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What Are Animation Cels and Why Are they Collectors Obsessions?

What are Cels?

Traditionally, animated films were created by each motion or movement of every character being hand painted on a transparent material called a cel – short for celluloid acetate. These cels – whether it is one layer or many characters moving separately on many layers, are then laid over a painted background and photographed by an animation camera to create one single frame of the film. This process is repeated for the entire film to be completed. By painting on cels, the illusion is created of a different world inhabited by the painted characters moving within the background they are placed upon.


Along The bottom Every Single Original Cel drawing and painted cel will hav it's own SEQUENCE NYMBE, SCENE NUMBER AND DRAWING NUMBER. These are shot in order by the animation camera to complete the scene. The More drawings - the more fluid the movement.

The HOLES at the bottom are called ANIMATION PEG HOLES. The entire animation industry had the exact same peg hole placement so that the animation always lined up in the same places on the backgrounds.

Back of Cel - Painted in Layers:

Painted Background Cel is placed On:

Final Image Camera Captures:

Original Production Cels

Original production cels are the actual cels used to create the animated film (or TV show) that they were created for. Each one has been hand drawn and painted by an artist and has been then photographed over a background by the animation camera to eventually take part in the entire creation of the film.

This is very different from what are called Limited Edition cels or Serigraph cels. Limited Edition cels are re-creations of a favorite image or scene which is then hand painted. Serigraph cels are silk-screened re-creations. Here at Bakshi Productions we offer to you the real, original production cels used in each of the films.

These production cels are preciously collected and becoming more and more valuable as we progress into the future of animation through computers. There are animation cels from the early days that are valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. These cels are rare and there is only one like it in the world! No wonder they are an incredible investment and only increase in value.

Example of HOLLI from RB's COOL WORLD:

Here is the back side of the4 acetate that is painted on. The final layer is her skin. The cel begins being inked in black being traced from the original production drawing (done in pencil) once it has had final approval from the Director. Then the cell is Painted - beginning with the small layers (eyes, hair, fingers , clothing etc.). moving to the last bottom layer. When the cel dries and is flipped over - you see a n extraordinary accomplishment by a team of artists.

Original Production Drawings

Original production drawings are also one of a kind pieces of art from an animated film. Before the image is drawn and painted on cel, the entire film is drawn in pencil by animators. This is where the experimentation and fun truly happens by the artist who creates the image. These are also highly sought after because they are the original drawings and considered “the backbone” of any animated creation. They also can cost much less than an original production cel because they are not painted.

Some Pointers in what to look for in an original piece of animation art

First and foremost, the image has to appeal to you. It jumps out at you, you have to have it. Looking at it illicit some sort of emotional response or reminds you of something or recalls a memory. Other than that – Here are some pointers that many collectors (NOT ALL) use:

-Artwork that depicts a characteristic pose or expression, an emotion common with the film it is from.

-Characters or at least one character that is facing as close to forward as possible with their eyes open are best usually.

--The closer up the character is to you, the better. That is either a full body pose or a close up of the face.

-Some people like to collect the more obscure characters who show up rarely in the film.

-Others like the main characters.

- It is obviously up to your preference for which characters you like looking at really!

We hope this helps a bit. Any questions you might have please feel free to e-mail us at

As always…ENJOY!

**please note - the above content may - or may not be absolutely stolen from somewhere online. I found the document in my ancient computer from 2007. Of course I updated and added today ... but honestly - I don't remember if I wrote this or stone cold ripped it off from someone online in a google search as research or something. If it's yours - pet me know! If it's mine - well done Victoria!

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