Picks and Pans Review: Animation Art: the Early Years, 1911-1953

updated 08/28/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/28/1995 01:00AM

by Jeff Lotman

If you think $88,000 is a little much to spend on a drawing of Mickey Mouse, then you probably won't want to shell out $125 for this hefty compendium of four decades' worth of animation art. Serious and would-be collectors, though, should get out their checkbooks.

Lotman, a Philadelphia-based food company executive and avid animation art collector, has impressively cataloged and reproduced more than 6,000 pieces of original animation art that recently sold at auction, from simple pencil sketches valued at hundreds of dollars to elaborately colored movie "cels" (hand-painted celluloid) that fetch in the low six figures.

Cashing in on the explosion of the animation art market—a phenomenon due in part to the huge success of Disney movies like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King—Lotman's "comprehensive collector's bible" (a second volume is in the works) features some nifty illustrations of cartoon favorites like Felix the Cat (first inked in 1919), Popeye the Sailor (who debuted in a Betty Boop short in 1933) and Snow White (star of the first full-length animation feature in 1937).

Dozens of renditions of Mickey Mouse show how the little rodent evolved from a forlorn and spindly creature into the robust marketing icon he is today. Casual cartoon fans who don't have an extra $46,200 for a Pinocchio watercolor may be bored by this price guide for buyers. After all, the "art" of animation is not in single, static drawings, it's in how one drawing relates to another to create movement. Lotman's book highlights not the joyful lunacy of Bugs Bunny or Sylvester the Cat, but rather the sheer lunacy of collectors who eagerly pay big bucks for sketches that animation studios used to sell for a buck. (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., $125)

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