Eugene Merril "Gene" Deitch (August 8, 1924 - April 16, 2020) was a Czech-American illustrator, animator, and film director. He was based in Prague from the 1960s until his death in 2020.
Deitch produced animated cartoons for studios such as UPA/Columbia Pictures, Terrytoons/20th Century Fox (Tom Terrific), MGM (Tom and Jerry), and Paramount Pictures (Nudnik, Popeye). He also founded Weston Woods.
Deitch was the father of Kim Deitch, Simon Deitch, and Seth Deitch; all three are prominent artists and writers in the underground comics and alternative comics movements. Upon his death, Deitch was survived by them and his wife, Zdenka.
Deitch joined Rembrandt Films in Prague, Czechoslovakia (Currently the Czech Republic after Communism proved to be a failure over there) moving out of the United States. With Rembrandt, in addition to Tom and Jerry and Popeye, he worked on Munro, the Nudnik shorts, and the Self-Help series.
Criticism on his Tom and Jerry theatrical cartoons
Deitch's Tom and Jerry theatrical shorts produced between 1961-1962 received intense negative reception from both critics and audiences alike. This is mainly due to the extremely low quality animation, the extremely low budgets, the weak writing, the lack of returnee characters like Spike, Nibbles, Butch, Joan, Quacker, and a few others from the Hanna-Barbera era cartoons. Its lackluster voice acting (when there was such), music, and sound effects, the introduction of Tom's notorious owner in three of his Tom and Jerry shorts, the inexperience of his Czech animation crew in making these Tom and Jerry cartoons and the fact that Deitch himself was tasked to work on the cartoons despite his personal dislike towards the series due to finding it "needlessly violent". However, he did his best, and tried to make them real Tom and Jerry films, rather than recreating them in his own image, as Chuck Jones did after him.
Despite the negative reception of Gene Deitch's Tom and Jerry shorts, they were commercially successful in movie theaters back in the day, and some fans wrote positive letters to Deitch, stating that his Tom and Jerry shorts were their personal favorites due to their quirky and surreal nature. While most of Deitch's Tom and Jerry shorts were widely panned, some of his Tom and Jerry shorts had better audience reception, most notably The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit and Buddies Thicker Than Water.
- The name of Rembrandt Films comes after a 17th Century Dutchman by the name of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn who was a painter.