Animation Art Sale Tops $2.9 Million, Becomes Largest Gross Of All Time For Department At Heritage Auctions

Three-Day Event Breaks Previous Record By Nearly $1 Million

February 7, 2020

A painting from the halls of the Haunted Mansion in New Orleans, La., and a trove of work by iconic Disney artist Mary Blair helped make Heritage Auctions’ Animation Art Auction the largest such auction of all time, with sales totaling $2,965,596, on Dec. 13, 14, and 15 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
The total smashed the previous record of $2,068,451, achieved by Heritage Auctions in June 2019. The results of the December and June sales, the Mickey Mouse and Friends Animation Art Internet Auction that brought $144,095, as well as the animation art lots that sold in the weekly comics online auctions, led to the best year ever in animation art sales, with totals exceeding $6 million.
“This was a phenomenal auction, the biggest ever held, covering three days and featuring 1,838 lots,” said Heritage Auctions Animated Art Director Jim Lentz. “Animation art, especially Disney art, is in extremely high demand, and it showed in the results from this three-day sale.”
The “Haunted Mansion” stretching room Disneyland painting (Walt Disney, 1969) prompted bids from 16 collectors before more than doubling its pre-auction estimate when it finished at $57,600. The lot is one of four historic paintings for the mansion designed by Disney Legend Inductee and one of Disney’s original “Nine Old Men,” Marc Davis, handpainted between 1969 and 1972. The paintings were designed to be used in the elevator/stretching rooms for a period of six months, and then replaced. This painting, depicting the “Elderly Widow” sitting across her husband’s tombstone, is one of the rarest original handpainted stretching room paintings ever brought to market and is considered one of the most identifiable pieces of Disneyland Park original art.
The auction included 40 lots from Mary Blair, who is identified regularly as Walt Disney’s favorite artist, including the largest “It’s A Small World” art collection ever brought to auction. Among the top lots of original art by Blair in the sale was a “Alice in Wonderland” Tulgey Wood Signpost concept painting (Walt Disney, 1951), selling for $42,000, and a “Cinderella” concept painting (Walt Disney, 1950), selling for $36,000.
The first animation auction to span three days featured a spectacular collection from what has been called Disney’s Golden Age of Animation that helped bring film animation back to its highest levels, including a “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” Snow White production cel on master production background (Walt Disney, 1937) that went for $33,600 and a “Mother Goose Goes Hollywood” production cel signed to Groucho Marx by Walt Disney courvoisier setup (Walt Disney, 1938), selling for $33,600. A “Pinocchio” original concept painting by Gustaf Tenggren (Walt Disney, 1940) sold for $33,600, and a “Fantasia Mickey Mouse as The Sorcerer's Apprentice” production cel on master production background (Walt Disney, 1940) sold for $22,800.
The top “Snow White” lot was one of 84 that sold in the sale, underscoring the support and demand for vintage art. Other “Snow White” favorites in the sale included “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” Snow White, Bashful, and Sneezy production cel and key master background (Walt Disney, 1937), selling for $19,200, and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” storyboard art by Gustav Tenggren (Walt Disney, 1937), going for $18,000.
The sale included 102 lots from the personal collection of the late animator Revalee “Rev” Chaney, a collection that brought more than $125,000. The artwork in the Chaney trove dates back to the 1940s, when Warner Bros. animation art was exceptionally rare. Among the top lots from Chaney’s collection in the auction were a “Baseball Bugs” Bugs Bunny and Gas House Gorilla production cels (group of two) (Warner Brothers, 1946), which realized $9,600.
A “Bugs Bunny” studio model drawing by Rev Chaney (Warner Brothers, 1940s) set a record for the most paid for vintage Warner Brothers artwork when it finished at $1,440. The auction even got caught up in the spirit of the season. Holiday-themed lots capturing the interest and bids of eager collectors included, but were not limited to a “Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas” The Grinch and Max production cel setup and key master background (MGM, 1966), which sold for $22,800, and a “Peanuts A Charlie Brown Christmas” Snoopy Steals Linus' Blanket production cel (Bill Melendez, 1965), selling for $12,600.
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