Gene Deitch Dies: Oscar-Winning Illustrator, Film Director, Producer Was 95

Gene Deitch, whose film Munro won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1960, died on Thursday in his apartment in Prague, according to his Czech publisher. No cause of death was given.

Deitch was also nominated for the same award twice in 1964 for Here’s Nudnik and How to Avoid Friendship.

Among his credits was creating the Tom Terrific short, which was presented as part of the Captain Kangaroo children’s television show. Created under the Terrytoons studio and adapted from an earlier Deitch comic strip, Tom Terrific was a black and white, five-minute short that was modeled on children’s drawings.

It featured a boy who lived in a treehouse and could transform into anything he wanted with the help of his magical “thinking cap.” With the help of his companion, Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog, he battled villain Crabby Appleton, among others. It last ran in 1959.

Deitch’s other credits included Sidney’s Family Tree, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1958.

Born Aug. 8, 1924, in Chicago, Deitch came to Prague in 1959. He originally planned a 10-day stay, but met his future wife, Zdenka, and stayed on in the Czechoslovakian capital.

Working behind the Iron Curtain of that time, he directed 13 episodes of the animated Tom and Jerry and also some of the Popeye the Sailor series.

He later tried to depict life in communist Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic after the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution in his memoirs, For the Love of Prague.

In 2004, he received the Winsor McCay Award for his lifelong contribution to animation.

Survivors include his wife and by three sons from his first marriage, all of them cartoonists and illustrators.

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