The Attention is in the Details.
sensitivity of artwork, like that of animation cels and backgrounds,
is not something new nor is it something remotely unique to the
animation world. Art objects throughout time have been created by
artists with little thought to their longevity. Some examples of
this are Salvatore Dali’s sculptures made of bread; the questionable
but inexpensive pigments used in the oil paintings of Vincent Van
Gogh; the paper collages of Henri Matisse; and the fragile nature
of any work on glass like those by Tiffany.
I have found that, much as with children, animation cels are a product
of how they were raised. The ones that have been cared for and nurtured
properly are in better shape than the ones who have been ignored
or treated with disregard. There is no severely damaged animation
cel that I worked on that does not tell a story of abuse in the
secondary market or poor planning by whoever prepared it for its
Even though it is a painful thought to many in the art conservation
field, restoration is something that many in the private sector
seek and something that can be done with restraint and with care
so that it can be undone. Done properly, it can give a severely
damaged art object “new” life by allowing a piece of
near total loss to be enjoyed again by the public. For me and many
in my profession, the unfortunate sentiment in my previous sentence
is the word “new,” as it suggests a complete removal
and disregard of the original material. It is with a sensitivity
to that sentiment that I decided long ago that there is no animation
cel that needs to be completely restored.
To this end, I limit the restoration work I do to PARTIAL RESTORATION
of severely damaged areas depicting disruptive loss. Even in the
most severe cases -- as when a cel has been badly water damaged
-- at no time are both sides of the cel washed clean.