This article should save you quite a bit of time and research! (That’s what I’m here for!)
I want to discuss which of the main studios released art from which decades, and how easy/difficult it is to obtain pieces. This is meant to be a general guide by studio. The basic rule of thumb is: vintage is hard, contemporary is easy. A specific scene or episode from any era may be difficult to find, so consider being flexible with your collecting.
Remember that words like “rare” should be used sparingly. Old art from decades ago is “rare” because a lot of it got destroyed, so not much of it exists. Newer art is not rare, as it still exists, but it might not be easily found!
Disney fans are very lucky in that there is a lot of terrific art available to collect.
Production art Vintage production cels
In the late 1930s, Disney teamed up with the Courvoisier Gallery in San Francisco to sell cels from the 1930s/40s. Courvoisier galleries mainly released pieces from Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, Fantasia, and some of the shorts- Ugly Duckling, etc. A lot of pieces were sold by the gallery, and therefore escaped being destroyed.
A lot of the art has also survived due to Disney employees. Animators were allowed to take art home. That is, those cels that weren’t ruined by the celebration “slide” down the hall that marked the end of a film. I think of it as similar to notebook burning in university. Cels were also given as gifts to other studio employees, visitors to the studio, or friends.
Disney also sold some cels in the 1960s at Disneyland. Quite a bit of Sleeping Beauty, Donalds, 101 Dalmatians, etc. were released by this method. Often referred to as a Disneyland set-up.
Vintage production drawings
Luckily, way back when, animators were allowed to take drawings home with them. Some terrific pieces survived, and we are fortunate to have them. Oddly enough, it is easier to obtain a Snow White drawing than a Jungle Book drawing as Disney kept a much tighter lid on the release of drawings as times progressed.
Production backgrounds, storyboards and concept art are generally extremely rare and hard-to-find.
Contemporary production pieces (features and tv)
From Roger Rabbit onwards, Disney has been releasing art from features through the Disney Stores or approved galleries (we are one). Little Mermaid was the last to use cels, so anything from Beauty and the Beast onwards has to be reproduction cels over master grounds, or limited editions or sericels.
There is quite a selection of television pieces available from Pooh, Little Mermaid, Aladdin, etc. Both cels and drawings are available.
There are quite a number of sericels and limited editions from which to choose.
Vintage cels and drawings from the 40s- Bugs, etc. are very hard to find as quite a number were destroyed by the studio for various reasons. Art from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s pops up from time to time. As with Disney, vintage production backgrounds, storyboards and concept art are generally extremely rare and hard-to-find.
Newer art from the 80s, and 90s is reasonably easy to get from the Warner stores or from galleries. Batman (the voice of Batman is my uncle for those of you who didn’t know!), Tiny Toons, etc. are plentiful.
Limiteds and sericels are quite plentiful, so you should have no problem finding reproduction art of your favorite characters.
SIMPSONS (please see my article one month ago for greater detail)
Production cels are relatively easy to get. Selecting a favorite cartoon or scene is more difficult. Drawings are semi-easy to get. Master grounds, early Tracey Ullmans and first season pieces are hard to find.
Reproduction art does exist, although they do not produce too many editions.
Production art from the 60s takes a little doing. 70s, 80s and 90s is easier. You stand a good chance of getting a nice pose of your favorite character.
Reproduction art is not too hard to find.
Original art from the 60s turns up from time to time. More recent items are easier. Hard to find good Scooby Doos, Hong Kong Phooeys, and Dastardly and Mutleys.
Limiteds and sericels are pretty abundant.
TOM AND JERRY
Production art from the 1940s is tough. There are some nice pieces from the 1950s around, although they are not too easy to get. Newer art is not too hard.
Reproduction art- there are a few editions that the Warner Store puts out.
That’s all for now!