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Gene Deitch Feels Left Out in the Cold by ‘Frozen’

The Oscar-winning animation director again questions the very definition of an “animated film.”

Gene Deitch in his Prague office.

Editor’s Note: The following is an editorial by Oscar-winning animation director Gene Deitch.  It reflects his opinions and viewpoints specifically and does not necessarily reflect the opinions and viewpoints of

It’s possible that Frozen will win the Oscar for the best animated feature.

It looks like the most elaborate and dazzling animated production yet.

Kids may likely go ape over it.

But is it really animated?  Today’s kids don’t know or care about what it technically professes to be. They would love it as an eye-popping, romantic show.  They will not likely know or care that it’s a near avatar of every previous Disney Princess Movie, beginning with Snow White.  (Only the names are changed to protect the innocent.)  Each Disney Princess Movie, even without Walt himself, simply rearranges plot details, and progressively ups the technological dazzle. 

Is Frozen now the ultimate, with nowhere more spectacular to go?  Not! Perhaps the next princess will be an alien lesbian…”Let’s see what other twists are still possible to the same basic story line…”

I may be wrong, but Frozen might well be an imposter, with the main characters not really frame-by-frame animated at all.  The feature length credits are masked with categories labeled with new-fangled “Terminus Teknikus” which I can’t grasp.  But it sniffs to me like Motion Capture for the main human characters. Who can animate humanoids this smoothly and realistically?  Is this really Avatar technology masquerading as character animation?  I feel it is.  If I’m wrong, somebody please clue me in. 

If I’m right, then this entry is faking it as an animation feature. It might just be a special effects fairy tale movie. The visual effects are indeed marvelous! 

That’s why I have turned against technical categories in the Oscar competition.

All movies are supposed to be cinematic storytelling. Categories, such as comedy, drama, fantasy, historical, documentary, mystery, action, adventure, romantic… whatever… all can and do overlap, and nearly all use overlapping technologies in their production.  In searching for an answer, how to categorize movies for awards.  I’m currently in favor of just one category: Best Movie

But I realize that in the real world, that won’t fly.  Any ideas?  We’re obviously looking for artistic and technical skill, originality, entertaining, exciting, and uplifting qualities, social meaning, human relevance … you name it. 

It doesn’t really matter what technology is used to achieve these aims.  What does matter is the skill, originality and creativity that has been brought to bear; how the movie has advanced the medium!   That should be our purpose! 

My twisted mind sees what I think is the real purpose of Frozen, the movie: Following the astounding success of the Broadway musical version of The Lion King and other staged versions of Disney movies, I feel sure the this one too, is a mere advance avatar of a planned forthcoming Broadway musical, titled, “FROZEN!”  If so, I hope they come up with fresher and more original songs!

- Gene Deitch

Gene is the Oscar-winning director of Munro and creator of Tom Terrific, Mighty Manfred, Nudnik and a thousand successful cartoons.  You can read more about him and his truly unique and illustrious career by visiting his website,, his Facebook page at  and his revised online book, How to Succeed in Animation at

He is one of the last surviving members of the original Hollywood UPA studio of 1946 and the instigator of the CBS-Terrytoons renaissance of 1956-1958. He was also animation department chief of the Detroit Jam Handy Organization, 1949-1951; creative chief of UPA-New York, 1951-1954; director at John Hubleys Storyboard Inc., New York, 1955; president of Gene Deitch Associates Inc., New York, 1958-1960; creative director for Rembrandt Films, 1960-1968; and star director for Weston Woods Studios, Inc., Weston, Connecticut, 1968-1993. He worked for more than 40 years with the Prague animation studio, Bratri v Triku.