WHAT: An iconic cel from Walt Disney’s circa 1937 animated film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” sold for $33,460 this month in an auction of animation art at Heritage Auctions in Dallas. Short for celluloid, a cel is a clear sheet of plastic or acetate that is hand-painted on the back for use in an animated work. Viewed in quick succession, cels give the illusion of movement: Think of a child’s flip book.
MORE: Pre-1940s, Disney used nitrate cels in production; with time they have rippled and discolored. But in the late 1930s and early ‘40s, many production cels were saved by Courvoisier Galleries, where they were preserved, framed and sold. This is such a cel, and it ultimately ended up in the Ray Bradbury collection.
SMART COLLECTORS KNOW: Animation art has been collected since the early days. The earliest cels of Mickey Mouse, showing a rat-faced Mickey, have become museum grade. If/when they sell, prices are astounding.
As a result, most collectors are limited to what they can afford. Very few commercial cels will appreciate in value, but the art is available at varied levels.
HOT TIP: To be significant, a cel must have been used in production and, most importantly, the visual must link to the source. Consider the impact of the old hag offering Snow White the poison apple. Unforgettable.
BOTTOM LINE: Significant cels from early days sell big. In the same Heritage auction another Courvoisier cel, a 1940 Mickey Mouse production cel from “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” in “Fantasia,” fetched $20,912.50.