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Gene Deitch: The Pen Behind 'The Cat'

By Published: October 1, 2003

AAJ: How is your music collection organized ' alphabetically or..?
GD: OK, the disadvantage of CDs ' and also LPs for that matter ' is that there are now collections of diverse bands and players on individual discs, making them almost impossible to file logically. When I can, I file my jazz CDs alphabetically by artist, and my classical CDs by composer. That seems to be the traditional way, but I welcome suggestions. If one is devoted enough, and has the time and a computer, it would be possible to make a cross referencing index, and be able to find individual tunes by title, by composer, by players, dates, locations, categories, etc.

AAJ: How do you describe what you do to people you happen to meet?
GD: I just do the best I can in this world. I am a professional animation filmmaker, but I don't wish to be limited to any slot. I can or could do a lot of things. I just wish I had the time to follow up on all the things that interest me.

AAJ: How do you describe your style as an artist?
GD: I have to admit that all of the graphic styles I have worked in are highly derivative. I enjoy trying different ways. I rejoice in the notion that if anyone would see a review of many of my films, they would not recognize that they were all directed by the same person. If I hadn't signed the Record Changer magazine covers, few people could have told that they were all drawn by the same person. I get a satisfaction out of that, and I would describe my style as no specific style!

AAJ: What do you miss the most about your days at the Record Changer ?
GD: I have always enjoyed contributing to publications, and I still do. I only missed working with Gordon Gullickson. But hey, that was nearly 60 years ago, and I've done a lot of interesting things since then'however, now that you mention it, my Record Changer days were possibly the most creatively satisfying for me. Making films is, of course, exciting, but it is a group effort, trying to coordinate the work of many others, and having to cope with producers and financiers and clients and budgets and deadlines, trying somehow to turn out a unified film that is at least 60% of what I imagined (and 60% is usually the very best one can hope for). For the Record Changer, I did it all by myself, at my own pace, for next to no money, for fun, and my own way, with no restrictions or pressures. Yes. That's what I miss!

AAJ: What sort of student were you in school?
GD: I flunked math. I enjoyed going to school, and tried to learn what I could. I did well in History and English and Geography ' what they called 'Social Studies.' I also enjoyed the technical courses, chemistry, printshop, woodworking, ceramics, and stuff like that. And of course I majored in Art ' so I got by and graduated in spite of my complete inability to master mathematics and algebra. In fact, I barely tried. We didn't have electronic calculators when I was in school.

AAJ: Do you watch today's popular animated shows such as The Simpsons ?
GD: When I can catch them. The Simpsons is the perfect example of the supremacy of story and character, which amazingly overcomes the miserable drawing and crude animation.

AAJ: What Oscar did you win for Munro ?
GD: I don't understand the question. It's gold plated and says 'Munro' on it! Munro won the Oscar for the Best Cartoon Short in the year 1960. Five of my films have been nominated for the Oscar.

AAJ: What is the jazz scene like in Prague?
GD: Varied and abundant. There are great players here in every style and category you can imagine! Jazz has always lived in Prague, and does now more than ever.

AAJ: How has Prague changed over the last 40 years?
GD: The ancient part of Prague is still here, and is well preserved and restored, doubtlessly the most beautiful city center In Europe. But Prague is a large city, and everywhere it has changed tremendously. It is now ' for thirteen years already ' a free city in a free country. Many say, 'too free!' There are things here we never dreamed about in my early years in Prague. I am constantly amazed at what is here. But there is bad with the good. In many ways, Prague is now just like any major city in the developed and richer parts of the world. In thirteen years, it went from having nothing to having everything. Some cannot cope with the changes. It is now necessary to think and manage for one's self, without Big Brother to make all the decisions. I am no longer the unique person here I once was, but I am happy that now every Czech has the same opportunities that I once had almost alone.

Visit Gene Deitch on the web.

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