Have you ever found yourself watching a cartoon and noticing the illustrations behind the characters? Those backgrounds can often be prettier than the action in the foreground. If only those pesky mice and long-nosed boys would get out of the way! If so, the upcoming Beverly Hills Animation Art Signature Auction is for you.

On a serious note, I've always admired how classic, hand-drawn animation is born. Watching early animators flipping those cels back and forth to create the illusion of movement is amazing, and painting a detailed background for every single scene is probably one of the most important artistic tasks in the highly complex process of making an animated cartoon.

Background artists usually painted these backdrops wide and tall (depending on the camera panning), in gouache, acrylic paint, watercolor, oil paint, or even crayon. The resulting still backdrops are nothing short of art—but in the actual cartoons, we seldom get to enjoy the whole image, due to the camera movements.

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The following examples from the Animation Art Signature Auction on November 20 show just how beautiful these artworks can be—I know I wouldn't think twice about putting some of them on my walls.

A background illustration from Two Pan Goofy. It was painted for the 1952 Walt Disney short, but wasn't actually used.

Photo: Heritage Auctions

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This pan background showcases the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan, including the World Trade Center and the Manhattan Bridge. It was painted for The Real Ghostbusters (DIC, 1986).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


A great Art Deco-style production background of the Batcave from Batman the Animated Series (Warner Brothers, 1995), created by Bruce Timm.

Photo: Heritage Auctions


This breathtaking pan production background of a detailed medieval staircase located within Maleficent's castle was hand-painted by Eyvind Earle, color stylist and chief background painter for Sleeping Beauty (Walt Disney, 1959).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


Magnificent vertical pan production background painting for Sloppy Jalopy (UPA, 1952).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


A stylized view of Las Vegas with all the famous hotel signs, for Aesop and Son in Sick Lion (Jay Ward, 1962).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


A background illustration by Paul Julian for The Tell Tale Heart, a cartoon adaptation of the classic short story written by Edgar Allen Poe (UPA, 1953).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


Cap'n Crunch cereal commercial production background (Jay Ward, c. 1960s) by Bill Hurtz and Pete Burness.

Photo: Heritage Auctions


A beautiful landscape background from Scrambled Eggs (Walter Lantz, 1939), painted by legendary Art Nouveau illustrator Willy Pogany (1882-1955).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


Belle's Magical World master background of the Beast's Castle (Walt Disney, 1998).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


Dinotopia: The Mini Series background color key (Walt Disney, 2002).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


A very detailed background color key of the haunted bedroom for Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (Hanna-Barbera, 1998).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


A wide angle view of the Calcutta airport for The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest (Hanna-Barbera, 1996).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


The Man on the Flying Trapeze background by Paul Julian (UPA, 1954).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


The Smurfs (Hanna-Barbera, 1984).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


Two backgrounds from Buford and the Galloping Ghost (Hanna-Barbera, 1979).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


Two SWAT Kats hand-painted background color keys (Hanna-Barbera, 1993).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


A spooky view of Gotham City's imposing Arkham Asylum from The New Batman Adventures (Warner Brothers, 1997).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


The Simpsons (Fox, 2002). A 12-field production background, hand-painted on celluloid, from the 13th season episode, "The Lastest Gun in the West," which was originally aired on February 24, 2002.

Photo: Heritage Auctions


Two Famous Studio backgrounds from The Sixties, done by famed book illustrator and animation artist Anton Loeb.

Photo: Heritage Auctions


A deserted saloon in Ghost Town (Terrytoons, 1944).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


A Mighty Mouse background from the 1940s (Terrytoons).

Photo: Heritage Auctions


Top image: Pinocchio production pan background (Walt Disney, 1940). This film's backgrounds were masterfully painted by Claude Coats, Merle Cox, Ed Starr, and Ray Huffine, to name a few – Heritage Auctions