Original Disney Studios Animation Cels in the December 14 Illustration Art Auction

The December 14, 2023 auction of Illustration Art at Swann Galleries features a selection of original animation cels from Walt Disney Studios’ iconic films.

Lot 15: Harry Reeves, Reflection in ice, circa 1940

Harry Reeves, Reflection in ice, Walt Disney Studios’ storyboard sketch for an unknown animated film, circa 1940. Estimate $500 to $750.

This is an original Disney skating-themed animation storyboard/concept piece by Harry Reeves, likely for an unused gag in one of the studio’s 1940s “package features.” The humorous scene is skillfully drawn in pastel and charcoal on circa 1940s 5-hole punched Disney studios animation paper. The piece has the studio catalog number 11854 written in pencil at the bottom.

Possible candidates for the intended use of this drawing include the Once Upon a Wintertime sequence in Melody Time (1948), or Disney’s abandoned Currier and Ives feature (also late 1940s), which would have been a hybrid of animation and live action, along the lines of Song of The South.

Elaborate color storyboards like this would have been shot as part of a Leica reel (known as an animatic or story reel today), a film (often combined with a soundtrack) which gave the crew a sense of the story before proceeding with the animation phase of production.

Harry Reeves began his animation career in 1929 at the Pat Sullivan Cartoon Studios in New York City (working with Otto Messmer, creator of Felix the cat), but soon moved on to to work at Disney in 1930. The bulk of Harry Reeves’ work at Disney was in the story department, where he became was instrumental in the development of numerous classic shorts and features, including Saludos Amigos (1942), The Three Caballeros (1944), Make Mine Music (1945)Melody Time (1948)The Adventures of Ichabod and Mister Toad (1949), and Cinderella (1950).

Much of the surviving art for Disney Studios’ productions is without attribution, and it is very rare to find original art signed by Harry Reeves.

Lot 16: Walt Disney Studios, The Animals of the Forest, 1937.

Walt Disney Studios, The Animals of the Forest, Five Forest Animals Courvoisier animation production cel from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937. Estimate $1,500 to $2,500.

This is an adorable hand-inked and painted animation cel of the forest creatures from the landmark Disney feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which premiered December 21st, 1937. The matching frame appears at the 16 minute 5 second mark, as Snow White enters the Dwarfs’ cottage for the first time, and her forest friends timidly accompany her.

The cel is an early example of a Courvoisier setup, which at the time consisted of a production cel presented over a wood veneer background. It is unusual to see this many characters in a Snow White forest animals cel setup.

Lot 17: Walt Disney Studios, Prince John, 1973.

Walt Disney Studios, Prince John, Animation Production Cel from Disney’s Robin Hood, Prince John Archery Tournament Scene, 1973. Estimate $600 to $900.

This is a hand-painted Disney animation cel of the villainous Prince John from the classic animated feature Robin Hood, which was first released November 8, 1973. The matching shot appears 43 minutes 29 seconds into the film, after Robin Hood has been captured at the archery tournament and says to Maid Marian “Darling, I love you more than life itself.”—to which Prince John says in the matching scene: “Ah, young love. Your pleas have not fallen upon a heart of [this frame] stone”—only to sentence him to be executed. The cel bears the authenticity seal of the official Disney art program. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the beloved animated feature’s release.

Lot 18: Walt Disney Studios, The Wolf, 1946.

Walt Disney Studios, The Wolf, Peter and the Wolf animation production cel from Make Mine Music, 1946. Estimate $600 to $900.

This is an original hand-inked and painted cel production of the vicious wolf from the Disney adaptation of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, part of Disney’s classic 1946 musical “package feature” Make Mine Music. The matching scene appears at 11 min 54 sec during the film’s climax, as the wolf lunges for the feisty (but dazed) woodpecker Sacha, but is held back by the rope which Peter and Ivan the cat have tied to his tail.

Lot 19: Walt Disney Studios, Donald Duck sequence, circa 1950s.

The matching shot starts 1 minute 25 seconds into the short when Donald (acting the boorish tourist) spots a Native American doing a sand painting and says (as seen in these drawings) “Well, well—a sand painting!”—then eagerly rushes over to snap a flash photo, and nearly interferes with the painting before Ranger Woodlore ushers him away.

It is very unusual for this many sequential production drawings from this era to have remained together, and it is a strong possibility that these were kept in sequence for instructional purposes at the studio (i.e. to demonstrate a walk cycle).

Lot 20: Walt Peregoy, The Saga of Windwagon Smith, circa 1961.

Lot 22: Walt Disney Studios, The Colonel Twilight bark sequence, 1961.

Walt Disney Studios, The Colonel Twilight bark sequence, animation production cel for 101 Dalmations, 1961. Estimate $700 to $1,000.

This is a large image animation production cel of old sheepdog the Colonel from the classic Disney animated feature 101 Dalmations (1961). The cel was used in the memorable “Twilight Bark” sequence, with matching scene appearing at the 38 minute 54 second mark, when the Colonel learns that Towser the bloodhound is barking an “alert” and says “Well, I’ll see what he wants,” and barks his first reply.

This cel was apparently originally sold in the 1960s at the legendary Disneyland Art Corner store, as evidenced by the specific lithographic background used in the program’s 101 Dalmations setups and the gold Art Corner label which has been attached to the back of the modern frame.