Gene Deitch, one of the great figures in classic animation, has died at the age of 95. He was found on April 16 in his apartment in Prague, where he spent the majority of his adult life.
Deitch is best known for his work on two of the best known animations ever: Tom and Jerry and Popeye the Sailor, but those are far from the only major achievements in his rich resume. For one, he’s an Academy Award winner for Munro, which won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 1960. He’s been nominated for this award twice more – both times in 1964 for Here’s Nudnik and How to Avoid Friendship. The first time he came in contact with the prestigious award was in 1958, for the nomination of Sydney’s Family Tree which he co-produced.
Gene Deitch was born in Chicago in 1924, but what was meant to be a 10-day stay in Prague in 1959 lasted his remaining lifetime, which he shared with his wife Zdenka who he met there. It was behind the Iron Curtain that Deitch left his most vivid mark on animation, directing 13 episodes of Tom and Jerry and a few of Popeye the Sailor. Before his move overseas, he had done an apprenticeship at the animation studio United Productions of America, which led to him becoming the creative director of Terrytoons.
He wrote a memoir, For the Love of Prague, which depicted life in communist Czechoslovakia and respectively the Czech Republic, once communism crumbled in 1989.