Animation Serigraph Cels are Dishonest at Best (and at Worst a Fraud)

Posted by Michael Pinto on Apr 8, 2009 in Animation, Hobbies and Collections |

Serigraph Cels aren't actual animation cels!

Being an animation fan from time-to-time I’ll see an ad for a “serigraph cel” from a favorite animated film or TV show. As most fans of animation know old school cartoons were made with hand painted animation cels — which is a piece of acetate inked on one side and with the color painted on the opposite side. These animation cels are always punched so they can be registered, and it takes a mind numbing number of these to make an animated film which is shot at 24 frames per second (although most animation is done by limiting this 12 cels per second or less which is known as “shooting in twos”).

Sadly collecting animation art didn’t catch on until 80s, and most animation studios viewed the cels as useless. In some cases animators who worked on the film would rescue something here or there, but in the early days cels were even washed in an acid bath and reused. So with a hunger in modern times for studios to cash in on older animation merchandising companies commission what are known as “serigraph cels”.

Cel Vinyl used to paint real animation cels!

Cel Vinyl used to paint real animation cels!

These aren’t animation cels that were ever used in the production at all! In fact they can be produced years after everyone who worked on the film is dead and gone. They’re either copies of existing cels or in a worse case scenario something that is cooked up from scratch. But I’m afraid it’s worse than even that — most serigraphs aren’t even hand painted like real animation cels, instead the paint is silkscreened on like a t-shirt. So instead of owning a piece of animation history — what you are in fact owning is just a pretty print.

Now these still aren’t cheap to create and because they appeal to a niche audience these faux animations cels are often produced in limited number editions. Now as a tchotchke (a Yiddish for trinket) these items may have some sort of value to collectors — but they shouldn’t be mistaken as actual artwork or something directly connected with the production of the film. You should think of them as being no different than a poster or a t-shirt. Now if you love a animated film or TV show and you’re looking for some decoration by all means purchase a serigraph cel — but don’t make the mistake of feeling that you own a part of the show.


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