Celebrity Collector: Tim Matheson

Photo Credit: Manfred Baumann

Tim Matheson has been a fixture on the television screen since the early 1960s. He first caught my attention playing the role of Eric Stratton in Animal House. Since then, he has been cast in a vast array of great television shows such as The West Wing, Burn Notice and even an episode in my all time favorite series, Entourage. He's currently starring (and directing select episodes) in Hart of Dixie on the CW.

This veteran actor also has another talent you might not realize. He has been the voice of numerous characters in animated series such as Batman, Jonny Quest, Justice League and Scooby Doo.

When I learned he was a serious Animation Art enthusiast, it made me wonder if his fascination began early on, or if working in the cartoon world ignited the spark...

From the collection of Tim Matheson

Often people collect things that have something to do with the business they are in or some wonderful childhood memory. Which is it for you?

I became interested in cels when I was doing JONNY QUEST for Hanna-Barbera in 1963-64 I would go to the studio early because I was still in high school and I had to do three hours of supervised school work prior to the recording sessions. I would just wander around the art department when I could to talk to the animators and watch them work. It was amazing to watch them create JONNY QUEST, THE FLINTSTONES and THE JETSONS. Joe Barbera gave me my first cel; an autographed Jonny Quest! It was awesome!

From the collection of Tim Matheson

Animation celluloids (or cels) date back to the early 1900s and many did not survive. Once they were used they were often discarded to wiped clean and painted over. What is one of the earliest cels in your collection?

I have a paper, pencil and ink sketch for a Mickey Mouse cartoon short entitled MICKEY'S GARDEN from 1935. In it, Mickey & Pluto get shrunken down to the size of insects (it's really a dream), and must fight them off. I love the "thinking on paper" aspect of the sketches for a cartoon. The sketch I have is Mickey using an ear of corn and a match as a "machine popcorn gun", shooting popped corn at the bugs and knocking them out with it. This sequence wasn't ultimately in the finished cartoon.

Looking back, did you ever have an opportunity to purchase an item you now wish you had?

When I was a kid at Disneyland, they used to sell Animation Cels for $5.00 at a Fantasyland store. They were called Courvoisier Cels. I was too young to be aware of just how cool that really was.

From the collection of Tim Matheson

Is your collection an investment, or do you buy for the love of the art?

For me, all collecting must be done out of the love of the art. That being said, investment knowledge is absolutely mandatory so that you are really buying what you think you are buying. I've seen stores selling "Animation Cels" which really are reproductions of cels, or newly drawn cels that don't really have any intrinsic or historical value at all. Unsuspecting buyers come along and purchase them, mistakenly thinking they are actual cels.

With that said, do you have any favorite haunts for finding pieces for your collection?

I've purchased many of my cels at auction. One at Sotheby's, another one at an LA County Property Liquidation Auction. The LA County sale was selling odd lots of repossessed property. Old furniture, clothes, cars, books, paintings, etc. They had a Peter Pan cel, a Tinkerbell cel, a Captain Hook and a Space Ghost cel. It's a blast bidding against others to win the cel of your choice. Very exciting!

Remind me not to try to bid against him on anything!

Make sure to tune in to the CW on May 16th to watch the season finale of Hart of Dixie.

Matheson also recently recorded an episode of the new TOM & JERRY/JONNY QUEST DVD. Did you know: Tom & Jerry and Jonny Quest are among the most successful releases Warner Bros has? What a great opportunity for Matheson to do the remake of Jonny Quest 50 years later.