Chapter 19: Oscar Comes Calling
Almost immediately, the publicity resulted in our winning a contract from MGM to produce Tom & Jerry cartoons, and from King Features Television to produce Popeye and Krazy Kat cartoons. None of these were what I really wanted to do, but it was work, it would keep me here, and it was great experience for the Czech animators, having a go at these typical American cartoon characters.
I do feel some guilt for intruding upon the Czech animation culture, which in many ways is more mature and subtle than ours. But the fact is, they enjoyed doing this work, and it did prepare them for what was to come, bringing them into the wider, international aspects of our art and craft.
I do credit Bill Snyder for many things. First and foremost, on a personal level - whether it was his intention or not - he did bring me to Zdenka. And on a professional level, he certainly did have excellent taste in his choice of stories to produce. Aside from those books already mentioned, he was the first person to discover and acquire the film rights to J.R.R.Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings.
In addition, he backed my Munro, Samson Scrap & Delilah, Nudnik, Terr'ble Tessie, Big Sam & Punky, the satiric "Self-Help" projects, and many others, most of which you never heard of, because his big flaw was in having large dreams with small results. He was never able to do anything with the treasury of films he backed, and were produced especially for him.
Even after we won him the Oscar and three other nominations, including two nominations in one year - something no other animation director had done before - all he was able to get for us were custom projects with characters owned by others, such as Tom & Jerry, Popeye, And Krazy Kat. He was never able to do anything with the much better items we created for him, and which he himself chose to produce.
Later on he was forced to sell the rights to The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings due to a lack of cash and some failed attempts at distribution deals. That was Bill Snyder's tragedy.
Today, Snyder is gone. His son Adam, a much more level-headed person, has taken over his father's company and film library, and has managed to bring our old and nearly forgotten films back to life. Sunbow Entertainment revived the long-snoozing Nudnik, and commissioned us to produce a 13 part series, which they named, "Gene Deitch Presents The Nudnik Show," featuring the character I created 30 years earlier for Paramount release. This, along with a tribute to me at New York's Museum of Modern Art in April, 1996, was engineered by Adam Snyder, who has gone to great effort to make up for his father's foibles. I thank him for that.