Welcome back friends to another installment of Toon In, this week we have an offering from Gene Deitch entitled Self Defense…for Cowards that was originally released back in 1962. This short is actually an adaptation of Alice McGrath’s 1961 book with the full title Self-Defense For Cowards: A Guide To Non-Combative Action For The Rational, Resourceful Man.
I would hazard a guess that Gene Deitch is certainly not a household name for fans of classic animation. Not as recognizable as the likes of Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, or Ub Iwerks to name a few but I feel you will know of a few classic animated short series that he had a hand in. Like the UPA Popeye television series or Krazy Kat and about a dozen of the Tom and Jerry theatrical shorts.
Gene Deitch also was responsible for directing a previous Toon In entry that I shared back in April, the Oscar nominated anti-war short Munro – as well as the interesting adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
I am very glad you asked that question. For one thing Self Defense…for Cowards was nominated for the 1962 Oscar for Best Short Subject, Cartoons. More importantly though is the fact that the short is incredibly funny. While I thankfully have only found myself in some of the same situations as the protagonist – I feel we can all relate to these situations in way or another.
The short was produced by Rembrandt Films which was originally founded in 1949 by William L. Snyder. Gene Deitch actually left America to move to Prague in Czechoslovakia to join Snyder’s animation studio. Deitch had been let go from his position at Terry Toons in 1958 and this was after he had helped deliver the Academy Award nominated short Sidney’s Family Tree.
So perhaps Gene Deitch knew a thing or two about bullies himself?