Back to the Past is proud to be handling some utterly gorgeous animation cels and production artwork! But what is production art, and how might it differ from other commercially available animation cel art? Let us explain!
Production Art and Production Cels
Production art and production cels are, simply put, art made in the course of producing a cartoon. Animation is a very labor-intensive process, with each frame drawn by hand. Key frames, the start or end of a series of actions, were usually drawn by the lead animator while the ensuing actions were drawn by junior staffers handling the grunt work. Such pencil-and-paper drawings are the production art bedrock of any traditionally animated movie or TV show
Those pencil drawings were then inked onto clear sheets of celluloid before being painted. These celluloid sheets were then layered over a pre-drawn background to create the final image and photographed for use in a film or TV show. This process resulted in the creation of at least two collectible artworks per frame: the original pencil art and the finished animation cel. These are the most valuable pieces of collectible animation art because each one is one-of-a-kind. Since frames where a character is not mid-blink or mid-motion are relatively few, some of these one-of-a-kind pieces are more desirable than others.
Limited Edition Cels
Since the early 90s, the use of computers in animation has steadily grown. The 1992 film Aladdin, for instance, used computer coloring to finish its cels. That means that there aren’t any true production cels from the film – while it was hand drawn, it was not hand painted. But collectors still want cels from these films, so studios found a way to fill the niche. The cream-of-the-crop of such cels take the pencil production art for a particular frame, ink it onto celluloid, and then paint it by hand before marrying it to a genuine production background. Such pieces can either be one-of-a-kind or produced in limited quantities. They, like genuine production art, were typically available through studio stores and auction houses.
More common, however, are sericels. Sericels are pieces of animation art silk-screen printed onto celluloid sheets. They are, notably, not hand painted and in fact often lack backgrounds. When they do have backgrounds, it is usually a lithograph of the painted background used in production. While they look great, the methods used in their creation have more in common with the production of t-shirts and art prints than they do with animation. They were meant to capture the aesthetic of production art at a more affordable prices, geared at the budget-conscious studio store shopper. This doesn’t render them worthless, but it does mean they aren’t as valuable as the real deal.
Where To Buy Production Art
Genuine production art is usually sold in very narrow venues. You won’t be finding it at Target or GameStop. No, they are strictly sold at studio/theme park gift shops and at collectibles auction houses…like us! In fact, we are currently working our way through quite a bit of genuine animation production art, both initial pencils and final painted cels. They contain some beautiful examples, many already mounted and framed. Check it out in our new virtual art gallery, GoBackToThePast.Shop!
If you’ve got a collection of animation cels, production art, or any other genuine behind-the-scenes treasures you’re looking to sell, we’d love to help you do just that. And if you don’t, what cartoon are you hoping is in these collections? Let us know below or hit us up on social media @b2pcollect! Who knows, we might just have the animation cel of your dreams waiting in the wings!