by Brooke Kennedy
Back in 1934, a man named Walt Disney had an idea to create a full length animated feature film titled Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. At the time, the idea of a completely animated full length movie was considered quite absurd. Nonetheless, after its release in 1937 it became a worldwide sensation with chart topping songs and its own specially made Oscar (there was no academy award for animation at the time). Now – nearly a century later after breaking the glass ceiling in animation – production pieces from the film are now going for thousands of dollars.
Production art – namely animation cels and concept art – has become highly sought after by buyers for their connections to classic features. In 2015, original production cels featuring two portrayals of the Evil Queen sold for $25,599. Another cel – this time of Snow White famously dancing with some of the dwarfs – was sold for $12,864 in June 2016. But how are fans able to attain all of these pieces of animation history?
With the help of auction houses like RR Auction, you can own all of your favorite moments in animation. For years RR Auction has held auctions dedicated to the craft, offering every piece of animation memorabilia you can think of.
Their long list of sales includes concept art by Disney legends Mary Blair and Eyvind Earle, production cels from Disney and Hanna-Barbera productions, signatures and photographs from Walt Disney, comic strips designed by illustrator Charles Schulz, and other rare memorabilia.
Blair and Earle concept arts have been sought after for their connections to Disney’s classic animations – with Blair having worked on Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan and Earle on Sleeping Beauty – and some have earned bids over $30,000. Original Charles Schulz comic strips depicting his Peanuts characters have also been a hit at auction, with the highest priced strip reaching close to $40,000 at RR Auction. With the nostalgia many people hold for classic films, these pieces are considered holy grails to anyone who can get their hands on them.
“Seeing the cartoons on TV is one thing… [collectors] want something from the films,” says Harry Kleiman, “If you have a piece of the animation you have an original.”
Harry Kleiman is an animation enthusiast based in California, and has been collecting production memorabilia since age eleven.
“There were several cartoons that sparked my interest in animation. The classic cartoons like The Flintstones, The Jetsons,” said Kleiman, “but there was one that aired on Sunday evenings during Disney’s The Wonderful World of Color. It was called Ben and Me.”
The cartoon Kleiman refers to is an animated short originally released back in 1953, chronicling the relationship between a mouse named Amos and Founding Father Ben Franklin.
“After that, I wrote a letter to Disney and I wrote a letter to Hanna-Barbera. Disney wrote me back a letter thanking me for my interest, but Hanna-Barbera sent me three cels…the first three cels I ever had.”
These three cels sparked the beginning of a lifelong passion – and an extensive collection. During his high school years, Kleiman would go around to every studio in the Los Angeles area and learn everything he could about animation. As he grew older he continued to follow his passion and maintained relationships in the industry along with creating new ones. Having curated an impressive collection of animation pieces, he now aims to educate new collectors on the art form in the wake of technological advancement.
Due to the rapid rise of computer generated animation, a new standard style has emerged in the world of animation – with 2D animation slowly being phased out. Long gone are the days of commonly using celluloid paper and hand-drawn and painted animation as companies adopt this new technology – including Disney. Recent hits like Frozen, Tangled, and Encanto have made use of 3D animation to positive reviews, with more films expected to continue this trend. Still, the magic of 2D animation hasn’t lost its twinkle in the eyes of collectors like Kleiman.
“If you look at films like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, the figures have personality through art,” he says, “Now it’s all CGI, but you can’t get a lot of detail and expression on a computer.”
To help get animation memorabilia into the hands of passionate collectors, Kleiman lends his authentication skills to RR Auction and provides the history behind these pieces to our bidders. Since 2014, RR Auction has sold more than $6 million worth of animation pieces with that number only expected to grow.
“The reason I still put together auctions with RR Auction is because I get to see what I looked like as a kid when I received a piece of art for the first time. I get to see their eyes light up again.”
Since Snow White’s premiere in 1937, production art from these classic films have seen a huge spike in popularity – with several pieces going for tens of thousands of dollars each. RR Auction has been honored to offer many pieces from talented artists and animators and get them into the hands of nostalgic fans who experienced these films during their childhood. While animation has seen its fair share of advancements, dedicated collectors like Kleiman still find ways to appreciate the magic of 2D animation.
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