It’s one thing to buy printed art work. It’s another to actually buy the original plates or materials that were used to create mass-produced art. If you’re a big Disney fan, you know that cel art is very big. I am, of course, talking about the hand-drawn animated cels that were used to hand-animate characters like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and the whole gang.
In this day and age, does it make sense to buy such materials which, of course, were created to produce the final work of art? Well, it all depends on where you stand with technology. You see, as computers continue to take over the whole art production process, there’s less and less original inputs to cel. Back in the bad old days, if you wanted to buy original comic art, you can get the original black-and-white panels used by the comic artist to flesh out the storyline.
Now, thanks to all digital production processes, people rarely, if ever, handle pen and ink and paper anymore. Instead, they have a digital pen which they apply directly to a digital board which takes note of the x and y coordinates of their digital pen and feeds it into a computer. There is no initial hand-drawn prototype of the comic panels or the art being produced.
As you can well imagine, this makes for a very frustrating situation to would-be art collectors. They’re basically just forced with rough hand-drawn storyboards that have almost always no relationship or no bearing on the final work. That’s what made cel art collectibles so exciting. When you buy, for example, cel art from the classic Disney Movie “Fantasia”, you can actually own a piece of cinematic history because each panel is different. Each panel relates to different stages of the story. You can see what’s going on. You can see the process. You can see where you are in the “Fantasia” movie.
You don’t have that with a storyboard sketch. In fact, depending on the director or storyboard creator, you might have very, very rudimentary, almost basic shapes on the storyboard. That’s the story. You’re basically just going to have to take their word for it that that actually relates to a specific movie or a specific part of a movie or short animated film. Frustrating? You got it.
Unfortunately, there’s really no way we can work around this because of the pace of technology. In fact, things are developing so quickly and so radically that it’s only a matter of time where we dispense with storyboards altogether. In this context, it makes a lot of sense to buy original prints from older periods because you can bet that technological disruption will have made those prints’ value explode at some easily foreseeable point in time.
I truly believe that as technology matures, the art market will keep pace. Stuff that we don’t think are all that valuable today due to the ‘weak’ role they play in the creative process might just become tomorrow’s version of animation cells and other production materials. You might just be surprised at how flexible the market is.