On Thursday (April 16), Eugene “Gene” Merril Deitch, the Oscar-winning American director, illustrator, animator, and comic artist, died in Prague. He was 95. Deitch was known for his work on the highly admired animated series ‘Tom and Jerry’ and ‘Popeye the Sailor’, as well as for being the creator of cartoons such as Munro, Tom Terrific, and Nudnik.
Born in 1924, Deitch had initially trained as a pilot, but went to work as an illustrator for magazines before eventually turning towards animation.
In his starting years, Deitch was associated with studios such as United Productions of America (UPA) and Terrytoons, and created cartoon characters such as Sidney the Elephant, Gaston Le Crayon, and Clint Clobber.
In 1958, Deitch started his own studio in New York, which focused on television commercials.
A year later, when Deitch was on a 10-day visit to former Czechoslovakia, he fell in love with his future wife, Zdenka, and decided to settle in Prague (in the present-day Czech Republic) permanently.
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In 1960, Deitch won the Academy Award in the animated short film category for his movie ‘Munro’. He was nominated twice in 1964 in the same category for his films ‘Here’s Nudnik’ and ‘How to Avoid Friendship’.
Living in communist Czechoslovakia, Deitch worked as a director on 13 episodes of the famed ‘Tom and Jerry’ series as well as on some episodes of ‘Popeye the Sailor’.
Between 1969 and 2008, the year he retired, Deitch worked for Weston Woods Studios, where he adapted 37 films, including Drummer Hoff, Voyagem and Bunny Planet.
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He was awarded the Winsor McCay Award in recognition of his lifetime contributions in animation in 2004.
Deitch wrote about his life in Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic in his memoirs ‘For the Love of Prague’.
The legendary animator is survived by his wife and by three children from his first marriage. All three work as cartoonists and illustrators, an AP report said.
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