The Attention is in the Details

The 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 original sale.

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.