Collecting animated history

 Curio & Co. looks at the big business of animation art. Mantagon model sheet for 1960s animated TV show Spaceman Jax and the Galactic Adventures produced by PUD film. Image courtesy Curio and Co.

Cartoons may have been thought of as entertainment for little kids, but selling animation art is all grown up.

Animation art today is big business, with original production art from major studios such as Disney or Warner Brothers fetching high prices at auctions from fine art sellers like Christie’s or Sotheby’s. In fact, buying animation is a pretty good investment, as the pieces continue to go up in value.

That wasn’t always the case, however. Finding the art today can sometimes be pretty difficult as some pieces were thrown away once the production was finished. You read that right: the pieces were simply put in the trash. You hear stories about entire comic book or baseball card collections trashed by mothers when kids were away at summer camp, but what’s so surprising about the case of animation art is that it was done by the creators themselves.

Studios didn’t have the space or the need to keep art once production was finished. Artists were allowed to keep whatever they might want, but the studio asked that everything else just be tossed out. So unless there was an image that the artist particularly liked, out it went.

That doesn’t mean that there is nothing of this history left, however. Many pieces were saved – pulled out of dumpsters – by curious children who lived or played near the studios. Eager for a picture of their favorite characters, they dove in and salvaged many a piece of animation history – just for fun.

And thank goodness they did! Without those little dumpster divers, much of the work of smaller studios – like UPA or pud film – might have been lost altogether. Fortunately for Spaceman Jax fans, production designer Philip La Carta saved a lot of his work done for shows like Spaceman Jax and the Galactic Adventures and Brigadier Buffalo. Which means that there’s plenty of amazing pieces to keep collectors happy for many years to come.