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  • Writer's pictureBen Samuel

Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981)

Lotte Reiniger was a film director and film pioneer best known for her silhouette animations, including the oldest surviving animated feature The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed) (1926).

"Animation is basically not so much a technical implement as the expression of the spirit behind it. To see that that spirit goes into your shooting must be your overriding ambition." - Lotte Reiniger

Born 2 June 1899 in Berlin she studied at the Charlottenburger Waldschule, where she learned about "scherenschnitte", meaning "scissor cuts" in German, the art of paper cutting design. The art form originated in China and later became popular in Germany.

"I could cut out silhouettes almost as soon as I could manage to hold a pair of scissors. I could paint, too, and read and recite; but these things did not surprise anyone very much. But everybody was astonished about the scissor cuts, which seemed a more unusual accomplishment. The silhouettes were very much praised, and I cut out silhouettes for all the birthdays in the family. Did anyone warn me as to where this path would lead? Not in the least; I was encouraged to continue." - Lotte Reiniger

Credit: BFI National Archive

As well as her films she is also noted as the inventor of the multiplane camera in 1923, a system used in animation to create the illusion of depth by having several layers of artwork with transparent sections, moved at different speeds to create the illusion of depth.

Photograph of the original multiplane camera.

Here is a beautiful short based on the "Magic Flute" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Papageno (Short 1935) Dir Lotte Reiniger. Full Film (mistitled here as the 'first animation film').

Below is a charming piece of film where she explains how she makes her films.

Gif from Cinderella (Short 1922) Dir Lotte Reiniger

"I feel that I do better to concentrate on making the films – and on making as many as my good luck allows. Each new film raises new problems and questions, and I can only hope to live long enough to do justice to them all." - Lotte Reiniger

Read an interview with her here:

She made over 60 films, 11 are considered lost, roughly 50 have survived.

Gif from The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed) (1926)


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