Lotte Reiniger’s Silhouette Animation

Before there was Disney’s first full-length animated feature, “Snow White” (1937), there was Lotte Reiniger’s “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” (1926). Inspired by Chinese silhouette puppetry, Reiniger was a German animator who specialized in silhouette animation and invented a technique which involved cutting out sheets of lead and cardboard and animating them frame by frame under a camera. One of her famous films was “The Adventures of Prince Achmed.” Based on the stories of 1001 Arabian Nights, it tells the tale of the main character finding the magic lamp and defeating the evil sorcerer. It is the oldest animated feature film that still is surviving today. Check out the videos below about how Lotte Reiniger made her silhouette animation and a clip of “The Adventures of Prince Achmed.”

Another example of her work is her adaptation of “Cinderella” (1922)

Even though Reiniger has passed away for over 30 years, her silhouette animation still inspires people today. For those of you who are fans of Harry Potter and have seen “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 1,” you may remember the scene where Hermione tells “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” Supervisor of the animated sequence, Dale Newton, said

“One of the things that got me excited about it in the early stages was the question of what it should look like. We knew it was going to be stylised, but not exactly how. The producers came along with the suggestion of creating something in the vein of Lotte Reiniger, an Austrian-born animator working in the 1930s and 50s doing silhouette style animations. What we got out of that was a certain simplicity and naivety. We knew it had to be told very graphically with bold silhouettes. But Ben and I were keen to make sure it wasn’t only that, that there was something else we could add.”

Do you think Reiniger’s work will continue to inspire other artists in the future?