You wouldn't think that people would take the time to create fake cels on the inexpensive level, but it has happened. Welcome to the Wild West of Animation Cel Authentication.
The integrity and authenticity of the animation cel has fallen to the wayside for some as a profit opportunity rears it's head. As amateur art collectors, first time collectors or just fans look to own a piece of animation art or gift someone a cel they think might have value in the collectible world, sellers are showcasing sericels for sale that never authentically existed.
For starters, what is an authentic cel?
It's a cel created by the company that has the rights to do so. For instance, The Walt Disney Co. couldn't make a Bugs Bunny cel and sell it. Warner Bros Home Entertainment couldn't make a Mickey Mouse cel and sell it. And Joe Shmow couldn't make a Mickey or Bugs cel and sell it without the proper license from the respective parties to do so. Joe Shmow can make a cel, it's just the selling part that is a no-no.
Cels and sericels haven't been a focus for forgers, until recently. They generally are hard to keep reproducing. Limited editions, for instance, are individually numbered. So if you started to see 100 pieces with the number 415/500 .. it would be fairly obvious to the public. Also, they are hand painted most of the time and that entails lots of work to fake for a forger.
Production cels can be faked, but the range is so vast of animation publishers in the past using hand painted cels, that most likely the main thing someone would try to forge would be a very vintage cel (aka a Snow White or Sleeping Beauty). Still, there are people making primitive attempts. Mostly the attempts are to make a production cel look older than it is or misrepresent it as an original movie cel when it's actually from a TV show.
People these days even take to making copies of authentic production cel artwork and selling posters of them.
Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of amazing animation dealers and knowledgeable collectors out there helping many create their collection on authentic art. Don't let a little information damage your enthusiasm. Just use this as a caution tip. And unfortunately for the forgers, there is a solid record established of cel and sericel production throughout the 1970's and going forward.
What is a certificate of Authenticity?
A certificate of authenticity is a document guaranteeing the authenticity of an artwork. It confirms that the artwork has been created by the company/artist associated with it.
And honestly, a COA is only as good as the company/gallery it comes from. If it's a COA from an independent gallery, it's as good as the reputation of that gallery. As a general rule, it should also be signed by the representative of that gallery.
A lot of times you are finding art with a COA from 30 years ago and they don't exist anymore to back up the COA. At least you have some piece of mind that they did back that authenticity up then. So I would hold on to it as a carryover COA
Are The Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and the likes willing to take the time to file cease and desists orders or sue any of the forgers/sellers? That remains to be seen. Forgers are willing to make as much money as they can until that day arrives, as there appears to be little to no oversight on this specific type of trademark/copyright infringement going on.
Have an opinion? Chat below, we'd love to hear it.
The images above are just a sample, as non authentic sericels and paper prints are being sold of The Walt Disney Co. Characters, Warner Bros Entertainment Inc. characters, Hanna Barbera Productions characters, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, I dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Speed Racer, Popeye, Pinky and the Brain, South Park and DC Characters currently on some of the largest second hand market websites.
Article disclaimer: The author of this article or Animation America does not represent or speak for any of the companies discussed in it. The author was an Animation Gallery manager for Warner Bros. Studio Stores during the 1990's. All included sericel and poster images were viewed on some of the largest secondary market websites on 03/03/2023