Tom Oreb is recognized by many as being one of the finest character designers during the Golden Age of Hollywood animation. Certainly, he was one of the most versatile. At Disney alone, he was the primary designer (or character stylist) of Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom, Sleeping Beauty, Paul Bunyan and 101 Dalmatians, among others. He also designed Tex Avery’s Symphony in Slang, Destination Earth for John Sutherland Productions, and the infamous “stylized Mickey” for Disney’s TV commercial unit:
Earlier in his career, Oreb had been one of Ward Kimball’s primary assistants on Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio, Bacchus in Fantasia and the crows in Dumbo. A stash of his drawings from this era (1939-1941) recently turned up on the Hakes auction site. The drawings had belonged to Oreb’s first wife, Bonnie Barrett, who unbeknownst to all, had been alive until recently.
Because many of these drawings were done for his wife, they hint at their marital spats, albeit in humorous fashion. Another series of drawings alludes to Oreb’s love of surfing and beach bumming at Newport Harbor and Laguna Beach in Orange County, California. One drawing features a guest appearance by Salvador Dali, and another shows Oreb with his gruff supervisor Ward Kimball.