It jumps, it moves, it makes you laugh and cry...but is it art?

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The Independent Online
The Simpsons, television's cult cartoon comedy series, is now art, a notion that might drive the anarchic, iconoclastic family to hysterics.

Original drawings from the series will feature in their own exhibition, The Simpsons Animation Art Exhibition, at the Animation Art Gallery in Great Castle Street, London, from next weekend.

The exhibition will be opened by Yeardley Smith, the actress who is the voice of Lisa Simpson. The drawing themselves are likely to fetch up to pounds 500 each.

In moving from the animation studios to the art market, The Simpsons are part of a growing realisation among galleries of the desirability among collectors for original examples of screen animation. The most common reasons have been nostalgia and interest in cinema and television history, which is why early Disney drawings still fetch the premium prices.

But latterly much more recent animation is appearing in galleries and at auction houses. The Simpsons is only six years old. And the successes British animation from Cosgrove Hall studios are also attracting attention.

Russell Singler of the Animation Art Gallery says: "Animation art is highly collectible. We specialise in Disney, Warner Brothers and Hanna Barbera, but many of the smaller studios have also produced collectible animation.

"The range goes from pounds 20 to several thousand pounds. The most expensive item we have is a six-dwarf set up from the original 1937 drawings for Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. That is priced at pounds 5,600."

Alongside Disney in Mr Singler's gallery are Batman and Spiderman animation art, The Flintstones from the Eighties (pounds 400), as opposed to the original Flintstone drawings from the Sixties which are very rare and would fetch pounds 1,800.

Key characters from our childhoods inspire higher prices. An original storyboard drawing of Cruella De Vil from Disney's 101 Dalmations is valued at pounds 2,500. And at auction in the United States the biggest rarities, drawings from early black-and-white 1930s short films starring Mickey Mouse, have commanded a $1m price.

Mr Singler said: "Everyone has their favourite cartoon character and we can find them an original from that series."

Finding the original cels - a single scene which will make up only a fraction of a second of the version seen on film - can be difficult. "Most of the older animation cels were just thrown away," says Mr Singler. "They were never seen as anything of value but today it's quite different. This is North American heritage."

The Simpsons is art, adds Mr Singler, "because art is something you buy because you enjoy looking at it. It means something to you, inspires emotions and you enjoy it".

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