The purpose of this glossary is to provide a basic reference to aid in understanding both the terminology and the different kinds of animation art a collector may encounter.

Two things are helpful in understanding animation art. One is a comprehension of the basis of cel animation itself, in which sequential images of the character are rendered on paper, transferred to cels, placed over a background, photographed and projected one at a time at the rate of 24 frames per second to create the illusion of motion.

The second is recognizing that animation art is divided into three distinct categories:

  • Pre-production: Preliminary artwork created in the developmental stages of the film.
  • Production: Artwork actually photographed and used in the release print of the film.
  • Post-production: Artwork made after the film for advertising or publicity purposes. Also included in this category is artwork created for consumer products, limited edition cels, serigraphs, and dye transfers.
  • CEL: A clear plastic sheet on which the character has been rendered. Although there are variations, the most common method is for the animator’s drawing to be inked or xerographed onto the front of the cel and then painted on the back. Animated props and special effects – such as water or lightning – are also rendered on cels.
  • CELLULOID®: Cellanese Corporation’s brand of nitrocellulose. It was the first man-made plastic, and the first material used in the manufacture of cels. The term cel derives from celluloid and is still used today, although nitrocellulose was replaced for animation industry use by cellulose acetate, a safer and much more stable material, about 1940.
  • BACKGROUND: A piece of artwork, usually a painting, over which the finished cels are placed to be photographed, and which serves as the setting for the action.
  • Production Background: A background used in the release print of the film; also referred to as a master background.
  • Preliminary Background: A background painting created during the production process of the film that did not appear in the release print.
  • Art Props or Studio Background: A background painting created by studio artists for publicity or display purposes.
  • Hand-Prepared or Display Background: A non-studio background created solely to accent a cel.
  • Printed Background: A lithographed reproduction of a background used to enhance cels.
  • Background Layout: The finished drawing used for the background painting. Often erroneously called line test background.
  • OVERLAY: A portion of a scene, generally a foreground element, painted on or applied to a cel and laid over the action to create the illusion of depth.
  • SET-UP: A combination of a cel, or cels, and background. A set-up may also include additional elements from a scene, such as overlays or special effects.
  • Matching or Key Set-up: Cels and backgrounds – and other elements, such as overlays, if applicable – hat appeared together in the final, released version of the film.
  • Non-Matching or Married Set-up: Similar to a matching set-up, however, the elements may have come from different scenes of the film.
  • DRAWING: A wide variety of drawings are created during the making of a film. The most characteristic are the animator’s drawings of the character. In addition, there are story and layout drawings to establish direction and staging; concept drawings to work out elements such as design, atmosphere, or color; character studies; and many other types created during the different stages of production. These can be large or small, sketchy or fully rendered, and may be in any media from pencil or charcoal to pastel.
  • COLOR MODEL: A preliminary cel created to work out the color styling for a character, which may or may not be in the final colors used in the film. Once colors have been established, color model cels are created as guides for inkers and painters. Color models are also created as guides for non-production uses, such as character costumes.
  • MODEL SHEET: A sheet containing several drawings of a character or characters, showing construction, poses, expressions, and relative sizes, used as a guide by the animator to assure consistency of appearance. These may be either originals or stat copies created in small quantities by the studio for distribution to the artists involved.
  • 12-FIELD: Standard cel size of approximately 12 1/2″ wide by 10 1/2″ high.
  • 16-FIELD: Standard cel size of approximately 15 1/2″ wide by 12 1/2″ high.
  • PAN: A cel, background, or set-up that is wider than standard, and is used for moving camera shots.
  • PUNCH: The characteristic holes that appear at the edge, usually the bottom, of production drawings, cels, and backgrounds. These holes fit over corresponding pegs and keep all elements in exact register or alignment throughout the production process.
  • COURVOISIER SET-UP: Courvoisier Galleries, San Francisco, were the first to offer original Disney animation art. From 1937 through 1946 they sold and distributed Disney production cels, drawings, and related materials from several features and shorts in specially prepared set-ups, which included custom backgrounds, certificates, and mats.
  • CUT-OUT: An image from which the excess cel material has been trimmed to the character line. Cut-outs are usually affixed to a background. They are not uncommon, and are frequently seen with Courvoisier set-ups and Disney studio-prepared set-ups from the 1950’s. May also be called a partial or trimmed cel.
  • IN REGISTER or REGISTERED: Refers to a portion of a character on a cel that is incomplete or cut off, because it has been drawn to align with background or other elements.
  • LAMINATION: The encapsulation or sandwiching of an object in thermoset plastic. Courvoisier laminated cels, as did the Disney Original Art Program. Lamination is not an appropriate form of preservation.
  • LIMITED EDITION: Artwork created for retail sales in order to meet the demand for animation art of vintage and classic characters. Characters are usually depicted in ideal poses and the artwork is numbered, showing the edition number and total pieces in the edition. Limited edition cels are often presented as set-ups with printed matching backgrounds.
  • SERIGRAPH OR SERICEL: Artwork created for retail sales to resemble a cel, but utilizing a mass-produced, screen printing procedure, instead of production techniques.
  • DYE TRANSFER: A high quality, printed reproduction of a cel set-up.

S/R Laboratories animation art conservation center will be pleased to help should you encounter terminology not mentioned here.