We started collecting animation artwork in the early 1980's. At that time, the market for animation artwork was on the rise. A number of the major auction houses had one or more animation auction a year. My gut tells me that someone at Disney thought there was a revenue opportunity in there somewhere. In 1987, released its first Limited Edition -- a series of cels from Fantasia -- which we were able to buy. It seems to me that the edition sizes were under a thousand and while the price per Limited Edition piece was not cheap, the revenue was limited. In addition, there was considerable labor involved in the production of those early Limited Edition pieces. For example, the Fantasia set came in a beautiful linen-like book and the cels were double-laminated so that paint peeling would be eliminated.
A short time later, Disney introduced the "serigraph" (a form of silk screen printing) as a way of increasing the edition count (near the 10,000 mark) and dramatically reducing the production cost. While the purchase price of the Serigraphs was much lower than the Limited Editions, they Serigraph was much more profitable.
Here is a fairly Serigraph of Lady and Tramp. Note that there is no background -- just the characters. And, in my opinion, I wasn't crazy about the image choice. It's probably a better "snapshot" of the Tramp character than Lady... buy, hey, that's just my opinion...
This was given to us as a gift and because of its printing technique is not as prone to the problems encountered when cels are placed in a low humidity environment. This meant that we could hang the piece in the non-humidified portions of the house and add some additional color.
Lady and Tramp Serigraph (edition of 9,000)
Here's a explanation from AnimationUSA about the difference between a Serigraph and Sericel
Serigraphy, the printing term for the silk-screen process, is a fine art process in which editions are created by meticulously screening the colors of an image onto the back of an acetate cel or the surface of fine art paper or canvas - one color at a time. The image is separated into its individual colors, then each is transferred onto a stretched screen of silk which acts like a stencil. Inks are forced through the stretched screen onto a cel, fine art paper or canvas, one color at a time. When all of the individual colors are screened onto the cel or paper, together they form the complete image. Silk-screened cels - called sericels - are typically modest in price since their edition sizes are open or large, and are not hand-signed. Limited edition serigraphs on paper or canvas are typically hand-signed by the artist indicating their personal approval of each work of art, then individually numbered to identify each work of art as a part of the total edition.
----- DATABASE NOTES -----
From “Lady and the Tramp” Limited Edition Serigraph (1955; 1991). Disney store Serigraph cel (9,500 in print run). [Image: 13-5/16"W x 9-3/8"H. Frame: 21.25"W x 17"H] Acquired 1991. SeqID-0060