Posted in Antiques & Art


Most Americans have grown up watching and loving cartoons. Needless to say, I am one of them, so you can only imagine my joy when I discovered that I could actually have a “real” Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse painting or cel, as they are known, to decorate my walls. Animation art can sell anywhere between $5.00 upwards into the tens of thousands. So what makes one piece more valuable than others?
There are five major factors that impact the value of animation art. They are:
The Studio
The movie or cartoon
Character and position
Type of animation art
The Studio:
The animation studio is considered the artist not the individual animators. It is important when making comparisons that similar studios are used according to the reputation, style of animation and the general output of successful cartoons that were created.
Disney is the big name in animation with Warner Bros a close second followed by such companies as Hanna Barbera, and DePatie Freleng. Most of these studios have made innovations in the style, technique and advancement of animation. They have decades of creating successful animation films, iconic characters and television cartoons. Very few studios can compare to these giants.
Movie or Cartoon, time period:
The popularity of the cartoon and the time period that it was created in also affects the value consideration. The time from when Disney started through the 1940’s is considered their Golden years, and the Vintage years are from the 1950’s to 1967.
Character and position:
Just like the leading lady and man earn the most, the major characters in cartoons are the most sought after and are more valuable than secondary characters.
The position of the character contributes to the desirability of the art. The production of the cartoon necessitates many scenes in which the back of the characters, the characters
are very small or are in other unusual positions so that there is smooth motion in the cartoon. Although these pieces are important in the creation of the cartoon, they are visually unappealing to the collector.
There are some scenes in cartoons or animation films that become defining moments. Most cartoons do not have one. An example of one is from Fantasia by Disney Studios when Mickey is on the mountain top. This scene is the most memorable and visually exciting moment of the movie. Animation art of Mickey on the mountain top is worth more than he is from other scenes from this same movie. Lady & the Tramp has one of these moments which is the spaghetti eating scene.
Type of Animation Art:
There is a hierarchy in desirability of the types of animation art. The order of desirability listed with the most desirable first is:
A set with the production cels, production backgrounds and matching drawings
A set with production cels & production background
A set with production cels and matching drawings
Production cel or production background
Pencil drawing used to create cel, aka animator’s pencil drawing
Storyboard or layout drawing
Model cels
All other items
There are also non-production pieces such as hand painted limited edition cels and sericels.
These characters, cartoons and animation movies have brought such joy and laughter to our lives. Collecting animation art brings these wonderful memories to your home.

Melanie Smith

Melanie is the co-owner of Seaside Art Gallery, Nags Head, NC which specializes in original fine art. The gallery was founded in 1961 by her parents and she has grown up in the world of art. She has organized numerous art shows, acted as an art judge and is an accredited fine art and animation art appraiser with the International Society of Appraisers.

Visit: Seaside Art Gallery
PO Box 1
2716 So Virginia Dare Trail
Nags Head, NC 27959

Leave a Reply