Kay Nielsen’s Disney concept art sells for $60,000

Kay Nielsen’s concept artwork for the Night on a Bare Mountain section of Disney’s Fantasia (1940) realised $59,750 at Heritage Auctions on Sunday.

It’s a depiction of the terrifying Chernabog, the demon that emerges from a volcano and summons a horde of ghostly figures as Mussorgsky's orchestral nightmare blares out.

Kay Neilsen Fantasia

Nielsen's terrifying vision of the Chernabog heavily informed the finished sequence

Nielsen was an acclaimed Danish illustrator best known for his influential work on children’s books.

Disney animator Joe Grant recommended him to Walt Disney after being blown away by his talent.

Grant explained: “I'd known his work from books and he was a natural. At the time we were doing Fantasia, and Bald Mountain; he was born for it.”

Disney hired him as a concept artist in 1937.

He remained there for four years, but was fired in 1941. Sadly, by this time his work had fallen out of fashion and he struggled to support himself.

Even after his death in 1957, museums and collectors remained uninterested in his work.  

It was only in the mid-1970s that he began to receive the recognition he deserved.

A Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs production cel made $33,460.

The lot shows a still from the scene where the witch offers Snow White an apple. This is the most famous sequence in the movie and remains the most sought after among collectors.

Another cel showing from the same scene (but in lesser condition) made £10,500 ($13,602) over the weekend.

Please sign up to our free newsletter to receive exciting news about art and photography auctions.

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock