Heritage Shatters ‘Art of Anime’ Auction Record with Vol. II

Heritage Auctions’ four-day Art of Anime and Everything Cool II Animation Art Signature Auction, which wrapped Monday, realized $2,635,985 to outperform its June predecessor – itself, a multiple record-setter as the world’s first auction highlighting anime. Numerous lots far exceeded their initial estimates in this complete sell-out, which saw nearly 3,800 bidders worldwide compete for historic lots in person, on the phone and at HA.com in the largest Anime Art auction ever held.

“We were thrilled with the success of our June Animation Art auction, which brought $2.1 million, and this sale went well above and beyond that,” said Heritage Auctions Vice President and Director of Animation & Anime Art, Jim Lentz. “Animation art is growing rapidly among serious, reverent collectors, with an urgency that is reflected in the results. It has been enormously gratifying to curate these sales at Heritage Auctions, and all evidence suggests that the upward trend will continue.”

Not surprisingly, the popularity of The Art of Anime and Everything Cool has made it a fixture at Heritage Auctions, which will hold Volume III of its The Art of Anime and Everything Cool Signature Auction from August 12-14 (Consignments are now open.)

The second edition’s success was buoyed by numerous lots from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Several of the auction’s top lots were Miyazaki’s 1988’s masterwork My Neighbor Totoro, among them a production cel featuring the weird and wonderful Catbus, which attained a final price of $40,800.

Not far behind was a production cel setup from My Neighbor Totoro featuring a desperate Satsuki looking to the forest spirit Totoro for help. Like the Catbus, it was a rare offering from this beloved film. This scene, from the 1:18:03 mark is as memorable as any in the film. And any work featuring Totoro is scarce and highly coveted, which explains why bidding was up to $14,000 – well beyond its $10,000 estimate – with more than two weeks left before the live auction. The piece sold Saturday for a breathtaking $38,400. 

This event also featured something exceptionally special, undeniably rare and, now, remarkably valuable: an original drawing of Nausicaä, princess of the Valley of the Wind, by the hand of Miyazaki himself. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was his second animated feature after The Castle of Cagliostro, and while it was made before Miyazaki co-founded Studio Ghibli, it is widely considered part of the studio’s canon. This piece, which realized $31,200, is also signed by Miyazaki and dated August 4, 1987.

Akira - Kaneda motorcycle production cel (Tokyo Movie Shinsha)
Akira – Kaneda motorcycle production cel (Tokyo Movie Shinsha)

There were also non-Ghibli stand-outs in this sale, chief among them production cels from 1988’s Akira, the manga-turned-film that remains a classic in any medium. Set in a dystopian future in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster and war, the vast story deals with corruption, rebellion and a struggle for what’s best for society. It also features some pretty amazing scenes of Kaneda astride his iconic red motorcycle in the Katsuhiro Otomo movie, among them a production cel that sold last weekend for $21,000 (pictured) and another that raced to a $20,400 finish.

Another breakout star of the sale was Dragon Ball, which contributed 80 lots to the sale – chief among them this Goku and Shenron publicity cel from 1986, which likewise sold for $20,400. Created from the prominent artwork of the renowned mangaka Akira Toriyama, this dynamic work displays hero Son Goku astride his Flying Nimbus, facing the mighty Shenron holding the four-star Dragon Ball.

The “Everything Cool” part of this sale was just as hot – and often quite heated, as collectors battled over two Frank Frazetta drawings, proving, yet again, that the man who brought fine art to fantasy art remains as coveted as ever. Bidders battled over his original Vampirella illustration from 1991, which fetched $144,000. And from the same year, his graphite rendering of Dejah Thoris, wife of John Carter in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ beloved Barsoom stories, sold for $66,000.

Charles Schulz’s baseball-themed original Peanuts strips proved to be a home run with collectors. An original daily strip dated August 13, 1973, sold for $43,200. And from Feb. 22, 1965, a signed-and-inscribed original daily strip featuring that odd couple Lucy and Schroeder (at his piano, where else?) sold for $31,200.

Thirteen SpongeBob SquarePants lots were snapped up in the sale, led by a SpongeBob First Episode Production Cel with Master Background and Animation Drawing Group of 2 (Nickelodeon, 1999), which brought $15,600 – nearly 21 times its pre-auction estimate.

Also in high demand was Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur Animation Drawing Original Art (1914), which drew 22 bids before finishing at $12,600. Gertie the Dinosaur was not technically the first animated film, but it was the first to really capture the attention of film-goers, with Gertie the first animated superstar.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Grinch & Max production cel (MGM)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Grinch & Max production cel (MGM)

Nearly two dozen bids poured in for Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas Mt. Crumpit Pan Background Layout Drawing by Maurice Noble (MGM, 1966) before it found a new home at $9,900, nearly doubling its estimate. This large (65- by 19-inch) background is from the opening sequence when the camera starts at the top of Mt. Crumpit and pans down to Whoville and was created by Chuck Jones’ long-time right-hand man. From the same beloved classic came a How The Grinch Stole Christmas Grinch and Max Production Cel Signed by Chuck Jones (MGM, 1966), which prompted 29 bids before it reached $8,400.

One of the most popular shows and the longest-running animated show in TV history, The Simpsons was featured in 52 lots in the sale. Among them were The Simpsons (Tracey Ullman Show) Entire Family Production Cel Setup with Key Master Background (Fox, 1987), which drew $9,300; “The Telltale Head” Homer, Bart and Townspeople Production Cel Setup (Fox, 1990), which finished at $7,200; and a “Treehouse of Horror V” Key Master Production Cel Setup (20th Century Fox, 1994) that brought $5,280.

Other top lots included: 

  • Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Halloween Town Prototype Model (Walt Disney/Touchstone, 1993): $8,400 
  • Grease Opening Credits Animation Signed Production Cels Group of 5 (Fine Art Films/Paramount, 1978): $7,800 
  • Captain America Jack Kirby-Inspired Bronze Statue (Marvel/Bowen, 1998): $7,800 
  • The Heckling Hare Bugs Bunny Production Cel (Warner Brothers, 1941): $7,500 

For complete results, visit HA.com/7267.



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