Animation art is a form of applied art.

In the early part of the 20th century when animated cartoons were first created, the public was shocked and enchanted by the images. Never before in human history did non-existent creatures move as if they were alive. When the first Mickey Mouse cartoon reached Paris it was such a sensation that it had to be shown from early morning until late in the evening.

Every drawing or 'cel'-painting (a gouache on plastic to be precise) is used to create a fraction of a second in an animated cartoon. To make the images move you need thousands and thousands of sketches, drawings and paintings on see-through plastic. Until the 1950s plastic (or celluloid) was expensive, so after use the 'cels' (short for celluloid) were washed and used again and again. Most of the drawings were simply thrown away.

Art lovers realized in the 1950s that although these images were made in large quantities, some of them had an artistic value beyond their initial use. There was something special about these 'frozen moments' of a single frame. While most 'cels' and drawings were uninteresting and only had a use in a fast moving cartoon, some of the sketches, drawings and 'cels'  had an artistic quality of their own. More and more art experts began to realize these were true works of art; the result of great craftsmanship and created by highly talented artists. Even a dreadful animated cartoon may have a wonderful, emotional single celluloid of great quality. And of course every 'cel' and every drawing is unique.

On every original piece of animation art you will find production numbers to connect the image to the exact frame of the film. All have been used and show wear and tear. Nowadays almost all animation is done with computers so hardly any original paintings on celluloid are being made. That means original animation production art will become rare. Animation art is collected all over the world, especially in Japan and in the USA. In Europe it is still a largely undiscovered art form.


Many studios, starting in the 1960s, began to make copies of their best 'shots' and had artists repaint famous scenes and popular characters. Although you could say they are 'original' because they were hand-painted, they were not created with a higher goal in mind. Even today, although most cartoons are made with computers, you can still buy hand-painted 'cels' made in a limited edition. They are not part of animation history. It is comparable to repainting a Van Gogh painting. It has no artistic value. Studios also make high-end or even low-end colour copies of their most famous scenes and characters to sell them to fans.

To give an example: an original cell from the Disney classic Fantasia might sell for $500.000. A 'limited edition' may still cost $4.000 and even a sericel could cost $100. A studio has only one original, so they keep the artwork in their archives and sell copies. There is also a growing number of criminals active in the field of animation art. As the value of the classic cartoon art is increasing year after year, it becomes very tempting to copy and sell them on-line. A real Simpsons-cel costs over $500 but you could easily find a fake one for $150 in an on-line shop.


At Animation Nation you will find only original art used in the actual making of an animated cartoon. We select on the basis of originality, artistry, pose and expression. Beside classic pieces of animation and comic art, including works by Disney legend Carl Barks and early Disney artists, we show quality drawings and 'cels' from animated cartoons from all over the world.

Why we show it

We believe that animation art deserves more attention. The high quality of the drawings proves the artistry and craftsmanship of the animators of Hollywood. To some art experts the original Disney studio drawings for instance can be compared with sketches by Rembrandt or Da Vinci.