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!


Richard Harrison said...

Wonderful! As an aficionado of Mary Poppins and Donald these really hit the spot. It's so nice to see a restoration effort for these cels. Might I ask about the DVD transfer of Steel and America? Was it from one of the education series VHS tapes?


I was able to purchase an old 16mm print on eBay, which I had transferred to DVD.

Isn't it a shame more of this obscure Disney material isn't readily available on DVD? The production values are very good and the character animation terrific as expected. It's always intriguing to see a lesser known film for the first time.

quickdisco said...

wow that was very merticulous of u to suss all that detail out! keep up the good work! btw i was wondering can u tell me where did u send ur cels for restoration and how much did it cost? I'm thinking of sending some of mine for restoration, would be glad to hear your opinion.

Janet Murray said...

Thank you for having this resource. I have had of these Cels since 1967 (in my nursery). I have Donald lifting up a steel beam and dancing penguins at his side. Can you tell me what it may be worth and where would be a good place to cell? Can I find Steel in America anywhere?


Hello Richard! Sorry about my english... I have some cels similar than this one u show. Do u have a email so i can send u the pictures of them?

Best Regards