Saturday, June 7, 2008

It's a Jungle Out There

There have been a number of Jungle Book cels on the market in the past week. Between ebay auctions and gallery listings, I figured it was as good a time as any to look at the market for art from this film.

Let's start off with Mowgli. These following three images all sold on ebay this week. The first one sold for $273.68 The close-up went for $374.00. And the damaged cel where Mowgli is try to balance the water jug on his head went for $383.89. Now those seem a little undervalued to me. However, as opposed to some other films, even though Mowgli is not the main character, he is not necessarily the most popular one from this beloved movie.

Instead, two of the most popular characters for collectors are Shere Khan and King Louie. Due to their limited screen time (King Louie only has one scene and Shere Khan only appears in the final third of the film). Both of these characters infuse a new jolt of life into the story when they appear, which is what makes them so popular. That, and in Khan's case, he was animated by the master himself, Milt Kahl.
Take a look at this Shere Khan cel which just sold on ebay for $532. (You'll notice it is also undervalued, but that has as much to do with the item listing as anything else. A photo was not included on the external post).

Here, Khan is at his most animalistic: lurking, menacing, coiled and ready to pounce. Look at the muscular form, accentuated by the tiger stripes. It's perhaps the most realistic animal depiction since Bambi and perhaps even outshines the great work done in the opening of the Lion King. If this cel lacks anything, its the acerbic wit provided by George Sander's marvelous vocal work on the film. This is not the sophisticated Khan we are about to meet. This is the dangerous Khan we've been warned about from the opening of the film. This cel is a real masterpiece.

Now, onto the other character highly desired by collectors: King Louie. Again, he only appears in one scene. But that scene is not only a highlight of the film, its a showstopper. The film threatens to come to a screeching halt once Louie leaves the film. And its the crazy energy (and equally crazy animation) which is what we love.

Louie cels don't come up on ebay that often. When they do, they often fetch gallery style prices. But that doesn't mean you can't find a great King Louie cel out there. This following one at Van Eaton Galleries sells for $1300.

Again, look at Louie. Notice the wild look on his face as he gets into the music. This is a great pose. It's also nicely set against a reproduction of one of the backgrounds in the actual film. More on that in a moment...

But now, lets talk about the one favorite character I haven't discussed yet. Papa Bear himself, Baloo. Generally speaking, Baloo cels are more common. He appears in a good chunk of the film. On ebay, the Baloo image below grabbed $417.50.

Baloo also represents the crazy, jazzy elements of The Jungle Book. But thanks to his relationship with Mowgli, he also grows up over the course of the movie. This cel helps capture that inner turmoil as his character realizes he needs to grow up.
Like Mowgli, a solo Baloo is only so attractive to collectors. However, once you pair them up, you have a solid item, and perhaps the most desired of any Jungle Book fan: a Mowgli and Baloo combo.

The image here is available at Animation Sensations for $1900. Again, its the serious Baloo, telling Mowgli he can't stay in the Jungle. Again, its set against a nice reproduction background similar to what is in the movie.

This last item is remarkable cheaper and available at Wonderful World of Animation for $1225. Here you have the more carefree Baloo tell Mowgli to get up, after he's been knocked down. The cel has some slight damage as listed on the site. But what is interesting to note is the background, which is a desert setting. Sold at the Disneyland Art Corner, the cel and the background don't really go together. Perhaps against a more tropical lush landscape, the cel would get its proper value.

Now, the one thing I haven't discussed yet are the factors driving the Jungle Book market. As we all probably know, it's the last to have Walt's seal of approval. And it's seen as the last true Walt Disney classic. In fact, Sword in the Stone is more akin to the post-Walt era even though it came out four years earlier. Walt wasn't as involved in the making of that 1963 film and it shows. But with Jungle Book, he saw to it that the film would have heart and engage audiences. In fact the Jungle Book is often the dividing line of Disney animated films. All films before that are considered "Vintage" or "Classic" while the ones which followed are often classified as "Contemporary."

However, because Disney had already entered the art market with its Disneyland shop when Jungle Book was released, it is not hard to find cels from the film. They pop up fairly regularly. Due to the healthy number of cels available, demand isn't as high and so neither are prices.

Still, many collectors value the items they own from the Jungle Book as much as from any other film they own. Don't believe me? Check out Disney Animator Andreas Deja and his collection on the recent 40th anniversary release DVD.

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