Fine Art

How Collectible (and Valuable) is Walt Disney’s Animated Art?

Walt Disney was an empire builder. He would probably be shocked at just how much Disney has grown and expanded over the decades since his death in 1966. The creator of Mickey Mouse and the concept of Disney movies was a legend during his lifetime. His theme parks have now gone global and are worth billions of dollars, but the backbone of Walt’s brand was built upon those old time cartoons that you, you parents or your grandparents grew up with.

Collectors Dashboard wanted to evaluate just how collectible (and valuable) Walt Disney’s animated art is. Despite there being a vast number of these that have been on the market over the decades, these “animated cels” (see below) are still quite collectible. They are also quite valuable.

His movies are the backbone of his brand and the large amount of existing art from them is something to be collected and displayed by fans and collectors alike. Collectors Dashboard is looking into both a current auction of Disney art through RR Auctions and past artwork sold by Heritage Auctions to follow what collectors have been buying.

According to the definition, animation cels are a transparent sheet of celluloid or plastic, used to layer elements of an animated image on top of a background in order to reduce the number of elements that need to be re-created for each frame.

Here are some of the higher sales of Disney Animated Cels which have sold in recent years via Heritage Auctions:

  • Mickey’s Service Station Mickey and Goofy Production Cel and Master Background (Walt Disney, 1935) sold by Heritage Auctions on July 1, 2014 for $98,587.50 after 32 bids.
  • Lady and the Tramp “Bella Notte” production cel and master background VIP Setup (Walt Disney, 1955) sold by Heritage Auctions on December 12, 2020 for $37,200.00 after 22 bids.
  • Fantasia Mickey Mouse as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice production cel courvoisier setup (Walt Disney, 1940) sold by Heritage Auctions on June 20, 2020 for $36,000.00 after 29 bids.
  • Steamboat Willie Mickey and Minnie Mouse animation drawings (image below) by Ub Iwerks Group of 2 (Walt Disney, 1928) sold by Heritage Auctions on December 11, 2020 for $43,200.00 after 29 bids.
  • Mickey’s Fire Brigade Mickey Mouse production cel (Walt Disney, 1935) sold by Heritage Auctions on August 7, 2021 for $33,600.00 after 36 bids.

Steamboat Willie

(Steamboat Willie & Minnie Mouse images courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

Here are items still available in the RR Auctions Fine Autograph and Artifacts, Ft. Animation:

  • Lot #1030 Mary Blair concept panorama storyboard painting (image below) from Cinderella Walt Disney Studios, 1950. Auction ends November 10, 2021 and has a current bid of $5,371.00 after 10 bids.
  • Lot #1028 Mary Blair original concept painting for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Walt Disney Studios, 1948. Auction ends November 10, 2021 and has a current bid of $4,000.00 after 9 bids.
  • Lot #1029 Mary Blair concept storyboard painting of Ichabod and the Headless Horseman from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Walt Disney Studios, 1949. Auction ends November 10, 2021 and has a current bid of $3,328.00 after 6 bids.
  • Lot #1040 Eyvind Earle concept panorama storyboard painting of Prince Philip, Samson, and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty Walt Disney Studios, 1959. Auction ends November 10, 2021 and has a current bid of $3,222.00 after 5 bids.
  • Lot #972 Pinocchio, Geppetto, and Figaro production key master background set-up from Pinocchio Walt Disney Studios, 1940. Auction ends November 10, 2021 and has a current bid of $2,750.00 after 2 bids.

Cinderella storyboard painting

(Image above by RRAuction for Cinderella storyboard painting)

We have also included past Disney lots sold by RR Auction for a comparison and to see if any of these items have sold through their system before.

Collectors Dashboard evaluates high end collectibles as an alternative asset class. This means collectibles are attracting the same capital that could have been invested into stocks or bonds. Many collectibles now cost thousands of dollars (or much more). Collectors with a passion to own a collectible for years frequently have to compete directly against investors whose only desire is to make a profit in the future.

Walt Disney is timeless. Collectors Dashboard will be following the realized sale prices from the RR Auction and updating this story. Something to be realized is that generations of Disney fans have not been born yet. If the definition of a classic is something that transcends time then perhaps that is the most fitting description of Disney films made in Walt Disney’s lifetime. It does not hurt the value of Disney collectibles that Mickey Mouse is the most recognizable mouse in human history.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the value of these animated cels over time. Some of the movies that were made in the twentieth century are now deemed unfit or unattractive to remake in the twenty-first century. That might destroy the interest for many collectors in the future. The again, it might even make some of the subject material that much more enticing to those who view some of the great entertainment trends as part of history.