Friday, January 25, 2008


As you know, I like to say "every cel has a story to tell." This post documents many aspects of the excitement of cel collecting. Each phase of acquisition, restoration, and setup has its great moments.

In early 2007, I was able to obtain not one but two separate original Art Corner cel releases, featuring Mary Poppins' dancing penguins paired with Donald Duck cels from "America and Steel" (a 1963 industrial Disney edutainment film with live action and animation segments with Donald). As was the practice at the time, the cels were trimmed and stapled to plain pieces of colored art board.

The dancing penguins are among the most treasured of Poppins' animation art. How lucky I was to acquire two at virtually the same time! Here they are, close-up and side by side. The left penguin was mint, needing no restoration. The right penguin had paint "bleeding." It almost seems the art board leeches the paint away from the cel. You can see the cel paint outside the cel lines. This required minor restoration (clean up).
Next... here are the the Art Corner cels and their respective frames in each movie:

The Art Corner pieces were in varying conditions. On the "red B/G setup" the little Penguin on the top cel layer was carefully peeled away, completely intact and original, perfect and needing no repairs. Donald's cel paint had severely adhered to the art board (very common). This prevents adding a background. However, the paint remained original and in perfect condition. I opted to just leave this Donald cel "as is."

The "Gray" setup which I promply named "Bedraggled Donald" showed some common conditions seen in Art Corner cels. The penguin's paint had bled, which required the restoration artist to carefully refine the paint lines. Donald's paint was severely cracked and also had several points adhered to the Art board.

Unfortunately, the cel lost most of its original paint being separated from the art board, so it got a visit to the "Ink and Paint Spa" in Burbank, and received a meticulous makeover with exact color matching.

The restoration was a great success. Here is the restored cel, placed on the original art board. You can see the adhered original paint left behind. The red arrows point out the staple holes, another clear sign of Art Corner provenance.

Once the restorations were complete, it was time to design the setups.

I was able to get a DVD transfer of "AMERICA AND STEEL" and digitally re-created the key Master background for the restored Donald.

The completed setup with restored cel and key master background looks like this:

The other Donald I left as is. It later went to another collector.

I know you're wondering... how did the Penguins turn out?

One little guy was re-united with a perfectly key "Bert" and friends. He's the gray-bellied penguin far left. (Original cels rarely use white paint, as the intensely bright light used during cel photography would "flare." The gray color appears as white when photographed. Here is a scan of the finished setup.

As for the other Penguin, I had a custom-painted background created for just for him, a re-creation of the "restaurant" from which the penguins emerge during their moment in the film.

Like all the pieces in my collection, I love these more every time I see them. While I take my role as animation historian and caretaker very seriously, it's the joy of collecting that keeps me going!

Sunday, January 20, 2008


In December 2007 I was fortunate to acquire a cel of THUMPER from BAMBI. This little guy is such a charmer!

The cel was released in the 1940s through the Courvoisier Gallery program. It has the official WDP stamp in the lower right corner (Walt Disney Productions).

As was the practice at the time, the cel is laminated.

As a later Courvoisier release, it has a typically uninspired background. The early Courvoisier backgrounds were actually created by artists at Disney Studios and were more elaborate. Later releases like this one were prepared by art students in the San Francisco area, where Courvoisier was located.

The original moment in the movie included Thumper's family and looked like this:

I digitally re-created the entire original pan background:

I'm not sure if or when I might change the setup to match the film. For the moment, I am enjoying the simple vintage Courvoisier presentation.

DOC: Snow White

"Doc" from SNOW WHITE, playing the Swanette, is the latest addition to my cel collection, and arguably the prize of my collection. It is in the in best condition of all the SNOW WHITE cels I have ever seen. With the exception of residual tape marks on the outer edges, it is pristine. Most cels this old are very badly rippled and warped (the cel material shrinks with age). There is almost no rippling, just a tiny bit around the edges and no yellowing at all. The paint is original and flawless.

Also very unusual is the fact that this cel is untrimmed. Completely original and intact! (Note the registration holes at the bottom.)

In the film, the strings are animated. Two strings have been inked on the cel, and there is just a touch of airbrushing which brings a rosy glow to Doc's cheeks. This leads me to believe that the cel was prepared for release through the Courvoisier Galleries, but was "liberated" just before the usual trimming and setup. As the cel is so perfect, my guess is that this was taped to a board and stored away for most of the last seventy years. Here's a scanned close-up of the Doc cel:

I digitally created the key master background. As usual, the B/G makes the piece. The cel is magnificent, but with the key B/G there's no doubt this is a monumental piece of historic Disney art.

I love this movie, and to add this particularly fine cel to my collection is a thrill and a half!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

MICKEY Does a Fred Astaire!

I'm a baby boomer born just a bit too late for the debut of the original Mickey Mouse Club. However, encore performances (aka reruns) were going strong in the sixties, and I absolutely LOVED this show. Who wouldn't? Between Sunday nights and weekday afternoons, Disney TV with Walt defined my childhood. (Not to mention theatrical releases!)

Today's setup is the story of a truly classic piece of animation art: Mickey in one of his daily intros to the Mickey Mouse Club.

The original cel was released at Disneyland's Art Corner, trimmed and placed on a plain piece of powder blue art board. I acquired the cel in 2007. It needed minor restoration, as you can see, in these scans of both the Art Corner setup and the cel itself.

With the restoration accomplished, the next step was to digitally re-create a key Master background.

The original moment of animation looked like this:

I was able to digitally re-create the key Master background with the honky-tonk piano. But the setup looked odd displayed this way, with Mickey floating in mid-air. As a piece of in-between animation, Mickey was jumping off the piano bench onto the stage. Great energy and style in the cel, but the re-created setup just looked odd to my eye, displayed as an art piece.

So I chose to use another digitally re-created background of the empty spotlit stage:

It's the very rare occasion that a related but non-key background does a better job of showcasing the art. The animators imbued Mickey with style and charisma, and I believe the familiar stage of the Mickey Mouse Club (uncluttered by the piano, with Mickey planted firmly in the spotlight) is the perfect presentation of this wonderful cel.

The finished setup is the image that begins this post. What a treasure! I have several pieces of art from the Mickey Mouse Club. This is my favorite. Ya gotta love Mickey!

Friday, January 4, 2008


This SLEEPING BEAUTY setup (with production cel and key digitized master background) is an exact reproduction of one frame in the movie, when Prince Phillip and Princess Aurora descend the castle staircase.

Here is the precise moment in the film:

The cel is a "miniature" Art Corner piece (tiny figures with the cel trimmed to the extreme), originally released at Disneyland on a plain piece of light blue art board. Only a small point on Prince Phillip's chest had adhered. So the cel was carefully removed from the art board and the miniscule area with paint loss was professionally restored.

I was able to digitally reproduce the key master background, no small feat as the animated figures were descending the stairs during a zoom shot! The entire digitally recreated background looks like this:

(Of course the digitized background had to be cropped to match the trimmed cel.)

The end result is this exquisite setup.

The fact that that it is a "miniature" is a plus for me... it makes the delicacy of the fine hand-inked lines even more remarkable.