Gene Deitch

By: Joe Alterio
August 8, 2014


A close reader of culture, let’s call her a “seeker,” will notice a distinct shift in animated cartoons from 1940–1950. Circa 1940, cartoons followed the Disney/Warner Bros./Fleischer template: anthropomorphic animals, cinematic realism of backgrounds and movement, moderate violence as the raison d’être. (Of course, 1940-era cartoons represented an evolution, or devolution depending on who you’re talking to, of the medium’s earliest days… but that’s another story). By 1951, a new, more abstractly artistic style, short-handed commonly as “the UPA style,” had emerged. GENE DEITCH (born 1924) was one of the UPA style’s pioneers and mightiest purveyors. A seeker himself, Deitch was an illustrator, designer, and art director at various small record imprints and magazines; he was a home recordist of some renown, and a record producer. And during his career with the animation studios UPA, Terrytoons, MGM, and Paramount Pictures, Deitch was an Oscar-winning animator and character designer. He was also father to Kim Deitch, one of my underground comix heroes. As with every true seeker, throughout his varied career Deitch remained humble, magnanimous, and never truly comfortable with his success — witness how many times he cuts himself down in his outstanding How To Succeed in Animation. His love for and interest in the world is admirable, as is his lifelong dedication to art, experimentation, and self-expression — results be damned.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Kool Moe Dee, Ronnie Biggs, Sebastian Horsley.

READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the New God (1914-23) and Postmodernist (1924-33) Generations.