Sunday, 18 August 2013

Princess Mononoké Animation Production Cel

This is a genuine animation cel from Hayao Miyazaki's 'Princess Mononoké' (1997) that I bought from the Japanese Gallery in London. ( This is one of the 144,000 cels that were hand inked and painted for production before being layered on top of painted backgrounds and sometimes other coloured cels (additional characters, props and special effects) and shot under a camera for the finished film. Miyazaki himself oversaw every cel in production and is said to have personally redrawn parts of 80,000 of these cels, so it is likely he had a part in producing this cel!

The colours are wonderfully vivid! You can see the pencil outline around the painted cel, it's slightly misaligned due to the positioning of the paper (the pegbar holes are not matched between cel/paper when mounted and framed).

Authenticity sticker on the back from The Japanese Gallery in London, UK, they are a really lovely shop with very friendly and enthusiastic staff and will hopefully have more stock soon, so keep an eye out on their website! They rarely get Ghibli cels, but they have great stock from Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon and sometimes Pokémon! They have a lovely Shinji cel from Neon Genesis Evangelion at the moment, too!

Mononoké is the last Studio Ghibli film to have been hand painted on cel (nowadays the films are still drawn, but coloured and put together on a computer instead) so this is a piece of cinematic history that I'm very happy to own (and it is one of my favourite films, too!). Animation cels are an expensive investment, as they are completely unique works of art and but they are beautiful pieces to own and it's an art form that doesn't really exist anymore thanks to digital colouring so they are also more valuable as they age.

An animation cel is produced by tracing the lines of the characters from an animation drawing in a dark ink onto transparent cel (so you can see through to the background beneath) and then carefully painting the colours (light and dark) onto the back of the cel. In this example, the line between dark and light colours are also drawn in a coloured ink (see close up below) so that the shade will not flicker between frames and the line will not show on the finished film. This is the result, but when you look at the back of a cel, it's an interesting mass of colour that is odd to look at but very revealing of the production process! Sadly the back of this cel cannot be accessed due to reasons explained below.

Here you can see an example of skin tone by Ashitaka's ear where they painted a corrective colour on top rather than scrape off the original tone from the paint and repaint it. You have to look very closely to notice!

The cel is mounted on top of the production drawing beneath (in Japan these clean-up drawings are called 'douga'). Sadly the two are completely stuck together and I'd hate to spoil either the cel or drawing in the process of separating them! This happens sometimes when the drawing and cel are shipped together, instead of being stored in special cel bags to avoid them sticking. Some of the red from Eboshi's kimino has also bled onto the drawing underneath which is a real shame.

The slight ripples in the cel are reflected here. You can also see the coloured pencil lines on the paper which are used to differentiate shading and/or different characters.

The cel is number B-16. The 'B' means it is the second cel layer/field (there are background characters and an effects layer in this scene, too) and the 16 denotes the 16th frame in the scene. The number isn't circled, so it is probably an in-between, rather than a key, but it looks like a key drawing when you see it in the context of the scene in the movie.

A personally captured still from Princess Mononoké (1997)

This is the exact frame of Princess Mononoké that this cel was used for. It's from my favourite sequence in the whole film where Mononoké enters Irontown to kill Lady Eboshi, but Ashitaka, who wishes for peace, intercepts their battle to return the princess to her forest. I cannot wait for the Blu-Ray release of this film! 

This is the first animation cel I've ever purchased, and hopefully not the last as I adore traditional animation and have a tendency for collecting things... I don't know when I'll find and buy my next cel, but I'll post more pictures when I do! :) If you have any questions, feel free to ask! :)