Growing up, my mother always said, “eat your spinach, so you grow big and strong like Popeye!” Although Popeye was before my generation, I always knew what she was talking about, as the incredible animation that Gene Deitch took part in creating was always playing in my house.
The sad news of Deitch’s death struck the world over the weekend, with the Oscar award winning animator, filmmaker and illustrator passing away in his Prague home at age 95.
Gene Deitch lived the true life of an artist and has left behind a wealth of animated entertainment for many generations to enjoy.
Born in Chicago in 1924, the California-raised Gene Deitch (real name Eugene Merrill Deitch) made his way into the magical world of animation following a brief military career. By 1960, he was already winning Academy Awards and had been previously nominated for an Oscar in 1958 for his film Sidney’s Family Tree.
What Deitch was best known for however was his work on Tom and Jerry as well as Popeye; two classic cartoons that are still enjoyed today.
Fans have taken to social media to pay tribute to the late star, with one fan writing that he, “made our childhood full of entertainment.”
R.I.P Gene Deitch. You lived the artist life and impacted countless generations. It’ll never be forgotten. pic.twitter.com/41WVYgaIrl
— Chase “Woke Radical” Pritchard (@C_A_P_) April 17, 2020
Deitch and his first wife and fellow animator moved to Prague in 1959 and whilst living there, he created over 70 animated films, seven television series’, and even wrote a memoir about being an American living in Prague during the Communist dictatorship.
The legendary filmmaker directed 13 episodes of Tom and Jerry as well as some of the Popeye the Sailor series; see some of his work below.
In 2004, Deitch received the coveted Winsor McCay Award as a recognition for his life-long contribution to the animated film world.
His death came unexpected and he leaves behind his wife and three sons from his first marriage; all three of which are following in their parents’ footsteps working as cartoonists and animators themselves.