Animation Terms

Production Cel: The final result of creating animation using traditional ink and paint techniques, this is the art which we see on the movie screen. Cel inkers transfer the animator’s drawings onto transparent acetate sheets, and cel painters paint the character’s colors on the reverse side. Each cel is then photographed against a background by a special movie film camera…typically two film frames for each cel. The word “cel” comes from “cellulose nitrate,” an early form of the acetate material used today. ‘Vintage Production Cel’ usually refers to artwork prior to 1970…it is estimated that 95% of the production artwork from prior to 1970 was destroyed or discarded.
Production Drawing: Production Drawing describes the animator’s drawings which are used as the basis for creating animation cels. An ‘Animator’s Rough’ is typically very sketchy and loose, created to establish the look and emotions of a character in that particular moment… an ‘Extreme Drawing’ is often two rough drawings that show the character at the beginning and end of a movement or action. From the Rough Drawings, ‘clean-up’ artists refine these drawings and ‘fill in the blanks’ between the extreme drawings (called ‘tweening’). Finally, when the most refined and usually precise drawings are approved, they are used to transfer the image (called ‘inking’) onto a clear acetate cel. Usually rendered in graphite and/or colored pencil on paper, drawings illustrate an animator’s creative process of bringing characters to life.
Limited Edition Hand-painted Cel: Limited Edition hand-painted cels are created in very limited numbers using the same hand-painting technique as production cels. They may be derived from actual artwork used in the film or cartoon moment, or from artwork created by an animator or director inspired by a favorite moment. Limited edition cels are often signed by the artist or director. They are frequently the only images available reflecting the Golden Age of Animation (1930’s, 40’s and 50’s) since most of the production artwork prior to the 1970’s was destroyed or washed for reuse. Also, with the advent of computer-finished animation, hand-painted production cels are no longer the end result of the animation process. Therefore limited edition cels give collectors an opportunity to own important works of art representing classic moments in animation filmmaking which may otherwise be unavailable. Nearly all animation artists and studios create animation artwork in limited edition form.
Sericel & Serigraph: Serigraphy, the printing term for the silk-screen process, is a fine art process in which limited editions are created by meticulously screening the colors of an image onto the back of an acetate cel or the surface of fine art paper or canvas – one color at a time. The image is separated into its individual colors, then each is transferred onto a stretched screen of silk which acts like a stencil. Inks are forced through the stretched screen onto a cel, fine art paper or canvas, one color at a time. When all of the individual colors are screened onto the cel or paper, together they form the complete image. Silk-screened cels – called sericels – are typically modest in price since their edition sizes are usually large, and are not hand-signed. Limited edition serigraphs on paper or canvas are typically hand-signed by the artist indicating their personal approval of each work of art, then individually numbered to identify each work of art as a part of the total edition.
Giclee: The evolution of computer technologies has created a benefit for fine art printing. A fine art Giclee is created from the artist’s original artwork. An extremely high resolution digital image of the artwork is made, then loaded into specially enhanced printers which output the digital image onto fine art paper or canvas. Since the digital image includes every subtlety and nuance of the original – including the smallest details of light and shadow such as the textures of the paint and canvas or paper – the fine art giclee is often indistinguishable from the original work of art. Brush strokes have the appearance of brush strokes, even though they are only two dimensional images on paper. Typically, limited edition artwork is hand-signed by the artist indicating their personal approval of each work of art, then individually numbered to identify each work of art as a part of the total edition.
Lithograph: Fine art lithography utilizes a traditional printing process whereby the artist’s original image is transferred onto stone or metal lithography plates, usually by hand, or chemically. Each color must be separated from the original image, then transferred to the stone or plate. Under very heavy pressure, each color is printed onto fine art paper, one color at a time. When all of the image’s individual colors have been printed together onto the paper, the combined colors create the final and complete art. Typically, limited edition lithographs are hand-signed by the artist indicating their personal approval of each work of art, then individually numbered to identify each lithograph as a part of the total edition.
One of One: This is a premium production drawing, usually framed side by side with a matching hand-painted, one-of-a-kind cel created from the that drawing. Many one of one presentations feature characters and qualities virtually impossible to find in any form other than limited editions. Although studios routinely destroyed and discarded cels, they may have retained some of the production drawings. Using these drawings, studio artists ink and hand-paint a matching cel identical to the original production cel…a limited edition recreation of it in an edition size of just one. The drawing and cel may be signed by the director or directing animator. The one of one cel is usually numbered ‘1/1’.
Pencil Model Sheet: A group of original pencil drawings on one sheet that illustrate an animated character in a variety of poses and expressions. The model sheet may consist of several final drawings cut from other paper and mounted together on a new sheet. The production or final Model sheets are then lithographed and distributed to the animation team to ensure a uniform look and feel to a character throughout a production.
Production Background: An original background painting used in the final version of an animated film or short. The background establishes the location and overall mood of the scene. Typically, a background layout artist creates a drawing to establish the content of the scene, placement of characters, perspective and camera angle. Based on this drawing, the background artist creates a preliminary painting to confirm all of the scenes details, then the final production background which is used in the filming of the scene. Backgrounds which contain specific subject matter or content that identifies a particular scene or the film or cartoon are referred to as Master Backgrounds.
Production Cel & Background Setup: An original production cel combined with a production background used in the final version of an animated film or short. Typically, cels and backgrounds may be matched after the filmmaking process for aesthetic reasons. A Keyed Setup is the production cel and the production background matched together as used in the filming of the scene. This is extremely rare, since there may be hundreds of production cels used to film a scene which uses only one production background.
Studio Background: A non-production background prepared by the studio for publicity or presentation purposes.
Hand-prepared Background: A non-production background prepared by a studio artist to enhance or complet a cel setup.
Cel Setup: A cel or cels usually combined with a background. A cel setup may have one or more levels of cels overlaid on the background.
Storyboard Drawing: Any drawing or sequence of drawings used to describe the plot of a film visually. Typically, these rough drawings depict the overall theme or scenario of a brief moment in the film. When viewed together, the directors and lead animators can edit the story before animation is started. Storyboard drawings are typically smaller than standard 12 field animation drawings, depending on the studio, year and production.
Background Drawing or Layout: A sketch used as the basis for a background painting with the placement and action of the characters in that scene, occasionally with color highlights. Drawings or layouts may show proposed action of animated characters with characters roughly drawn in blue or red pencil.