs Bunny Elmer Fudd Le, Chuck Jones Rare Cel Framed 1990s Marvel X Men Cartoon Archangel Apocalypse Production Animation Cel ArtOriginal Heavy Metal Production Cel Of The ShuttleOriginal Production Cel - Powerpuff Girls (cartoon Net)1990s Marvel X Men Cartoon Marvel Girl Cyclops Production Animation Cel Art1990 Marvel X Men Cartoon Mr Sinister & Morph Animation Production Cel ArtTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Animation Cel! Shredder And Bebop And Some GuyWalt Disney 1990 Le Mickey Polo Team Gold Frame Animation Serigraph Art CelNice Lot 11 Pieces All 'pac-man' Animation Art Production Cels Ghosts Vintage Lot#2 11 Pieces Of 1980's'the Smurfs' Animation Art Production Cels CollectionDisney The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa Production Animation Cel CoaTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tv Series Original Art Animation Cel 4 Different She-ra Princess Of Power Signed Limited Edition Animation Cel #1 Of 5 A4930 Gilligan's Island Production Animation S.s. Minnow Cel & Painted Bkgd #a4002Sailor Moon Supers Original Pegasus Anime Animation Cel Celluloid Picture1970s Godzilla Power Hour Godzooky Original Production Animation Cel Progression1993 Walt Disney Fantasia CelCount Duckula Animation Cel (nanny) And Matching Drawing Retro, Vintage NrOriginal Count Duckula Animation Cel (igor) And Matching Drawing Retro,vintage Original Heavy Metal Production Cel Of Little Girl Flying AwayRen & Stimpy Original Production Cel Cell Animation Art Coa Visit To AnthonyRen & Stimpy Original Production Cel Cell Nick Seal Coa Season 1 Ep 5 Dr. StupidAeon Flux Original Production Cel Cell Animation Art Coa Mtv Seal Liquid TvRockos Modern Life Original Production Cel Cell Animation Art Nickelodeon Coa Disney Princess Original Animation Art Cel Sericel Little Mermaid Ariel FlounderStrawberry Shortcake Original Production Animation Cel & Copy Bkgd #a4982Strawberry Shortcake Original Production Animation Cel & Copy Bkgd #a4984Wolverine & Longshot X-men Animated Series 1992 Cel & Copy Bkgd Marvel