Animation Art Definitions
All you need to know about each term used to describe a piece of Animation Art.

Animation Cel

A cel (short for celluloid) is a blank clear plastic sheet used by the studio artist to paint an animated character or object based on the animator's original pencil drawing. The cels are then placed over a background and photographed in sequence to produce an illusion of life in the completed film or cartoon short. Every cel is different but this does not mean that every cel is unique. Often multiple copies of a cel were created by the Inkers as color models in order to advance their technique and skills.

Nitrate Cel

An animation cel made from cellulose nitrate which unfortunately is a very unstable material prone to shrinkage, wrinkling and yellowing over time. Nitrate cels were used throughout the Disney studios during the 1920's until the early 1940's. Other studios used nitrate cels up to and including the 1950's.

Acetate Cel

An animation cel made from cellulose acetate. This material is still used in the studios today as it is of a very stable nature.

Cel Setup

Simply a combination of two or more cels. The cels can be placed with a background or without a background, and can be either matching with the background (the way the image appeared in the short or film) or non matching (they do not appear together in the film but just appeal to the collector).

12 Field Cel

This refers to the size of the area on the artwork which falls within the sight of the camera. Measuring approximately 10.5' x 12.5' this is the standard size for cels, backgrounds and drawings.

16 Field Cel

This refers to the size of the area on the artwork which falls within the sight of the camera. Measuring approximately 12.5' x 16.5' this is the standard size for cels, backgrounds and drawings.


In moving camera shots wider cels, backgrounds and drawings were used. Panoramic (Pans) were often referred to as a 12 field double pan (10.5' x 25') or a 16 field one and a half pan (12.5' x 24'). A prime example of where pan cels were used in numerous scenes in order to accommodate the need for the wide screen process, are in the films shot in cinemascope or technorama.

Production Cel

Any cel created for the production of an animated film or cartoon short. This does not necessarily mean that the piece appears in the film. Model cels and preliminary art are all production artwork.

Publicity and Promotional Cel

A cel created and painted by a studio artist for publicity display or promotional purposes. Normally hand painted in the perfect pose.

Color Model Cel

A cel created and hand painted by the studio artist for color reference purposes.

Courvoisier Setup

A cel setup created and marketed through Courvoisier galleries(®) between the late 1930's and 1940's. Courvoisier galleries(®) of San Francisco were Disney's agent for the marketing of the studio's animation art between this period. They prepared production backgrounds to complement the cels and other art.

The Courvoisier setups share a few distinctive features; a simple presentation or woodgrain background, a cream colored matt with the title of the production (or the name of the character) inscribed in pencil below the matt opening, a 'WDP' stamp or a 3' x 5' label stating the name of the production. Generally, characters are trimmed to the size of the image and attached to the backgrounds, and occasionally were enhanced with airbrushed shading or dry brush effects. The backgrounds ranged from basic airbrushed techniques depicting stars or dots, to detailed watercolor backgrounds created by the Disney background department. Often the cels from Dumbo, Bambi and Fantasia were laminated. S/R Laboratories Animation Art Conservation Center is the legal copyright holder of Courvoisier Galleries(®) of San Francisco.

Disneyland Art Corner

Cels sold at Disneyland's Art Corner Shop in Tomorrowland from the mid 1950's to the late 1960's. These cels are trimmed, placed in a small matt against either a lithograph background or a sheet of colored paper. A gold seal is attached to the back of the matt which is the authenticating sticker.

Disney Art With A Seal

Mainly sold in the 1970's, full cels laminated and embossed with 'Original Hand Painted Movie Film Cel'.

Cels Without A Seal

Cels which do not carry any seals, stickers or certificates are not necessarily forgeries. The majority of this type of artwork either comes from artists or employees of the studios who received the artwork as a gift, or is simply artwork which the artist has drawn and has taken home as a memory of the project. It was also common for artists to take home other artists work as inspiration for other projects they themselves were working on.

Limited Edition Cel

A non production hand painted cel created for sale to the collectors market. It is produced in fixed limited quantities and are easily identified by a fraction (150/500) in the lower right hand corner. They were not used in films or cartoon shorts, and the original intent was to recreate the original production cels. Nowadays many studios release new images notbased on production artwork.

Sericel (Serigraph)

A non production cel created by means of a printing process similar to silk screening. No work is done by hand, therefore no painting or inking isinvolved. They are often produced in limited quantities of 5000, and they are marketed as a low cost alternative to production and limited edition cels.

Animation Drawing

A drawing on paper in pencil, sometimes colored which is created by a studio artist of an animated character or object for which the cels are later created.

Rough Animation Drawing

A rough drawing created by an animator on paper, in pencil, indicating a position or pose of a character or object.

Clean Up Drawing

These drawings are created by the assisting department and represent the final stage of animation before the image is transferred to the cel. Thesketches can often include color lines to indicate different ink colors, andnotes to the ink and paint department about parts of the character or background in a relevant scene.


A series of drawings similar to a comic strip depicting a basic storyline of the film or cartoon short. These drawings will be pinned up on a bulletin board and placed in the order of the storyline.

Layout Drawing

A detailed drawing of either the background or environment in which the character or object exists, or an outline of the characters path of movement, its expressions and action within the scene.

Concept Art / Inspirational Sketch

Created by the artist to develop the atmosphere, mood or design of the character or setting.

Model Sheet

Drawings created by artists showing a particular character or object in many different poses and positions. These drawings will each be cut out and pasted onto a model sheet. This in turn will be Photostatted and given to various departments to ensure consistency between all artists working on a project. Hundreds of Photostats will be produced from a single model sheet.

Production Background

A background created for use in a production of an animated film. It must be noted that a production background may not necessarily originate from the same production that the cel is from.

Master Background

A background originally painted by a studio artist, and actually photographed in the production of the final released version of the film orcartoon short. A background painting sets the scene in which the animated character appears.

Matching Master Background / Keymaster Setup

This is often referred to as a key master background setup, but is simply acel or cels with the background from the same scene that were originallyphotographed. When framed these will look exactly as they do in the original film or cartoon short.

Custom or Handpainted Background

This background has been painted by an independent artist to enhance the cel. Generally it will be in the style of the original.

Reproduction Background

This is the most common type of background. It is a reproduction of the original background by means of lithography, serigraphy, color copying or photography.


These images (prints) are created using a simple print process. They are mass produced items.

Hand Inking

Prior to the late 1950's all animation drawings were traced onto cels by using a brush or quill pen.


By the late 1950's Disney studios developed Xerographic process to transfer the animator's drawings directly onto cels. The Xeroxed lines appear to be more sketchy than hand inked lines. This is because they are transferred direct from the animator's drawings and seem to keep a sense of life. This is something that hand inking often lacks. Sleeping Beauty was the first film to adopt this process.


The French term 'Gicle', literally meaning 'spray of ink,' is used to describe these prints. Four precision nozzles spray up to a million microscopic droplets per second on to fine art paper. Then, each piece of paper is individually hand-mounted. Displaying a full color spectrum, the prints are lush and velvety, capturing the subtle nuances of the original artwork.

Artist Proof

A series of limited edition prints are signed and typically numbered 'Artist Proof' or 'AP.' Artist proofs originally were the first copies printed and were used to indicate the artist's approval of color reproduction and other mechanical aspects of the printing process. Historically prized as the best-quality reproductions, artist proofs are usually restricted to less than ten percent of the signed and numbered limited edition; and are the property of the artist rather than the property of the publisher. Only a portion of the AP edition is available to the public; the rest of the edition is reserved forthe artist, the artists family and special collectors. The artist proof smaller edition size gives it a greater value due to its scarcity, also some artists prefer to keep many of their APs rather than sell them, creating a limited number available on the market.


Serigraphic Cel
The line work for these cels is xeroxed and the paintwork is printed on the reverse side of the cel. They are created in limited and unlimited editions with as many as 9,500 per edition. The edition sizes are not numbered on the cels, although all are identified on the front of the cel as a serigraphic cel with a studio seal.


Limited Edition Cel
A cel produced in a fixed quantity specifically for sale to collectors. There are signed and unsigned limited editions. Some are signed by living artists and some art is signed by auto pen if the artist is deceased. All are numbered and edition sizes can range from 20 to 750.


Lithography is a method for printing on a smooth surface using stone or metal plates. A plate is created for each color; the art must be run through each color plate to create the final image.


Limited Edition Artists Proof
Prints intended for the artist's personal use. It is a common practice to reserve approximately ten percent of an edition as artist's proofs, although this figure can be higher. The artist's proof is sometimes referred to by its French name, Epreuve D'Artist. Artist proofs can be distinguished by the abbreviation AP or EA commonly on the lower left corner of the work.


Limited Edition Hors D'Commerce Proof
Identical to the limited edition print but intended only to show to dealers. Hors D'Commerce, (H.C.), may or may not be signed by the artist.


Small sketch in the margin of an art print or additional hand-applied enhancements by the artist on some or all of the final prints within an edition.


Original Production Cel
A painting on celluloid by a Studio artist of an animated character or object, based on the animator's original pencil drawing. Cels are placed upon background paintings and photographed during the production of the final version of a film. Most cels created prior to 1960 were hand-inked as well as hand-painted. After 1960 the outline was usually transferred to the cel by a Xerographic process.


Production Background
An original painting created by a Studio artist and actually photographed in the production of the final version of the film. During the process of animation, several production cels would be photographed on a single production background, thus the rarity of finding a production cel and matching production background.


Hand-Painted Background
An original painting created by an artist to compliment a cel but never used in the production of a film.


Courvoisier Background
Courvoisier Galleries of San Francisco was Disney's agent for the marketing of the Studio's animation art from 1937-1946 and produced backgrounds (often using an airbrush) to complement cels for presentation.


Studio Background
A background painting created by a Studio artist for publicity or display purposes.


Publicity Cel
A cel painting created by a Studio artist for publicity or display purposes.


Animation Production Drawing
A drawing on paper in lead or colored pencil created by a Studio artist from which the cel paintings that are actually photographed in the production of the film are traced.


Color Model Cel or Drawing
A cel or drawing created by a Studio artist for color reference purposes.


Storyboard or Inspirational Sketch
A drawing on paper, often in color, by a Studio artist to illustrate a character, mood, scene, costume, plot, sequence of action, gag or other conceptual aspects of an animated film during the developmental stage. A story drawing is one of a series that serves to visualize action or camera movement. Inspiration sketches provide the visual manifestation of ideas and emotions that give birth to story elements.


Key Layout Drawings
These drawings are usually created by the director, and will emphasize the character personalities and action throughout the cartoon. Character consistency is important here.


Background Layouts
Are done at the same time as the character layouts. These sketches are made so that the action of the characters will coordinate with the background.


Model Drawings
These drawings are created for the animators to use in order to maintain a visual consistency of the characters.


Story Paintings
Tiny paintings usually about two inches by two inches created by a Studio background artist. They were used to provide a visual idea for a proposed production background.


Artists that complete the animation drawings between key drawings created by head animators.


Clean Up
Artists will take the round drawings from the animators and establish one, smooth, dark line drawing.


Pencil Test
Once the drawings or portions of the drawing are complete, each drawing is filmed and then reviewed and edited. Editing is usually done before the costly inking and painting begins.


Ink and Paint
Once the drawings are edited, they go to the ink and paint department where a sheet of acetate is placed over the drawing by means of the registration tabs. Each cel is then either hand-inked or the line is xeroxed on to the acetate with a special machine. Once the line is complete, the painters flip the cel over and paint them on the reverse side. Each painter works from a color key and applies the dark colors first. The paint is applied by means of "pooling" the paint in the middle of each area to be painted, then spreading it out to the edges of the area.



Each cel is placed under the camera one at a time. It takes approximately 24 frames to create one second of film. Because the size and numbers of the characters may vary, three standard sizes of cels are used by the animator. There are 12 and 16 field cels, and the panorama cel or pan cel as it is commonly known.

Special Editions and one-of-a-Kinds

Beginning with The Rescuers Down Under in 1990, the Disney Studios inaugurated a sophisticated, Academy Award-winning computerized production system, known as CAPS (Computer Animation Production System) for use in its animated features.

This system does not generate animation but allows handmade drawings to be copied, colored, and combined electronically with a painted background. Since it produces finished imagery that can be electronically transferred directly to film, frame by frame, the need for cels is thereby eliminated. That being the case, there are no actual production cels in existence for any Disney feature made after 1990, and collectors should be aware that all post 1990 Disney cels ere produced specifically for the collectibles market. Actually, Disney had had a formal limited editions program in place since 1973 when the Disney Art Editions program was established.

In 1974, four handsome portfolios, covered in velvet and taffeta, were released in editions of 275 copies. These contained specially produced hand-inked and hand-painted cels with images from Snow White, Pinocchio, Cinderella, and Lady and the Tramp. There was then a gap of several years until the Disney Art Program was initiated to develop xerographic-line limited edition cels, beginning with a two-cel set from Song of the South. In 1996, Disney announced the formation of a new fine art division, Walt Disney Art Classics, essentially a merger of two existing units-Disney Art Editions, publishers of Walt Disney Studios Art, and Disney Collectibles, creators of the Walt Disney Classics Collection. The new division assumed responsibility for presenting an annual auction of original, one-of-a-kind artwork from contemporary Disney animatied films.

This program, starting with the sale of pieces (hand-painted cels married to production backgrounds) from Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1989, has been a collaboration with Sothby's auction house, and the 1995 sale of artwork from The Lion King fetched two million dollars, setting a record for the highest-grossing animation auction in history. These contemporary auctions tend to draw quite a different audience from those of vintage animation art. The latter category is apt to be made up of more committed collectors, interested in historical and aesthetic value, while the former is made up more of collectors interested in obtaining attractive setups that they can frame to match precisely the film images they see on their video players.

Each limited editon in the Walt Disney Studio Animation Art portfolio bears a seal and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Three main types of special editions are on the market, which, in the case of Disney, all begin in the Ink and Paint Department. They are: Hand-inked limited edition cels: These are made using traditional animation techniques, which include tracing an animation drawing onto acetate by hand, using different colored inks, and hand-painting it with specially formulated gum or acrylic-based colors.

Most hand-inked cels are combined with backgrounds, a small number of them hand-painted presentation backgrounds. Hand-inked and painted cels, released in editions ranging from 275 to 350 are the most expensive of the limited editions. Xerographic-line limited edition cels: Instead of being hand-inked, these are created by transferring the outline of the original animation drawing to the acetate cels by a six-step xerographic process pioneered by Disney in the 1950's. Many of these cels are then enhanced with hand-inked lines before being hand-painted and combined with a lithographic background. Sericels: The least expensive form of limited editon artwork is the serigraph, or sericel.

To produce these silkscreens, artists create a hand-inked, hand-painted color model of animated characters, which is then transferred to the acetate cel by a silkscreen printing process known a serigraphy. The sericel is usually sold without a background and in considerably larger numbers (1,000 to 5,000) than the others. Among the many Disney sericels that have been made avaiable are images from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Whinnie the Pooh, Jungle Book, The Lion King, and Alice in Wonderland. I hope this explaination helps you in your adventure into Disney Art collecting!