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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Walt Disney Studios "Pinocchio, 1940." Gheppeto and Figaro. Sold for $25,300. Photo courtesy of Christie's East
Crunched down in my seat at the movies, arms cemented at my sides, I remember the first time I watched the evil queen order her huntsmen into the woods to find and kill Snow White. The young maiden’s gutted heart would be placed in a box like leftover chicken parts so the queen could see, without any doubt, Snow White was dead.

I was probably around 6 at the time, but watching that movie again some 40-years later with my young son, the scene still stops me cold.

Walt Disney characters like Snow White, Mickey Mouse, Bambi, Donald Duck, Pinocchio, and Pooh weave a spell around audiences that never seems to die. A well-established capacity to stir us up with silly laughter or senseless commotion.

The Snow White story poses a simple study at mastering our destiny while keeping the forces of evil at bay.

Animation as entertainment is one thing. What about animation as art form?

“Walt Disney used the best animators of his era,” says Elyse Luray-Marx, animation art specialist at Christie’s East, New York. “They were museum quality artists working in a very emotional and nostalgic art form. So much time and attention went into each drawing. Granted, the actual movie cels weren’t meant to be put on a wall like a painting, but that adds to their value. They’re objects that were not meant to be collected, and they’re being collected.”

Snow White led the bidding at Christie’s East animation art auction on Dec. 12, 1996. Of the 161 lots offered, 90 percent sold, totaling $529,080. Thus proving that vintage Disney cels are hotter than ever.

Luray-Marx says people have a major attachment to Snow White, the dwarfs, and the queen with her “heart box.” It’s the most popular animated movie for collectors. After that come Mickey Mouse and Pinocchio.

A Snow White “Dances with the Dwarfs” cel, from the 1937 movie, set a record at the auction. Estimated to bring $12,000-$15,000, the cel realized $23,000.

“The Queen holding her heart box” brought $21,275. “Snow White sings to a bird” sold for $18,400. “The witch offering Snow White the apple,” realized $13,800.

From the first week of its showing in 1937, “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs” took off at the box office. The average movie ticket back then cost 25 cents, and Snow White played to 20 million people, grossing more than $8 million. It was dubbed into 10 languages and distributed throughout 46 countries. As the first full feature animation film in history, Snow White set a course for many more to come and started a trend in collectibles history.

“Animation cels as a category has become very strong in the last 10-years,” says Luray-Marx. “The interest in popular culture items is worldwide. About 40 percent of the sales go overseas.”

Q. I have a replica Edison lamp made for the invention anniversary. It’s complete and in good condition. It was acquired in the ‘30s by my family. Enclosed is the photo. Any info on it?

A. There are collectors who collect lamps and collectors who collect light bulbs. What you have is actually a reproduction type light bulb in a socket fashioned after an original light bulb.

The originals produced before the turn-of-the-century are not only rare but also valuable. A typical 1888 Edison bulb featured a blown-glass bulb with carbonized bamboo filament (that’s the part that gets hot and gives off light when electricity passes through it.)

In fact, the filament is one way collectors date old bulbs. Filaments made before 1906 are thick. They’ll have either carbonized bamboo or cellulose filaments.

Vertical zigzags of straight wire filaments usually date from 1907 to 1920. Pre-1900 bulbs are also going to be asymmetrical in shape. In pre-1920 bulbs, you’ll see a projection on top, that’s the remnant of the hole where the air was evacuated. That projection shows up on your replica.

The General Electric Company is a familiar name today and is actually an outgrowth of the Edison firm.

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