Gene Deitch, the legendary cartoonist, illustrator, and animated film director, has passed away at the age of 95. According to reports, the Oscar-winner met with an unexpected death on Thursday night in his apartment in Prague. The stalwart has left behind a legacy of myriad illustrations, animated cartoons – both features and series, and an ensemble of characters whom he gave life to, in the course of his long-running career.
Gene Deitch was born in Illinois, on August 8th, 1924, and went on to do his schooling in Hollywood, to ultimately graduate from Los Angeles High School.
He started his career at the North American Aviation, where he drew, not cartoons or illustrations, but the blueprints for aircraft. He further, trained and worked as a pilot in the military, but was discharged on falling ill with pneumonia.
His year working as a military pilot influenced his Oscar-winning animated film, Munro. In his film Munro, Deitch introduces a four-year-old protagonist, like a recalcitrant rebel, who was somehow drafted and sent to serve the military, where he is made to face the absurdness of authority, to which he finally succumbs, by bursting in tears. Deitch has spoken about the film as a subtle artistic means, to put out his dissent.
At the beginning of his career in animation, Deitch worked in the United Productions of America. He later became the director of Terrytoons. One of his earliest creations was the comic strips – The Real Great Adventures of Terrible Thompson, starring a child who did various marvelous adventures.
Tom and Jerry still remain arguably the most popular and celebrated series that Deitch directed. The Tom and Jerry episodes directed him, had a unique taste to them and were always recognizable.
Deitch also directed other series of television shorts such as Krazy Kat, Tom Terrific, and Nudnie. He also co-directed one of the earliest film adaptations of the JRR Tolkien classic – ‘The Hobbit.’
Gene Deitch first married his lover Marie, who was his colleague at North American Aviation. They were blessed with three sons, who are all animators and currently work for alternative comics.
Later, when Deitch traveled to Prague, he settled down there and got married to Zdenka Najmanova. He was in love with the land of Prague and stayed there ever since. Despite being a detester of the prevalent dictatorship in the country, he chose to reside there. He spoke about it in his memoir, ‘For the love of Prague.’
Following the unfortunate demise of the animation maestro, thousands of followers, admirers, and fans have taken to social media, to share their condolences and appreciation for his work that they rightfully believe will survive the tests of time. The likes of cartoons such as Tom and Jerry, and Popeye, will always be watched by children to enthrall their childhood and grown-ups to go back to their own. All will always love Gene Deitch and his wondrous creations. His legacy will live on, forever.