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Cartoon ModernDisney

Rare Disney Car Commercials Designed by Tom Oreb

For a short period of time during the mid-1950s, the Disney company allowed corporations to use its characters to sell products. There’s some interesting history behind this, and if you’re interested in learning more, I’d recommend this two-part series by historian Jim Korkis (part one, part two).

Among the companies that took advantage of this opportunity was American Motors, maker of Nash and Hudson cars. (Interesting sidenote: the company’s president at the time was Mitt Romney’s father, George W. Romney.) Yesterday, YouTube user ZarakPhoto uploaded a fine collection of the American Motors spots featuring Jiminy Cricket and Mickey Mouse. I’ve seen other prints of these spots, but these are easily the crispest versions I’ve encountered and worth a look even if you’ve seen them before. [UPDATE: It has been pointed out that the prints of these commercials were ripped from the Mid-Century Modern Animation, Vol. 1 DVD.]

Here’s an upload from another YouTuber with a lower-quality version of one of the other spots featuring Song of the South characters:

The commercials were designed by Tom Oreb, who in my humble opinion, was the most versatile and skilled designer during the Golden Age of Hollywood animation. Oreb’s assistant art director and layout artist on these spots was Vic Haboush, who was a dear friend and mentor to me.

This is Oreb’s model sheet of the “commercial” Mickey Mouse, which Vic and I discovered in his personal collection many years ago. Click for a larger version:

  • Richard

    These commercials were run during the “Disneyland” TV show, which American Motors was a sponsor of.

  • Joel

    These look absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing, Amid!

  • AmidAmidi

    Thanks. Updated the post to mention their original source.

  • AmidAmidi

    Tom Oreb actually redesigned Alice, too, for an American Motors ad. Compare his ‘cartoon modern’ version of Alice to the ‘streamlined’ version used in the Jell-O spot.

  • Joe

    Is that June Foray as Pinocchio?

  • DBenson

    As a general rule, anything from Thunderbean is worth owning.

  • reader

    Is it true that Walt closed down the commercial unit unexpectedly because a young boy sent him a letter stating that the abstract design style Oreb was experimenting with was “communist” inspired?

  • is this model sheet disney called ‘communist look of Mickey Mouse’

    • AmidAmidi

      Indeed it is!

      • the Gee

        Is this the origin of the phrase “commie rat”?

        Because it is, that’s hilarious!

  • Paul Badilla

    Anybody knows why they didn’t use the classic designs for the characters?

    • Rob Peters

      I think the idea was that the more complex classic designs wouldn’t read well on the small tv screens of the time.

  • Tony

    The majority of people have never seen, or even heard of these amazing, Tom Oreb designed Disney commercials. I thought they deserved an audience. I put a link to the wonderful “Mid-Century Modern Animation” dvd in the description, letting people know where they came from, and I even gave a shout out to Amid’s “Cartoon Modern” book. All boobery aside, I hope my upload of these great spots, and Amid’s subsequent post here on Cartoon Brew, gave Mr. Stanchfield a bump in sales, and gave a little reminder to everyone how great Tom Oreb is. Go buy the dvd!

    -Tony (ZarakPhoto)

  • Floyd Norman

    Very cool. This commercial unit was right down the hall from me in 2G, the second floor of the Animation Building. The background artists actually painted the BGs in black&white because the commercials would not be seen in color. Designer, Tom Oreb was having a ball with the Disney characters. From what I could tell, Walt didn’t seem to mind. After all, the commercials were all produced in house.

  • There needs to be a huge Tom Oreb art book… in my hands… right now.