While a lot of people grew up watching Popeye and Tom & Jerry, or made their kids watch it all the time, the genius behind it was most likely only known to a few. Eugene Merril Deitch, most commonly known simply as Gene Deitch, was an American illustrator, animator, comic artist, and film director. He was also known for making the Munro, Tom Terrific, and Nudnik animated cartoons.
Deitch lived much of his time in Prague, where he moved when Rembrandt Films pledged to finance Munro back in 1959. He spent his entire life there and sadly died at the ripe age of 95 suddenly on April 16, 2020. Since hearing about his death, as a tribute to the late illustrator, artists from around the world have filled the Internet with touching artwork.
While you may not be familiar with the name of Gene Deitch, you are definitely familiar with his work. It’s probably fair to say that there are few people who do not know either Tom & Jerry or Popeye, and for all of them, Deitch was a flagship designer.
Deitch was a draughtsman for North American Aviation before becoming a major figure in American animation before being employed during World War II by the American army to become a pilot. He returned to drawing after the war was over and was spotted by Disney and asked to become the creative director of United Productions of America.
Despite his success in America, after Rembrandt Films agreed to finance his short film, Munro, he made a bold decision to relocate to Prague, Czech Republic. In 1959, he moved to the company’s base in Prague.
As Gee Deitch won an Oscar for best animated short in 1960 for it, it turned out the move was well worth it. After this achievement, he was given the opportunity to direct 13 episodes of Tom and Jerry that were heavily criticised at the time by the viewers. It caused Tom and Jerry, however, to become the most profitable series at the time.