Behind the scenes of our Disney Vintage collection!

It may seem hard to believe now, but when Disney first began making feature-length films in 1937, each movement had to be captured by an individual animation drawing and corresponding cel. Hundreds of animators worked together in one building to create the illusion of life through hand-painted cels. Here, we take you through some of their tools.

Sericel

Sericels, or serigraphic cels, are a form of animation art, typically created as limited edition prints, which depict characters or a scene from a full-length feature or animation short.

These images are created as silkscreens, with artists creating a hand-inked, hand-painted colour model of animated characters which is then transferred to an acetate sheet by silkscreen printing.

Storyboard

A storyboard is a series of sketches which helps filmmakers to visualise a plot sequence by mapping out the story. Identifying inconsistencies or chances for further development, the method is a useful tool for previewing a film before the cameras start rolling.

The concept is credited to the animator Webb Smith, who developed the idea at the Walt Disney Studio in the early 1930s. Storyboarding is still used in production today for both animated and live-action feature films.

Production background

All production cels are photographed on production backgrounds during the making of any animation.

Production backgrounds are the most rare and valuable form of animation art due to the fact that only a few hundred of them are ever made for a feature-length animation. 

Model sheet

Used to ensure continuity between the many artists who collaborated on an individual film, model sheets – also known as character boards – standardise the appearance and poses of characters.

As ‘blueprints’, they depict the character’s head and body at different angles, basic facial expressions and detailed guidelines for their hands and feet.

Production cel

A clear sheet of either cellulose nitrate (cel) or acetate onto which the character or characters have been traced and then painted. The most common method is for an animator’s drawing to be inked or xeroxed onto the front of the cel and then painted with colour on the back.

Each second of animated film is made up of 24 individual cels which, when combined, create the illusion of life.

Animation production drawing

Animation drawings are accomplished in pencil on paper and are the first step in the final creation of characters. Each drawing will be traced onto the animation cel to form the black outline before it is filled with colour and photographed.

Art Corner set-up

The Art Corner was a retail store that operated at Disneyland from 1955 until 1966. Located in Tomorrowland, it was a primary sales point where Disney sold original cels. These cels were typically sold in cardboard mattes with gold seals on the back.

Courvoisier set-up

Guthrie Courvoisier was a leading San Francisco fine art dealer in 1937, the year Walt Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was Courvoisier who convinced them to market the art used to create their animated films.

What makes these pieces so unique is the style and manner in which the Disney Studios artists prepared it. The special backgrounds drawn and painted, along with the interesting materials used in their preparation, make these works very sought-after.

Featured Artist

From the blog

Original art from unforgettable Disney movies

11/12/2021

Join us on magical journey with a special selection of Disney Vintage art, including cels and model sheets from films like Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio. Plus find out more about the creation of Cruella de Vil.

Rare animation art from the Hanna-Barbera studio

09/12/2020

This nostalgic release includes hand-signed, limited edition cels featuring characters like Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear and Top Cat from “the birthplace of TV animation”.

Now on: The Art of Animation in Brighton!

09/06/2021

Our touring exhibition of rare Disney and Hanna-Barbera is currently on display at our Brighton gallery!

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