American animator, longtime Prague expat Gene Deitch passes away at age 95

American director and animated film producer Gene Deitch, who has lived in Prague since 1959, passed away in the Czech capital last night


Written by ČTK Published on 17.04.2020 19:57:28 (updated on 17.04.2020) Reading time: 1 minute

Prague, April 17 (CTK) – American director and animated film producer Gene Deitch, living in Prague with his Czech wife, animator and producer Zdenka Najmanova, died there last night at the age of 95 years, Garamond publishing house owner Petr Himel told CTK today.

Deitch directed the Czechoslovak-American animated film Munro, which won an Oscar for the Best Animated Short Film in 1961.

Garamond published Deitch’s memoirs, For the Love of Prague, in 2018. In the book, he describes his experience from the American and Czech film world.

Deitch arrived in the communist Czechoslovakia from Hollywood in 1959. Originally, he intended to stay for up to ten days only, but then he met a producer of the Prague animated film studio, Zdenka Najmanova, fell in love and stayed with her for more than 50 years, he recollected in his book.

They got married in 1964 only after they both divorced.

Deitch, with his full name Eugene Merrill Deitch, was born on August 8, 1924, in Chicago.

As an animator, he got the Gold Medal of the New York Art Directors Club for the best commercials twice at end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s. These works of his were the first to enter the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

From 1955, he worked for the Terrytoons studio operating under 20th Century Fox. In 1968-1993, he was an animator for the production company Weston Woods. He also shot 12 new Tom and Jerry shorts for MGM and some episodes of Popeye the Sailor.

He said the Czechoslovak authorities had never interfered in his work. However, his animated film The Giants (Obri) from 1969 was banned in Czechoslovakia for 20 years since it was perceived as criticism of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of the country.

Deitch said he loved Prague, where he had shot 70 animated films and seven TV series, and was very happy there. He won the Winsor McCay Award for his lifetime contributions in animation in 2004, which he appreciated more than the Oscar, he admitted in one of his interviews.

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