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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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This animation art of Snow White and two rabbits sold for $6,325. Photo courtesy of Sotheby's
Snow White sits on a rock surrounded by furry creatures. The raccoons, deer, birds, rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels watch her closely as though the young maiden holds an answer to some age-old mystery.

It’s a storybook scene that lingers in the memory of most grown-up children. A storybook world where people do live happily ever after.

Characters like Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Lady and the Tramp, Bambi, Jiminy Cricket, Alice in Wonderland, and Pooh Bear never seem to lose their appeal.

So it’s no surprise when adults start collecting animation art. It’s the reality of a fantasy.

When the movie “Snow White” first appeared in 1937, nearly a half million drawings were used to create the movie. It was Disney’s first full-length animated film.

Before Snow White, no one thought much about animation art. Most of it disappeared. Some was destroyed. Some was given away to people who visited the studio, and the artists involved in the creation often took it home.

Snow White changed everything. Her character was so precious to moviegoers the studios decided to preserve the animators’ artwork.

This inspired a new genre in collecting.

“Animation art has such a nostalgic appeal,” says Dana Hawkes, director of the collectibles department at Sotheby’s. “It brings out the child in all of us.”

The animation cels (celluloid) people collect are basically the transparent sheets on which each bit of action in the film was set. On June 20, 1998, Sotheby’s, New York offered a collection of vintage cels and artwork from Walt Disney’s 1930s through 1960s classic films. There were 303 lots in the sale totaling $482,482.

“The market over the last few years has been steady,” say Hawkes. “It’s kept up with inflation.”

Which animation artwork is most collectible?

People want the main characters we all recognize from feature films like Dumbo being cradled in his mom’s trunk. Or the evil ones like the Queen in “Snow White.” The best examples continue to bring the best prices.

A 9-by-9 inch pencil and watercolor illustration of Snow White surrounded by her forest friends done for Disney Press, together with a copy of the original book in which the artwork appeared sold for $920.

A 10-by-12 inch gouache (watercolor heightened with white) on celluloid of Cruella De Vil from “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” brought $1,840. A 9-by-11˝ inch gouache on celluloid of Dumbo following his mom down the ramp realized $4,025. A 10-by-12 inch production drawing of Mickey Mouse from “Fantasia” sold for $2,875.

The top lot in the auction was a two-cel set-up from “Hercules” showing Meg, Hercules, Phil and Pegasus. The 19˝-by-25 inch cels were estimated to sell for $2,500-$3,500, and brought $12,650.

In terms of evaluating cels, “You want to notice if the character displays a full frontal view, a shot from behind, or a profile,” says Hawkes. “Are the eyes open or closed? Does the cel have the original production background? What’s the condition? All of these factors affect value.”

Cels can be restored professionally, but you never want to tamper with them yourself.

“Deal with people you trust when making purchases,” says Hawkes. “There’s a lot of misrepresentation out there.”

Every fall I receive letters from readers asking about the value of Christmas ornaments. Age, condition, rarity and uniqueness are the important factors here. But pictures show you what I mean.

I’d like to recommend several books you can look for in your local library. The first is a three volume set called "Christmas Ornaments, Lights and Decorations" by George Johnson, published by Collector Books in Paducah, Ky. Johnson has been collecting for 25-years. His books show good quality color photos and current values on everything imaginable in the field. The second book is "Christmas Collectibles" by Margaret & Kenn Whitmyer, also published by Collector Books. This 302-page text also provides the color photos you need for identification. Prices are listed in the back.

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