‘Tom & Jerry’ animator passes away at the age of 95

No matter where you grew as a kid, Tom & Jerry was a huge part of growing up. It was and still is everybody’s favourite. The man who created those illustrations and brought us our beloved Tom, Jerry, Popeye, passed away on 16 April. Gene Deitch was 95. The artist passed away Thursday night in Prague, where he lived with his wife and fellow animator Zdenka Najmanova. The news was shared with the Czech News Agency (CTK) by Garamond publishing house owner Petr Himel. The label published Deitch’s memoirs, For the Love of Prague, in 2018. Deitch was born in Chicago on 8 August 1924. After graduating, he began working as a draftsman for North American Aviation. He was drafted and entered pilot training, but was discharged due to pneumonia in 1944. Deitch re-entered the commercial art world, contributing cover and interior illustrations to jazz magazine The Record Changer. He worked at iconic mid-century studio UPA before becoming creative director of Terrytoons (under 20th Century Fox), creating characters like Sidney the Elephant, Gaston Le Crayon, Clint Clobber and Terr’ble Thompson. Deitch set up his own New York studio, Gene Deitch Associates, which primarily produced commercials. With the promise of funding for his theatrical short concept Munro, Deitch relocated to Prague in communist Czechoslovakia in late 1959. Munro won the Oscar for Animated Short Film in 1961, becoming the cartoon produced outside the U.S. to earn the honor. Deitch worked with the film’s backers Rembrandt Films through the ’60s to produce Popeye TV cartoons with King Features and a dozen Tom and Jerry shorts for MGM. Deitch co-produced and directed a series of King Features’ Krazy Kat shorts for TV with William Snyder, with whom he also created his original kids’ series The Bluffers and directed Alice of Wonderland in Paris (1966).
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