PRAGUE – Gene Deitch, the Oscar winning animator, filmmaker, and illustrator behind classic cartoons like Tom and Jerry and Popeye has died at the age of 95.
The news was confirmed by his Czech publisher, Petr Himmel. Deitch died unexpectedly at his home in Prague on Thursday night, but no further details or cause of death has yet been provided.
He is survived by his wife, and his three sons from a previous marriage. All of his sons have followed in their father and mother’s footsteps to become cartoonists and animators as well.
Deitch was born in Chicago in 1924 but moved to California as a child. After a brief military career, he quickly made his name in the world of animation and began to receive recognition from those within his industry.
Deitch claimed the Academy Award in the animated short category for his film Munro in 1960, he was then nominated for the same award twice more for Here’s Nudnik and How to Avoid Friendship in 1964.
He had also been nominated for an Oscar in 1958 for Sidney’s Family Tree.
However, he is most famously known for his work on the classic cartoons Popeye and Tom and Jerry.
Deitch moved to Prague with his first wife and fellow animator Zdenka Najmanova in 1959. Whilst resident in the Czech capital, he created more than 70 animated movies, as well as seven television series’.
He also wrote a memoir about his life living as an American in Prague under the dictatorship of the Communist Party.
In that book, entitled For the Love of Prague, he described his life as “the only free American living and working in Prague during 30 years of the Communist Party dictatorship.”
Despite the fact that he was a US citizen living in the country, and making work for a worldwide audience, he said that the authorities never bothered or interfered with him during that time.
He even managed to direct 13 episodes of Tom and Jerry, and some of the Popeye the Sailor series from behind the Iron Curtain.