Prices remained high but failed to break records Monday night at the first public auction of artwork from animated films held in Southern California in over a decade. More than 400 people crowded into a conference room at the Burbank Hilton to bid on cels, backgrounds, drawings and preliminary artwork, nearly all of it from Disney cartoon features and shorts.
Of the 235 lots offered by animation art dealer Howard Lowery, 233 found buyers, for a sale total of more than $320,000. The sale continued the trend toward steady, modest prices set at Christie's East in New York last month, and suggests that the market for animation art is stabilizing after several years of skyrocketing prices.
A cel and background of Captain Hook, Mr. Smee and Peter Pan aboard the Captain's pirate ship from Walt Disney's 1953 feature went to an unidentified telephone buyer for $22,550, the highest price in the sale. The same collector spent over $62,000, paying $23,100 for cel and background set-ups of Br'er Rabbit from "Song of the South" (1946) and the Seven Dwarfs from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937), plus an additional $14,600 for two preliminary paintings for "Snow White" and the Oscar-winning short "The Old Mill" (1937).
The sale did not offer any of the black-and-white cel and background set-ups from early Mickey Mouse shorts that command six-figure prices. (A set-up from "The Orphan's Benefit" brought a record-breaking $286,000 at Christie's in May.) Most of the cels and drawings offered Monday night sold in the $500 to $1,500 range.
"When prices go past the $2,000 mark, a large sector of market gets cut out," said Lowery. "Many members of the Baby Boom generation can afford to spend between $800 and $1,200 for something, but when the price goes over $2,000, it becomes more of a major decision.
"The pieces that sell for $10,000 or more generally go either to someone who has devoted himself to creating a definitive collection and is willing to pull out all the stops, or to someone who intends to resell it. Dealers buy a lot of their stock at auctions."
Sales of animation artwork continue in Southern California tonight and Thursday in a telephone auction held by the firm Another Movement.