While a lot of people grew up watching Popeye and Tom & Jerry, or had their kids watching it all the time, most likely just a handful knew the genius behind it. Eugene Merril Deitch, most commonly known simply as Gene Deitch, was an American illustrator, animator, comics artist, and film director. He was also known for creating the animated cartoons Munro, Tom Terrific, and Nudnik.
Deitch spent most of his life in Prague, where he relocated back in 1959 when Rembrandt Films promised to fund Munro. He lived there his whole life and sadly passed unexpectedly on April 16, 2020 at the ripe age of 95. Since hearing about his passing, artists from all over the world have flooded the Internet with touching artwork as tribute to the late illustrator.
While you maybe not familiar with Gene Deitch’s name, you are certainly familiar with his work. It’s probably safe to say there are few people who doesn’t know Tom & Jerry or Popeye and Deitch was a flagship designer to both of them.
Prior to becoming a major figure in the American animation, Deitch was a draftsman for North American Aviation before being recruited by the American army to become a pilot during World War II. When the war was over, he returned to drawing and was spotted by Disney and was asked to become the artistic director of United Productions of America.
Despite his success in America, he made a courageous choice to move to move to Prague, Czech Republic after Rembrandt Films promised to fund his short film Munro. He relocated to the company’s base in Prague in 1959.
It turned out the moving was well worth it as Gee Deitch received an Oscar for best animated short in 1960 for it. After this success, he was given the possibility to direct 13 episodes of Tom and Jerry which were widely criticized among the fans at the time. However, it led Tom and Jerry to become the most profitable series at the time.