Gene Deitch

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Gene Deitch
Gene Deitch.jpg
Born (1924-08-08) August 8, 1924 (age 91)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Occupation Illustrator, animator, director
Years active 1945–2006
Spouse(s) Marie Deitch (?-1960)
Zdenka Deitch (1960–present)
Children Kim Deitch, Simon Deitch, Seth Deitch

Eugene Merril "Gene" Deitch (born August 8, 1924[1] in Chicago, Illinois) is an American illustrator, animator and film director. He has been based in Prague since 1959.

Deitch produced animated cartoons for studios such as UPA/Columbia Pictures, Terrytoons/20th Century Fox (Tom Terrific), MGM/United Artists (Tom and Jerry), and Paramount Pictures (Nudnik, Popeye).

His sons Kim Deitch, Simon Deitch, and Seth Deitch are artists and writers in underground comix and alternative comics.


From 1945 to 1951 Deitch was primary a graphics contributor to, and eventually art director for, The Record Changer, a jazz magazine. He was also an amateur sound recordist, who made tape recordings of artists like John Lee Hooker and Pete Seeger. His home recordings of Connie Converse in the mid-1950s, led to her rediscovery forty years later.[citation needed]

In the 1950s, Deitch worked as a producer at the animation studio Terrytoons, creating such characters as Sidney the Elephant,[2] Gaston Le Crayon,[3] John Doormat,[citation needed] and Clint Clobber.[4]

Deitch met his fiancée after moving to Czechoslovakia in 1959, to become an animator. In 1960, Deitch and Rembrandt Films, after collaborating in a pool of producers that made the 1960s Popeye cartoons for television by King Features, arranged a deal with MGM to revive the Tom and Jerry franchise overseas in Prague, Czechoslovakia.[5][6][7][8] Deitch states that, being a member of the UPA, he has always had a personal dislike of Tom and Jerry, citing them as the "primary bad example of senseless violence – humor based on pain – attack and revenge – to say nothing of the tasteless use of a headless black woman stereotype house servant."[9] Štěpán Koníček, a student of Karel Ančerl and conductor of the Film Symphony Orchestra, and Václav Lídl provided the musical score for the Deitch short, while Larz Bourne, Chris Jenkyns, and Eli Bauer wrote the cartoons. The majority of vocal effects and voices in Deitch's films were provided by Allen Swift.[10] All thirteen Tom & Jerry shorts were commercial successes with the public, but many film critics panned them. When asked about working on the Tom and Jerry series, Deitch responded "All the experts say [my shorts are] the worst of the 'Tom and Jerry's, [...] But many fans write me, saying mine were "The best!" I was a UPA man—my whole background was much closer to the UPA view of humor. 'Tom and Jerry' I always considered dreck, but they had great timing, facial expressions, double takes, squash and stretch," all of which the interviewer stated were "techniques the Czechs had to learn. The Czech style had nothing in common with these gag-driven cartoons."[11]

Deitch's film Munro won an Academy Award for Animated Short Film in 1961,[12] the first short composed outside of the United States to be so honored.[13]

He directed, with producer William L. Snyder, a series of made for TV shorts of Krazy Kat for King Features from 1962 to 1964. The Bluffers, which was based on one of Deitch's ideas, was also co-produced by him. He directed the 1966 film Alice of Wonderland in Paris, and a one-reel animation film of The Hobbit in 1966, the first film ever made of a Tolkien story.[14]

From 1968 until his retirement in 2006, Deitch was the leading animation director for the Connecticut organization Weston Woods/Scholastic, adapting children's picture books. His studio is located in Prague near the Barrandov Studios, where many major films were recorded. Deitch's memoir, For the Love of Prague, is based on the experience of being "the only free American living and working in Prague during 30 years of the Communist Party dictatorship."

In 2003, Deitch was awarded the "Annie" by ASIFA Hollywood for a lifetime contribution to the art of animation.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Deitch was married to Marie Deitch until 1960; with whom he had his three sons Kim, Simon, and Seth.

Deitch married his second wife, Zdenka, in 1960. He currently resides with Zdenka in Prague, where he is retired.


  1. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (2006). Who's who in animated cartoons: an international guide to film & television's award-winning and legendary animators (Illustrated ed.). New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. pp. 62–64. ISBN 978-1-55783-671-7. 
  2. ^ Sidney the Elephant at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on January 20, 2015.
  3. ^ Gaston Le Crayon at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on April 16, 2012.
  4. ^ Clint Clobber at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on April 16, 2012.
  5. ^ "Rare Tom & Jerry Cell". Rembrandt Films. Retrieved August 17, 2010. 
  6. ^ Brion, p. 34
  7. ^ MacDougall, Kent (June 11, 1962). "Popeye, Tom & Jerry Join Trend to Shift Production Overseas". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 17, 2010. 
  8. ^ P. Lehman, Christopher (2007). "The Cartoons of 1961–1962". American Animated Cartoons of the Vietnam Era: A Study of Social Commentary in Films and Television Programs, 1961–1973. McFarland & Company. pp. 23–24. ISBN 978-0-7864-2818-2. 
  9. ^ Deitch, Gene (2001). "Tom & Jerry: The First Reincarnation". Animation World Network. Retrieved September 27, 2009. 
  10. ^ Grimes, William (April 27, 2010). "Allen Swift, Voice Actor for Radio and TV, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-13.
  11. ^ Nessel, Jen (August 9, 1998). "...a spicy, funny memoir!". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-17.
  12. ^ "1960 (33rd)". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  13. ^ "Anatomy of an Oscar" Occasional Deitch 2007, page 3, retrieved [2007-11-04].
  14. ^ "William L. Snyder". Gene Deitch. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  15. ^ Annie Awards Winsor McCay recipient 2003 retrieved 2007-11-03.

External links[edit]