Animation artwork from Disney's 1989 hit, "The Little Mermaid," brought a total of $1,237,940 at auction at Sotheby's in New York over the weekend, exceeding pre-sale estimates by 10 times in some instances. All but 10 of the 283 lots of cels and backgrounds sold.
A cel-and-background setup of Ariel, the title character, combing her hair with a fork to the bewilderment of Prince Eric and his tutor, Grimsby, sold for $25,300--five times its estimate of $5,000 to $7,000. A setup of Ariel with Sebastian, Scuttle and Flounder also sold for $25,300, 10 times its estimated price of $2,500 to $3,500. A cel and background of Ariel surrounded by her mermaid sisters, estimated at $5,000 to $7,000, went for $24,500.
"It was the most unpredictable auction I've ever observed, a real roller-coaster ride," said Mike Glad, a part of whose animation collection is currently on display at the Museum of Comic Art in San Francisco.
"Prices didn't seem to be determined by the quality of the images. A setup of Ariel confronting Ursula that I considered the best piece in the sale brought only $8,800. One image of Louis the Chef, a minor character, went for $23,100, but another setup of Louis sold for only $3,575. I ended up buying one or two things because I couldn't believe how cheap they were. I think there were a lot of new players bidding."
It was the second auction of artwork from a Disney cartoon at Sotheby's. A sale of cels from the Disney/Amblin comedy "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" in June, 1989, brought $1,660,725.