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    

Great Orig. 1953 Walt Disney "peter Pan" Production Cel ~ Framed & MattedGreat Orig. Large 1953 Walt Disney "peter Pan" Production Cel Lost Boys 3 LayersGreat Orig. 1953 Walt Disney "peter Pan" Tinker Bell Production Cel ~ FramedOriginal Animation Production Cel Of Harley Quinn And Poison Ivy Batman AnimatedOriginal Production Animation Cel Of Wile E. Coyote Signed By Chuck JonesFramed Production Animation Cel Of Harley Quinn Batman Animated WbOrig. 1988 "who Framed Roger Rabbit" Production Cel Roger & Eddie Walt Disney CoOriginal Production Animation Cel Of Batman And Commissioner Gordon Animated WbOriginal Animation Production Cel Of Wolverine From X-men Animated FoxMegatron Transformers Optimus Prime Unicron Animation Cel Replica Original Art Animation Production Cel Of Mrs. Brisby And Jeremy From Secret Of Nimh Don BluthOrig. 1988 "who Framed Roger Rabbit" Production Cel Baby Herman Walt Disney Co.Original Production Animation Cel Of Catwoman Batman Animated Warner BrothersDizzy The Vulture From Jungle Book Walt Disney Production Cel 1967 BeatlesOriginal Production Animation Cel Of Two-face Harvey Dent Batman Animated WbOriginal Animation Cel Of Magneto From X-men Animated Original Background FoxDisney Lion King Cel SericelOriginal Animation Production Cel Vash The Stampede Meryl Anime Trigun LotOriginal Animation Cel Vash The Stampede Last Episode Trigun Oversized AnimeDragonball Dragon Ball Z Dbz Anime Animation Cel Ssj GokuRodimus Prime Transformers Animation CelOriginal Production Animation Cel Of Bugs Bunny Signed By Chuck JonesClaudia Lasalle Macross Robotech Original Production Anime Cel No SketchDisney Donald Duck Art Corner 50s Production CelOriginal Animation Production Cel Of Lydia Deetz And Beetlejuice Warner BrothersOriginal Legend Of Zelda Production Cel Animation Link And Zelda DicFramed Production Animation Cel Of Daffy Duck Signed Friz Freleng Looney TunesOriginal Animation Production Cel Of Phoenix Jean Grey Wolverine X-men FoxOriginal Production Animation Cel Of Phoenix Jean Grey From X-men Animated FoxDucktales Animation Cel ScroogeOriginal Animation Production Cel Of Cyclops And Jean Grey From X-men FoxS315. Vintage Heavy Metal The Queen Original Hand-painted Animation Cel (1981)~ Original Animation Production Cel Of Mystique From X-men Animated FoxDragon Ball Movies 1996 The Path To Power Original Cel Cell Cellulo With DougaFox Saban The Tick Sewer, Maid & Arthur Animation Production Cel -official SealDragon Ball 1996 Movies The Path To Power Original Cel Cell Cellulo With DougaDragon Ball Z Cel Japan Toei Animation Art Anime Manga Akira Toriyama 20Dragonball Dragon Ball Z Dbz Anime Animation Cel Ssj VegetaAnime Cel:  bubblegum Crisis/crash (1991) RareCap'n Crunch Rare 1980s Animation Production Cel Cereal Mascot Commercial ArtEarly 1960s Touche Turtle Dum Dum Hanna Barbera Animation Cel Wally Gator ArtFroot Loops Rare 1980s Animation Production Cel Cereal Mascot Commercial ArtScrooge Mcduck Disney Ducktales Production Animation Cel & Matching Drawing Monopoly Rare 1980s Animation Production Cel Mascot Commercial Parker BrothersProduction Animation Cel And Sketch Of Miss America From Ralph Bakshi's CoonskinJurassic Park Mr Dna Scene! Amber Universal Studios Original Production Cel ArtDeluxe Edition Serigraph Cel - Chilly WillyOriginal Robotech Macross Production Cel Of A Veritech Valkyrie FighterAnime Production Item Rare Dragon Ball Z Android #16 Animation CelDragonball Dragon Ball Z Dbz Anime Animation Cel Ssj GohanOriginal Production Animation Cel Lot Gambit And Professor X X-men Animated FoxRare Jiminy Cricket 1950s Walt Disney Production Cel Wonderful World Tv Shows"the Best" ! “authentic” Spongebob Production Cel #5351 Sb-129 Blast 3 CelsDon Bluth "thumbelina" Animation Art Cel (set Of 2)Magica De Spell Disney Ducktales Production Animation Cel Scrooge Mcduck Doug Funnie Original Production Cel Cell Animation Art Coa Nickelodeon Coa Seal Original Production Cel Sketch And Storyboard Lot From The Real GhostbustersFr-11 Han And Leia Film Cel Relic Card Star Wars Illustrated Empire Strikes BackS313. Marco Polo Junior Original Hand-painted Dragon Animation Cel (1972)Warner Bros Limited Edition Animation Cel Animaniac's "baloney In Our Slacks"