The American Oscar-winning illustrator, animator, art director, and producer Gene Deitch has died.
He was in his 95’s.
His Czech publisher, Petr Himmel, told that he died suddenly in his apartment in the Little Quarter neighborhood of Prague during the night, Thursday to Friday. No further specifics have been given.
Gene, whose full name was Eugene Merrill Deitch, served as a North American Aviation draftsman before being drafted for the army and pursuing pilot training. In 1944 he was discharged for medical reasons and returned to work in the commercial art world, during which he began his career as an animator.
Deitch’s film “Munro” won the 1960 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. In 1964 he was also nominated twice for the same award for “Here’s Nudnik” and “How to Avoid Friendship.”
He had previously created the show “Tom Terrific,” while in 1958 the “Sidney’s Family Tree,” which he co-produced, was nominated for an Academy Award.
Deitch, born on 8 Aug. 1924 in Chicago, arrived in Prague in 1959 with the intention of staying for 10 days but fell in love with his future friend, Zdenka, and remained in the Czechoslovak capital.
He directed 13 episodes of “Tom and Jerry,” and even some of the series “Popeye the Sailor,” working from behind the Iron Curtain.
In his memoirs “For the Love of Prague,” he described life in the socialist Czechoslovakia and later in the Czech Republic during the anti-communist Velvet Revolution of 1989. In 2004, he won the Winsor McCay Award for his lifetime dedication to animation.
Deitch is survived by his wife and by three daughters, both cartoonists and illustrators, and are from his first marriage.
Fans took to Twitter to express their condolences and share how much his work meant to them.
One shared: ‘It made me so pleased that now, Gene Deitch gets the recognition he deserves. He was so much more of a name than “Tom & Jerry” that he had set up. He’ll be missed forever.
Another said: ‘Hearing about gene deitch I feel so disheartened. May he rest in peace, and may his name remain noble for decades to come.’