On John K’s blog I saw this beautiful Disney Golden Book called Once Upon a Wintertime illustrated by Tom Oreb, the influential animation designer of the 1950s. Aside from the beautiful layouts, I recognized the book as one I’d had when I was young. An eBay search proved unsuccessful, but my research did uncover some good news. Wintertime was reprinted in this Disney collection, which I already happened to own.
Here’s a spread from the original book.
I suppose I should be grateful that these wonderful illustrations are being kept in print, but by taking the copy out of the layouts, half Oreb’s genius is lost. More insulting, the layout artist didn’t even keep the characters correctly oriented with each other (skaters in the lower left, rabbits in the upper right) so that the rabbits are intently watching something off-page.
When illustrating for children’s books, you don’t just draw a bunch of pictures and wait to get the page layouts back to see how they fit together. The page design is incorporated in the illustrations. When these illustrations are stripped of the copy, shrunk down and cut apart to be used as spot art, they’re being mutilated. This isn’t how they were designed to be used. Even though they’re still beautiful, at this scale they’re a bit busy with odd negative spaces. One might conclude that Tom Oreb was a skilled painter with a poor eye for composition –if, in fact, one even knew these paintings were by Oreb, since this edition also fails to credit him by name.
Without having the original edition in my hands I can’t be sure what the correct colors are. On-screen colors are notoriously aberant, but my spidey-sense tells me the true colors are closer to chocolate brown than these rose-tinted reprints.