But That’s Not All Folks

porky picCartoon cels could be a lost art -- literally. There is a limited amount of the old handpainted acetate or nitrate cels (short for celluloid) because every cartoon now is computer generated (CG). So the limited supply alone makes it a great collectible.

If you’re new to collecting, check out sites like the Cartoon Factory, Animation Art Gallery, or Animation Connection. Also, visit eBay and study what’s for sale and the range of prices.

Look for a seal that authenticates the cel, although not all foghorn leghornwill include it. Some cels still have a paper backing with a character hand-drawn on it. Cels were used for cartoons, commercials, movies and TV specials. The different types of cels include production art that was handpainted and one-of-a-kind, as well as sericels that were made in editions that numbered a thousand or more, and created via silkscreen.

If you are looking for a rationale for your collection, do what art lovers and wine collectors do -- just buy what you like. Got a thing for Warner Brothers cartoons? Then smurfettefocus your collection on these cels exclusively. Or on the Smurfs, or Star Trek, or whatever. Prices can range from $40 to a $600 Snow White, or even thousands of dollars for rare, signed art.

Since animation was create in sequence, each original cel has a number (e.g. A1), and the lower the number the more likely it was painted by a more qualified artist. If you see the terms genga or douga, this refers to pencil outline drawings that are done after the storyboard stage of an animation’s development. Genga refers to the more detailed sketches done to show the movement sequence. Douga art is what the cel is based on, and these lines are then traced on to the acetate. sylvesterThese days, it’s also the last step before the computer takes over to handle the graphic coloring.

What do you do with your collection? Most cel fans frame them, but you need to be careful with the multi-layered examples. The cels are fragile enough without be damaged in the framing process. You have ink on the front and paint on the back, so neither side should touch anything. There are special reverse-bevel back mats that are made for framing delicate materials such as cels. Matboard also needs to be acid-free on both sides. If you don’t think you can get all these steps right, leave it to the pros and extend the life of the cels.

There are so many sub-categories of cels that the possibilities for assembling a unqiue collection are endless. Japanese anime, Disney, Warner Brothers, Hanna Barbera are major categories or you can just concentrate on one character or show.

Now’s the time to release your inner Scooby Doo!

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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