collecting sources refer to the collection of animation cels from
the movie versions of Tolkien's stories. The movies consist of The
Hobbit and The Return of the King by Rankin/Bass, done for television,
and The Lord of the Rings, a movie by Ralph Bakshi. Since I have
never seen a cel for sale from the Rankin/Bass movies, this introduction
will only cover the Ralph Bakshi movie. The following is a brief
introduction to cel collecting that includes purchasing sources
for the cels.
To start, a
production cel from an animated movie is an original painting on
acetate of one small segment of the movie. The animator draws, in
pencil, the numerous segments of a character in motion and these
are combined to form a motion picture. The production pencil drawings
are transferred to acetate and colored by another set of technicians.
These are photographed one by one and the movie is constructed.
Every animated movie uses thousands of cels. Although special edition
reprints of selected cels from Disney and Warner Brothers movies
have been recently produced, all of the cels available from the
Lord of the Rings are production cels. They are one-of-a-kind paintings
actually used to make the movie.
of cels make up a movie, only a relatively small number are available
for sale now. There are numerous stories about Disney cels that
were thrown in the trash because they were not appreciated as valuable
by the studios at the time they were made. There were even children
who picked cels out of the trash that are now worth $5,000-$10,000
each. Cels that were sold in the Disneyland gift shop for $5 back
in the 1960's are now worth thousands. Indeed, there was no animation
cel collecting interest at the time most of the movies were made.
Only in recent years have animation cels prices reached such astronomical
levels that Disney itself is interested in meeting the demand with
special limited edition hand-painted cels, and special reprints
called, sericels. These are the cels available for sale in the Disney
retail stores. Virtually all the production cels from Disney movies
are sold by dealers or individual collectors.
to the fact that many cels were destroyed, at least half of the
remaining cels are uninteresting because of the scene depicted.
Very few collectors are interested in images of characters in awkward
positions or with their eyes closed. Also, many cels are constructed
by only changing the facial expression of the character. The image
of the body is one cel on which the changed heads are placed when
the cels are photographed. This results in sets of disassociated
heads. In the end, these factors leave relatively few desirable
cels. Since the background of a scene might be used for hundreds
of cels, there are also very few cels with original backgrounds.
Backgrounds often command far higher prices than the cels.
for the Tolkien collector, there are two kinds of animation cel
collectors: 1) people who collect Disney and 2) people who collect
Disney and Warner Brothers. Once you are outside the Disney and
Warner Brothers areas, the prices drop dramatically. An average
Disney production cel costs at least $2,000; some fetch prices as
high as $20,000!. I have yet to find a cel from the Lord of the
Rings priced over $800.
field is dominated by Disney and Warner Brothers, Ralph Bakshi has
a strong following among the animation art collectors. He has done
some remarkably great animated movies, such as Wizards, Fritz the
Cat and the Mighty Mouse cartoons. However, he has always innovated
and he will be remembered for bringing adult themes to animated
movies. Since he has a following, the prices for cels from The Lord
of the Rings are moderately priced for animation cels. The prices
range from $75 for a picture of Boromir standing alone, to $500
for a picture of Sam and Bill the pony, signed by Ralph Bakshi,
with the original production background. The latter is about the
best you will ever find. Any cel from The Lord of the Rings with
a painted background will cost at least $300.
to the cels, there are also production drawings that correspond
to each cel. These are the pencil drawings actually made by the
animator that are copied onto acetate and colored. Many cels will
also include the production drawing corresponding to the cel. This
brings up the price about 10%. Many of these drawings are sold separately.
They range in price from $20 to $100.
people in the Tolkien community do not like the Bakshi film version
of The Lord of the Rings, the cels stand alone as imagery depicting
the characters and events of the story. Some of these cels are just
as remarkable as the best illustrations done for the Tolkien calenders
and books. In particular, Bakshi's depiction of the most difficult
character, Gollum, is as close to perfect as any illustrator will
come. When I read Tolkien's description of Gollum in The Letters
of J. R. R. Tolkien, I found it matched Bakshi's depiction in every
detail. The depictions of Galdalf, the Hobbits, Boromir, Gimli and
the Ringwraiths are also excellent.