Ariel Fake Ariel Fake
Bad IdeasDisney

Most Disney Drawings on eBay are FORGERIES!

A blind person could tell the difference between the forged animation artwork being sold by Pittsburgh-area Gallery on Baum and the genuine article. Some of the forgeries on eBay, however, are more carefully produced and thus more difficult to distinguish from the original artwork.

One seller on eBay, Hkleiman, has been selling what appear to be forged pieces of animation art for at least the past year. [UPDATE – Sept. 29, 2011 : Since I originally wrote this post, I have spoken to both HKleiman and multiple other reputable people in the animation art community who know Hkleiman. It turns out that he has a long history in animation art and is a well respected seller. He has since amended some of his eBay descriptions and stopped selling these particular pieces in question. Although there are countless disreputable sellers on eBay, HKleiman is not among them and one of the good guys.]

They were first discovered by The artist who runs the blog carefully analyzed the clean-up drawings with the finished film frames, and discovered numerous discrepancies consistent with forgeries. The artist, who asked us to keep him anonymous, knows a thing or two about clean-up since he worked as an inbetween clean-up artist on The Princess and the Frog.

This is what he told us:

I made a blog cataloging all the drawings that have been sold and I point out the differences between the fake and original. I have about twenty drawings up so far and in total they’ve sold on eBay for almost $3000 (I have about five or six left on my computer to put up) . And all but one or two of the drawings are from the same seller.

When I contacted the seller I was concerned and told him that one of the drawings he’s selling might be fake. He assured me that they’re real and he gets them from a trusted Disney animator. But with my blog I think I’ve shown enough differences to disprove that. My goal with this blog is to help people spot the differences between a real drawing and a fake and to hopefully get these people their money back. But before I contact the buyers I wanted to get some feedback from professionals.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for purchasing animation artwork on eBay: unless you’re buying from a reputable dealer who has an established and respected presence in the real world, assume you’re buying a fake.

Forged storyboard drawing of Ursula (top) and original on bottom

  • You have to give those forgers credit: if someone didn’t care enough to check the film and cross-analyze them, then it would easy to mistake them as the real deal. Some of those fakes DO look 100% like the real deal to me, and it’s only because the research has been done that I know they aren’t.

  • They could totaly fool me with this one.

  • Nancy Beiman

    You can fake the older drawings by putting the paper in the oven for a few minutes, using red construction lines, and punching a few extra pegholes. But you can’t fake the old Disney pegs, which weren’t Acme…they are a little closer to the center peg.
    No, I never forged anything, but a friend told me how this was done once…which means someone did it.

    • The red construction lines are a dead giveaway. The red pencil used at Disney in the old days was a totally different color than red pencils made today. They also used a specific type of paper that carried a watermark. It really isn’t that difficult to discern outright forgeries.

  • MichaelHughes

    Why do people value these? So many thousands of drawings are generated in these productions. Why aren’t the artists getting in on this strange market? Or are they?

    • Specs

      “Why do people value these? So many thousands of drawings are generated in these productions.”

      Because it’s cool to own an actual piece of a Disney movie. These films have sentimental value in the hearts of viewers, as well as cultural value in society at large. For many people, it’s worth money to be able to hold and own a piece of that.

      And for cels and the like, there’s also value because 2D paper animation is dying. One day there won’t be any cels, which makes collectors want to grab them while the chance still exists.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Probably why I ended up in that racket myself.

    • Kyle Maloney

      Isn’t that likely how they got into circulation in the first place?

    • Ray S

      Production drawings from before 1999-2000 are highly valued because there really weren’t people collecting these before Disney’s 2nd golden era. Most of these drawings and sketches ended up in the trash. What was usually saved were the painted cels, and even a good number of those were discarded as well. It’s sort of like comic books from the 1930s-60s. We threw those out after reading. Thousands were published, but try finding an Action Comics #1 or Detective Comics #27 today.

  • The first red flag for me, funny enough, is the final price for each piece. Legitimate, key drawings like the ones featured on the Disney Fakes blog usually go for much, much higher, no? It’s so difficult to find really recognizable frames for a low asking price; the one’s I see in the price range of these are usually not-so-fancy inbetweens of a iconic scene, or some non-iconic scene in the film/short. It’s the whole “too good to be true” rule.

    I guess the theory is ask a profitable price, but not high enough to get lots of attention and get it sold faster to someone most likely not knowing to check for authenticity. Weeee! Scams are fun!

  • Anne D Bernstein

    This is such a weird coincidence. I just finally got around to reading Errol Morris’ seven-part series in the Times about the Dutch forger Han van Meegeren (from 2009). I finished it about five minutes ago. Of course THAT is about faux Vermeers and Nazis but forgery seems to be the theme of my day. Always fascinating!(Also, the comments on the Times blog are interesting because everyone IN RETROSPECT thinks that forgeries are so obvious and stupid-looking.)

  • Anyone interested in the psychology of real vs. forgery should check out Orson Welles’ documentary “F for Fake”.

  • Ted

    There is much in the seller’s current for sale items that are from cuts known to be on the market (and that are not especially worth forging). The Beany and DJ cels, the Batman Beyond cel, and the Jerky Turkey drawing are all from cuts that have been showing up on the market from different sellers for years. Drawings from the Jerky Turkey cut show up in John Canemaker’s Tex Avery book, and have been sold by reputable dealers (I’m fairly certain Howard Lowery has sold from the cut, and I believe Mike Van Eaton has, tho I’m not certain his current stock has this particular cut represented. I actually own the next drawing from the cut after the one the seller has for sale at the moment).

    Of course, just because something has been around for awhile doesn’t make it genuine, but there is minimal reason to forge the pieces I’ve mentioned; none of them are particularly high value or attractive.

    As for the Disney drawings mentioned, there is more of a financial reason to forge these particular pieces. There are also people who worked on it or are working in more or less the same style as it was worked in, with more or less the same materials, meaning the pieces would be relatively easy to forge (which would nt apply to the Jerky Turkey drawing, at least).

    However, drawings that do not match the on screen product are not necessarily forgeries. The vast majority of Simpsons drawings on the market clearly differ from what is ultimately on screen, usually with completely different compositions compared to the on screen shot. The explanation for this seems fairly obvious; that these are discarded preliminary versions of drawings, which is why they have been able to escape to the market. This is supported in my experience by the fact that I bought a drawing that ended up being for Treehouse of Horror VIII but with a different composition compared to the final shot, before the episode aired.

    Even assuming the Simpsons drawings are genuine discards, that doesn’t mean the Disney drawings are also discards. If we have a Disney inbetweener from the production telling us that it would have been virtually impossible for the noted errors to show up at the stage these drawings would have been made, that is certainly strong evidence that these examples are forgeries, not discards.

    I will note finally that even if these particular drawings are forgeries, that does not justify the alarmist header “Most Disney Drawings on eBay are FORGERIES!”. There are 182 hits (a few are not art) on eBay under collectables for “Disney” and “drawing”. hkleinman’s current stock consists of 1 drawing that meets that criteria.

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    Conjecture: With the obvious talent in rough & clean-up displayed, I wonder if it is the work of a disgruntled ex-Disney employee who feels the are owed?

  • JoshM.

    Great tip. I’ve been racking my brain for gift ideas for my fake Canadian/lingerie model girlfriend. Fake Disney art is just the thing!

  • Karen

    There are quite a few forged Mary Blair paintings out there–even at so-called “reputable” sites/dealers. Some could be attributed to people attempting to copy Blair’s style at the time on purpose. But some appear to have been done fairly recently. It’s like comparing terrific 50’s graphic design to the crap “shag” spews out.

  • I do authentications for a living, and although the information on that blog certainly proves that these aren’t “under the camera” pieces, but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily fakes.

    Harry Kleiman is a reputable dealer who has been in the animation art business longer than anyone I know. If he says he bought these from an animator, I believe him. The drawings are probably study drawings done by a junior animator or assistant working from xerox copies of sketches by lead animators. The artists at Disney are allowed to take their working drawings home for their portfolio. I’d bet that these fall into that category. I doubt that they are fakes like the ones in your previous post. An animator would be hard pressed to make it worth his while selling fakes like this. They just don’t sell for that much.

    There are forgeries in the animation art market, but they aren’t usually fakes of low priced modern ruffs. The majority of them are high priced vintage production drawings where tracebacks have been added to partial figures to make them full figures. You can tell them by looking for the telltale “TB” mark followed by a drawing number. Sometimes the TB has been erased, so look carefully. It takes a lot of experience with production art to be able to identify the really well done fakes. Analyzing the drawing like the fella is doing on this blog is part of that process, but there are other things to check that enter into the equation as well.

    In any case, Harry Kleiman is certainly not the villain here. I’m sure he stands behind the art he sells. And my opinion would be that these are legitimate drawings, just not drawings done specifically for the purpose of animation.

    • JoshM.

      “Analyzing the drawing like the fella is doing on this blog is part of that process, but there are other things to check that enter into the equation as well.”

      Could I ask what some of the “other things” would be?

      • Materials, markings, functionality, comparisons and provenance. Each piece has a set of attributes that in combination indicate whether it is authentic or not. There’s no one way to determine it… They all have to jibe.

    • amid

      Steve – There is a drawing of Ariel currently available for sale by Kleiman and it is being advertised as “THIS IS THE REAL THING and was used in the production of this ANIMATED MASTERPIECE!!” Whether he’s knowingly or unknowingly selling these drawings, he hasn’t done due diligence on the artwork (or his sources) and is engaging in deceptive labeling tactics on eBay.

      And that’s putting it kindly. Explain all the concept drawings and storyboard drawings he sold which are on the Disney Fakes blog. No artist at Disney is going to spend that much time “practicing” to replicate rough storyboard art, and then get rid of the whole batch. If they truly were practice drawings, you’d assume that not every single one would be a clean and carefully rendered replica. Something’s rotten in Denmark, and as somebody who sells animation art for a living, you should be the first to acknowledge that a lot of people are being duped by Kleiman.

      • Animators practice a lot, especially ones that are learning the trade. Glen Keane’s ruffs were widely distributed throughout the studio as xeroxes. You might find the same Keane drawing by ten different hands because he was being used as a model. Ruffs are the way artists figure out construction. They don’t learn by doing tracey cleanups. These drawing fit perfectly in what one might expect from “practice drawings”.

        The category of “production art” ranges from doodles sketched on placemats at lunchtime story meetings to finished looking cleanups. There’s a lot inbetween. It’s a mistake to assume that because a drawing isn’t the specific one that was used under the camera, it must be a fake. Times are hard for some people right now. That flushes out the scrap and it ends up at animation art dealers. Stuff like this doesn’t fetch a lot of money and markups on low end art like this are steep. There would be no profit in making up fakes of stuff like this.

        I’ve seen hundreds of thousands of pieces of animation art over the years, and I’m one of the guys that the dealers go to for authentications. Although terms like “masterpiece” get thrown around pretty liberally by dealers, these drawings look to me like “the real deal”. You’ll find similar ones at all dealers… We even have some batches of ruffs like this that were donated to the archive.

      • amid

        I’ll say it again: Whether he’s knowingly or unknowingly selling these drawings, Kleiman hasn’t done due diligence on the artwork (or his sources) and is engaging in deceptive labeling tactics on eBay.

      • Are you talking about the Ariel drawing? The only inaccuracy I see in the description is that it is a clean up, not a rough. (colored lines indicating the self lines). That isn’t a big deal because the picture shows what it is. The Arial looks to me like a drawing made in the production of the film. I’m assuming his description of paper and pegs is accurate. I’d have to see the drawing itself to check that. What is deceptive?

      • amid

        You’re making this more difficult than it has to be. I’ve already posted above what he’s claiming on eBay: “THIS IS THE REAL THING and was used in the production of this ANIMATED MASTERPIECE!!”

      • Ted

        I think it would be at least misleading to label a practice drawing based on art from a previous production to brush up on skills as a piece of production art, and in the situation I have just described it would be completely erroneous to label the piece as production art from production A when it is based on a drawing from production A but done for production B. There’s certainly a place for that type of work in the marketplace, but it is bad practice to put that type of work out into the market not clearly marketed as such, and even if marketed with full disclosure it is potentially dangerous to future buyers in a chain as the piece gets further from the source and errors creep into the description by sellers down the line (intentionally or not). Ideally, any artist passing on such a drawing would make a non removable notation on the piece itself identifying its nature.

  • The first red flag for me, funny enough, is the final price for each piece. Legitimate, key drawings like the ones featured on the Disney Fakes blog usually go for much, much higher, no?

    Recent animation art doesn’t sell for that much on the secondary market. Collectors prefer vintage cels like Snow White and Pinocchio. They don’t have a lot of interest in rough drawings. Animators generally prefer those though.

  • greg m.

    someone alluded to something that I thought as well – there might be some out of work assistants out there who are desperate to earn a buck in order to survive. That Ariel was a decent drawing.

  • “Under the camera” is the generally recognized term for artwork photographed for a specific frame of film. “Production Art” is the generally accepted term for any artwork used in the making of the film… Concept drawings, “outs”, tests and practice drawings all fall into the category of “Production Art”. In general, as long as a production piece looks good, whether or not it is under the camera or not doesn’t affect the value.

    Animation art is basically reclaiming artwork from the trash that has already served its purpose. It’s created for its function in making the film at the time it’s made and no thought is given to the potential collectors’ value years down the road. Some animators have boxes of ruffs in their garage… Literally decades worth of sketches. They don’t remember the circumstances in which they created all of it, and if they decide to sell it, they grab a stack and just hand it to a dealer. The dealer determines what production it is from as best as he can and sells it as a “production animation drawing”‘ which means it is a drawing done during the production of an animated film.

    If a collector really wants “under the camera”, not just production, a dealer will usually provide them with a xerox copy to compare to their video of the film and decide for themselves. Because a drawing isn’t under the camera, it doesn’t mean it’s a fake. There are fakes out there and even dealers get fooled sometimes, but all reputable dealers, Harry Kleiman included, will refund the buyer’s money if a question of authenticity is raised. Thankfully, most fakes are blatantly amateurish and are easily spotted if you have a little experience.

    It helps to learn a little bit about how the animation art business works if you want to collect it. Talking to dealers is a good way to learn. There are independent people like myself who are happy to double check art for collectors too. The animation art business is very small. Everyone knows everyone and is willing to help if there’s a problem. Back in the 80s there were a bunch of crooks who got into animation art because it was so lucrative. But the market has cooled down and the crooks have moved on. The dealers that are left are the people like Kleiman who are collectors themselves and have been involved in animation art for decades.

    • amid

      Again, he wrote, “THIS IS THE REAL THING and was used in the production of this ANIMATED MASTERPIECE!!”

      If Kleiman is selling a clean-up drawing and writing the description above, it’s outright deceptive if it’s not the actual clean-up drawing used in the film.

      Conflating terms and attempting to sow confusion, as you’re doing, is not a smart approach when someone’s been busted for selling artwork that isn’t what he advertised.

      • I’m not conflating terms. I’m trying to explain to you what those terms mean in the animation ar market. Production art is not necessarily under the camera. Folks who collect animation art know this.

  • Other than working with a reputable dealer, what advice would you give to an amateur collector like myself for ensuring we don’t get ripped off? My entire collection is the result of purchases off the internet including Van Eaton Galleries and Chuck Jones Galleries, both of whom are great, reputable firms to work with.

    However, I have purchase items off the ‘net from other galleries and have begun to suspect that the pieces aren’t what they claim to be. (For example, promised certificates of authenticity that fail to materialize.) Other online galleries are simply rude.

    I understand that educating myself on the artwork is imperative cuz at the end of the day it’s my responsibility. Thanks.

    • Ted

      Certificates of authenticity from anyone other than a well known dealer (or a well known expert) are essentially worthless. Even WB’s official certificates are borderline worthless as they are minimally attachable to the art; newer certificates (post WB store) tend to no longer even mention the episode of the series the art they are for comes from (and cels almost certainly from outside the official chain have been showing up with replicated WB seals, tho the gold ink flakes off easily on them), tho they have taken to writing a reference number on drawings (a separately irritiating practice on their part). I like Howard Lowery’s current method best; the certificates picture the art (and Lowery is a well known long time dealer, making the certificate better than worthless).

  • Mark Sonntag

    Of course there are still the Disney TV and DTV versions of films like Little Mermaid. Many of the drawings that I’ve seen seem to come from those projects.

    But yes there are fakes around, but worse there are those people who are still taking the Hallmark prints of 15 years ago and trying to palm those of as originals.

  • Miss Jane

    If these drawings are from a Disney clean up artist, Disney would need to approve the on-selling of these drawings, would they not? There’s copyright issues to consider, therefore a certificate of authenticity should accompany all. It’s one thing to use drawings in your portfolio, but to profit from them outside of the studio is not allowed by contract – real or fake.

    • Artists working on production are authorized to create artwork using the characters, so copyright isn’t an issue. The studio allows artists to keep working drawings for their portfolio as long as they turn in the finishes. That transfers ownership to the artist, and that gives the artist the right to give away or sell the art as he pleases.

  • david

    guys, it’s funny how this drawing of ariel looks like the same design/proportions as the tangled girl in the post below and ads over this site. Disney you have come a long way. congratulations. you make walt proud.

    • Mitch

      You DO know that Ariel and Rapunzel were designed by Glen Keane and that he modelled Ariel off his wife’s face and baby Rapunzel off his granddaughter, right? I don’t think it has much to do with the studio’s position on originality at all.

  • Paul N

    When it comes to definition of terms used in the animation art market, I’ll take Steven’s opinion over Amid’s any day. Expertise counts.

  • Stephen S

    My question is directed at Stephen Worth or anyone else who has expertise on the subject. But I am somewhat new to collecting Disney animation. I only like the older stuff and have man pieces. My question is, do you ever find any fakes that are on the old vintage paper that is watermarked? I think pretty much all of my pieces are on this type paper and I’m praying now that its real. I would think it would be very difficult or impossible to find this old paper with a watermark. Is it safe to say that those are legit?