Copyrighted © October 13, 1992 by Curtis Hoffmann
Converted to HTML (with permission) May 27, 2003 by Rob Kelk
Permission is granted to cross-post this file in whole to other computer networks (in fact, I'd be very happy if someone would crosspost this to Fido.) This file may be re-printed in a fanzine or newsletter as long as I'm notified, in exchange for a copy of the issue this article appears in. This article can not be altered, or re-printed in a for-profit magazine, without permission.
A glossary of terms can be found at the end of this article.
Additional suggestions provided by Robert Woodhead. [RW]
With the increased interest in anime artwork,
more people on R.A.A. are suddenly finding themselves
the (more or less) proud owners of anime cels. But, the question now
being asked is "How do I take care of these things?" and "What do I do with it?"
They are simple questions. I'll ask one simple question myself.
What do you want to do with your cel?
A little bit of background.
When the director is laying down the framework of a film, two things are done at once -- the writers create the storyboard, and the director draws the model sheets to circulate amongst all of the animators. The animators use the model sheets to ensure that no matter who is drawing what character, any given character will look the same from one scene to the next. The pencil roughs are shot as a pencil test, and then when the director approves the pencil test, the roughs will be passed on to the assistant animators for clean-up, and then to the in-betweeners so that they can draw the pictures that the animators skipped. The final pencil drawings may be filmed for another pencil test, after which the pencils will be xeroxed onto the clear plastic cels. While this is happening, the background artists will be painting the artwork for all of the different scenes, and the special effects animators will start work on things like rain, and missile attacks.
It is much easier for the animator to draw the action for one character at a time for each scene, so if two or more characters appear in a scene, each character will be placed on a separate cel (the combination is called a cel set-up.) Unless, two characters are in physical contact (ie. -- holding hands,) in which case they'll be drawn on the same cel.
The pencil drawings will have written notes on them to tell the paint department which colors to use in painting each part of a character, for each cel. When the paint department is done with a given scene, it will be placed under the camera to create the master film.
At the same time, the voice actors may be laying down the dialog tracks. When the animation has been filmed, the sound effects are recorded, and mixed in with the voices. If this is a movie, or OAV, the required number of copies will be struck from the master.
You now have a finished film. (There will be some exceptions to the above steps, depending on the director, studio, and budget.)
Well, in western animation circles, you can buy finished pencil drawings, production cels, backgrounds, model sheets, storyboards, lithographs, and seriagraphs. Each has its own merits, rules for handling and storage, and rules for judging its value. The same holds true for anime cels.
In general, the less you handle any form of artwork, the longer it will last. Make sure that your hands are clean. If they are greasy (ie. -- your natural body oils have
built up a little,) wash them throughly with soap, and make sure your hands are completely dry. Hold the art work by the corners, or edges. If you are holding the artwork flat, support it in the
middle with your hand, and be careful to not get it dirty or greasy.
If you have obtained your cel and the matching pencil drawing at the same time, the cel may have been placed directly on top of the pencil drawing. This may be a problem, because the paint from the cel may have attached itself to the paper, and if you try to pull the paper free, you could possibly damage the cel, or cause the paint to peel off the cel in flakes. And, the longer you wait to separate the pencil drawing from the cel, the worse the problem will become. If you don't want to risk damaging the cel, take it to an animation gallery and ask an expert to remove the pencil drawing for you.
"Cels can be separated from the pencil-test by gentle peeling. Bend the paper, not the cel, and work around the edges of the stuck bit. I've yet to have any paint stick to the paper." [RW]
If you just want to keep your artwork in storage (either as an investment, or because you don't want to display it any more,) do not stack lots of cels on top of each
other. The ideal is to have a special shelf cabinet with thin sliding shelves spaced an inch apart: this way you can store maybe 2 or 3 cels in a stack per shelf.
Do not place heavy objects on top of the cel. This stresses the paint, may cause it to crack sooner, and may also cause the paint to adhere to whatever is touching it. If you don't have a cel shelf, buy some semi-glossy paper, some animation paper, or even animation cels, and use same to protect the paint on the back side when you put the cel in storage (otherwise, the different cels may stick to each other.) Tissue paper is also good. Then, store the cels as you would record albums -- in a vertical position, with something stiff (like heavy cardboard, or a thin sheet of wood or metal) to act as a support to prevent the cels from sagging or curling. If you have the matching background painting, store it together with its cel(s).
Pencil drawings, model sheets, and storyboards can be stored just like any other paper records that you want to have kept in good condition. Placing them in a folder and stored vertically is just fine, but they can also be kept in a stack.
As a general rule, any artwork placed in direct sunlight will fade and age more quickly.
For storage conditions, keep in mind that temperature and humidity extremes that make you feel uncomfortable will probably also have an adverse effect on your artwork. So, try to keep the temperature between 50 and 90 degrees, and the humidity fairly low.
If your artwork has been framed, feel free to stack the frames on top of each other, with some kind of padding in the middle to prevent scratches to the frames themselves.
If your artwork has been matted, wrap the mattes in tissue paper, and either place them on storage shelves, or placed vertically in a box with enough support to keep the mattes from sagging or bending under their own weight (but not so tightly packed as to squeeze the mattes and cels.)
In general, storyboards are fine on their own.
Model sheets can either be matted or framed (but it's just as good to carefully place them in a special notebook or folder ala a photo album.)
Backgrounds should be kept with their matching cels, if you have them.
Lithographs and seriagraphs are intended to be framed -- either in a matte, or under glass like any other picture or cel.
Cels can be either matted, or framed under glass. (If you have a multi-cel set-up, and/or the background painting, just line up the registration holes, and place the cels
over the background as necessary.) If you can afford it, take your artwork to an animation gallery, and pay them to do this for you. One of the advantages for this is the gallery can help you select
the type of matteboard or frame to use. If you are going to do the work yourself, get some mounting tape from an art supply shop, and the matte board or frames you want.
Presentation of the cels is really just a matter of personal taste. So, look over the selection of matte boards and frames to see which one will work best with your given character and/or scene. Remember, you don't need to use a square opening -- a thin rectangle, diamond, oval, or circular opening around your character may look better. Choice of color and the number of layers of the matte (2 or 3 layers, in a step-like effect) are up to you. If you don't have the original background art, feel free to use colored construction paper, or something else. Otherwise, the cel will be sitting on a white backing board, which may look very boring. The main guidelines to follow are: try to keep the image area centered in the frame, and do not cut the cel up to make it easier to center.
A CEL THAT HAS BEEN CHOPPED UP IS WORTHLESS FOR RE-SALE.
Attach the tape only to the top corners of the cel. If you apply the tape to the full edge of the cel, the cel will warp as it stretches and expands with time. (Cels change their size with age and temperature.) Then, just let the cel hang free at the bottom -- it'll be ok this way. When you tape the cel to the matte, or frame, position the artwork to be as centered, and visible, as possible.
If you are framing your cels, keep in mind that as a cel ages, it emits a gas that will build up inside the frame. So, every 6 months to a year, you should open up the frame to let the artwork air. Otherwise, the cel and/or paper will become discolored. I don't think that there are any hard-and-fast rules for how long the artwork should air -- an hour may be enough. At the same time, you should replace the tape, to eliminate any sagging that may have developed.
"When mounting and framing cels, make sure that the matte, backing paper and tape are all 100% acid free." [RW] This is a good point, because acid-based mattes will accellerate the aging process of the cel.
"UV-resistant plexiglass is a better choice than glass for a frame, as it protects the cel from sunlight better, and will not break and scratch the cel if you drop it." [RW]
Do not frame your pencil drawings underneath your cels. Store the pencils as you would the model sheet.
If you are like Hitoshi Doi, you want to keep the cels in good condition but don't want to hang them on your walls. If this
is the case, find a notebook or similar-style folder, and place the cels inside ala a photo album, keeping the pencil drawings in a separate folder. Place sheets of tissue paper between the combined
cel set-ups if necessary to keep each set-up from sticking to the next. (It is not necessary to put tissue paper between each cel of a given set-up. In fact, most cel dealers will staple the cels
together for a set-up, and then mount the set-up with the staples in place.) Then, store the folders in a vertical position.
Since you may get your cels stapled together for a set-up, I suggest removing the staples before mounting and/or storage. Because the cels will expand and contract at different rates, the staples may actually cause the cels to warp with time.
If you are buying a cel as an investment, there are certain guidelines that animation collectors follow that you should be aware of. The generally accepted attitude holds
that the best cels are ones where a character is positioned in the middle of the cel, facing the camera, with the eyes open, in a full-length pose, with the matching background art. If the feet are
cut off, the eyes are partially closed, or the character is too far to any edge of the frame, that cel is considered to be inferior. However, close-ups of the face and shoulders are also considered to
be good for a full-on, or 3/4 profile, with the eyes fully open, and mouth closed. Of course, if the character(s) is in an interesting pose, or is in the middle of an unusual action, this is also
considered to be desirable.
If you can get the original background, do so. Otherwise, feel free to present your cel with any home-made background (or colored paper) as you see fit. Also try to get the pencil drawings, if available.
Any scratches directly on the cel, folds, creases, smears, or cuts will devalue the cel. Also, if the cel has paint stuck on it, or ink that doesn't belong, this should be removed by a professional before mounting or storage (keep in mind that this will cost money, and doing it yourself may cause more damage to the cel than not, so this cost should be figured as part of the actual purchase price.) Check, too, for places where the paint has flaked off.
Another problem that I have seen lately are jagged-looking xerox lines. Originally, the outlines of a character were carefully hand-inked by humans, but now they're just transferred to the cel via xerox. The result is a line that has rough edges, and is broken rather than continuous. Many of the anime cels I've been looking at have xerox lines that look so bad as to detract from the rest of the picture. (This probably means that the xerox machine used was either very cheap, or needs a cleaning.) It's best to have a crisp, thin black ink line, or even better -- outlines inked in using shades of color matching the neighboring patches of paint.
If you simply want to buy a cel of your favorite character, you're probably going to ignore the above guidelines, and will just purchase whatever you can find and afford.
Keep in mind that if you decide to sell your artwork at a later time, you may be doing so at a loss.
However, you're the one that has the final word on matters of taste, so go ahead and get whatever appeals to you, regardless of what other people might like, or suggest.
Caveat: As with anything, animation artwork has a value as long as the series, movie, or director remains popular. And while at least one person wants to buy your artwork
for more than you payed for it. When the popularity fades, the value will decrease. Further, while demand exceeds supply, you can dictate your own terms. Therefore, if the market is flooded with cels
for one show, or there are simply too many shows in the market compared to the number of investors, the value of a cel will drop to nothing. Which means, animation is one of the riskier forms of
investment. Especially since tastes change, and what you think is valuable may turn out to be completely worthless at a later date.
In the traditional world of American animation collecting, seriagraphs and lithographs are an artificial market. Any company that printed up a limited number of copies of a given lithograph, may choose to print up a second run and thereby destroy the resale value of the first edition. Also, the only reason a given litho increases in value is that other people want to buy one at the higher cost. If the market loses interest in a given litho, you may not be able to sell it at any price. Personally, I won't touch a litho or seriagraph, but other people buy them because of the unique poses and/or settings, and because the initial purchase price may be lower than that of an original production cel.
Storyboards can easily be xeroxed, so be careful of paying too much for a copy. If you can find the original pencil version, you probably won't be able to afford more than 5 or 10 pages out of the 200 to 300 pages used for a standard movie. This is again a matter of personal taste, but the one rule to follow is: make sure that the pencils aren't smeared, and the paper is in good condition. Because there's only one original storyboard per movie or TV episode, they can be very expensive, and are a good investment as long as the given show or movie remains popular. (And, the storyboards get handled a lot when the story is being developed and altered, so the paper will eventually get roughed up.)
Model sheets are more valuable than pencil drawings, as long as the model sheet can be autheticated (after all, it is one of several copies, and what can be copied once, can be copied any number of times,) and they are in good condition.
Pencil drawings normally have no real value. Unless, they are drawings of very popular characters from very popular shows, where the cels are no longer available. (A pencil drawing of Ayukawa from KOR could be sold for upwards of $600, if it were a good pose, and you could find the right buyer.)
Backgrounds are valuable only when paired up with the matching cels. However, in many cases, the background may be nothing more than some speed lines, and can easily be replaced with a photo of the men's room in the JFK Airport.
Production cels can range wildly in value, depending on: whether the pose is bad; the character is too small; it's not a popular character; it's not a popular show; you have the matching background; etc. A boring cel isn't worth $5. A cel of the Dirty Pair could be worth more than $500. And as time passes, the number of available cels will drop for each show -- either because of mishandling, destruction, or simple demand. The result being that if a show is no longer being made, the supply will naturally drop independent of demand.
Animation art is very easy to forge. And it's a real problem when you realize that a Disney Little Mermaid cel can go for $7000, and can be forged at a
probable cost of $100. While no one is going to forge a cel of Mary Bell, there is a greater possibility for making a profit from an Orange Road, City Hunter, or
Keep this in mind when someone has priced an amazing find ridiculously low, or they have a cel that is absolutely impossible to find anywhere else. If it's too good to be true, it's probably a fake.
It's easier to spot a forged Bambi cel (the paints used in the fake may be too clear and vibrant, the cel may not be aged and discolored enough, or the registration holes may not have been in use at the time the film was made.) Faked anime cels are much harder to spot, and most anime studios do not stamp their cels for authenticity.
Maybe they should start.
So, just be careful.
Animation art is animation art, regardless of whether it's a cel of Scooby Doo, Hammmerman, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, or your favorite giant robot. The guidelines for
handling, storage, and presentation are the same. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in Rec.Arts.Animation, or go to the nearest animation art gallery
and ask for advice there. But, using simple common sense won't hurt (ie. -- "will letting my little sister, who's covered in jam and dog hair, play with the cel be a problem?"
On the other hand, most western animation art galleries won't handle anime cels (either because of a lack of interest, or the preconception that there's no money in that market,) so they are not necessarily the best places to go for re-selling your art, or for getting them assessed. For that, you're better off finding someone who collects anime cels, or try to re-sell your artwork at a convention. (Which may cost you more money than you'd like.)
In any case, treat your cel like the work of art, and slice of anime history that it is, and it'll last for a long time. As long as you enjoy what you've purchased (or were given) it will have a value completely independant of what other people think.
If you have any other questions, or want to learn more about the process of creating animation, or in handling your cels, there are several books that will help. Disney's The Illusion of Life is good. For other titles, ask in Rec.Arts.Animation, or just go to your nearest library, big bookstore, or art supply shop and start looking on your own (which is a great way to learn more about the history of western animation, as well.)
-- Curtis H. Hoffmann
October 13, 1992
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