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Archive for Saturday, August 17, 1991

CARTOON CHARACTERS CATCH EYE OF COLLECTORS

August 17, 1991

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Collecting the original frames of cartoons and animated films is a rapidly growing hobby as well as a profitable investment, collectors of the artwork say.

"You get to own a piece of history with these," said Tim Gillesse, one of several Lawrence area collectors.

The frames, called "animated cels," feature hand-painted characters that originally were used as part of a cartoon or animated feature film.

In animated cels, which are usually 8 -by-11 inches, a character is painted onto a thin sheet of transparent celluloid.

In cartoons and animated films, the cels were placed on painted backgrounds and usually were used for a single frame in the making of a cartoon.

Using thousands of slightly different cels, animators were able to make Bugs Bunny, the Pink Panther, Mickey Mouse and other characters come to life.

TODAY, demand for the cels of older cartoons has increased because most cartoons are now made using computer animation, rather than thousands of individual paintings.

"The demand has risen considerably in the last few years with an increasing number of people who are interested in this art form," said John Cairnes, a sales representative for Gallery Lainzberg in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a gallery specializing in animated art.

Cairnes said the gallery, which has more than 10,000 animated art pieces, buys the works from about 20 cartoon and film studios in California.

The gallery has about 20,000 customers nationwide, including more than 100 in the Lawrence area, he said.

The gallery's original animated cels range in price from $50 to more than $20,000 each, he said.

GILLESSE, who travels to the gallery once or twice a year, has acquired about 50 cels dating from the 1930s to the 1980s since he began collecting 12 years ago.

"When I first started buying Pink Panthers, they went for about $150 each," he said. "Some of them are worth $750 to $800 now."

Gillesse said the Pink Panther is his favorite character. He owns about 20 Pink Panther cels, some of which are autographed by the artist, Friz Freleng.

Gillesse said the value of a cel depends on the pose of the character, the number of cels of the character in existence, the age of the cel and whether it's signed by the artist.

"Only about 5 percent of the cels in a particular movie or episode are worth something," Cairnes said.

"COLLECTORS are interested only in the cels that show the whole characters or close-ups of the characters," he said.

Another local collector, Kelly Kriegh, said he bought cels as an educational tool for his 1 -year-old son, Andy.

"This is something people can collect for their kids," he said. "With these, they can tell their kids about the old cartoon characters."

"But this is definitely a hobby you have to have money for," Kriegh said.

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