Lotte Reiniger was born in 1899 in Berlin, where even at a young age, she displayed a unique talent for creating figure cutouts, which she used in her own homemade shadow puppet theater (Weideman). Before the age of 20, her silhouettes had already been featured in the intertitles of two Paul Wegener films (Weideman). When she reached adulthood, she ended up making a whole career out of this old childhood pastime of hers.
Lotte Reiniger’s animation style is very distinct and unique, as it uses intricately-detailed cut-out animation, which wasn’t a very commonly-used technique for animation (Palfreyman, 10). The colored backgrounds in Prince Achmed are used to tell the time of day, with deep blues for night and warm, bright colors for daytime. The cutouts for the figures, props, and scenery are all completely black against colored-backgrounds, mimicking the old style of shadow theater. Her figures are cut out into many pieces, which are then fastened together with tiny wires, creating joints, which are then animated with tiny tools (Speed). The intricate details on her cutouts are exquisite and beautiful to look at, providing a timeless appeal to her work. The stories of her films were derived from many different fairy tales, legends, and myths from different cultures. Working until the mid-1970s, she made around 60 films in her lifetime, though not all of them survive (Weideman).
In my animation, I tried to emulate her style by creating detailed black paper cutouts against a colored background. I made the background a bright orange to signify that this story was taking place in the daytime. I found it hard to find materials to fasten the characters’ parts together that allowed a range of motion without the back of the fastener showing when rotated. I used brass paper fasters and then glued some of the black paper over the tops of them so that they would blend in with the rest of the figure. I made the characters a mermaid and a prince to make it like how Reiniger’s works were often based off of fairytales and mythological creatures. However, the way she showed the women acting around men in Prince Achmed is an outdated view now, so I wanted to parody this with a more realistic view of what really should happen when a prince pops out of the bushes and tries to kidnap a woman and make him his girlfriend.
I found the process of this whole project to be very tough, seeing as you can’t preview the animation as you go as easily, and if you mess up, you have to redo the whole thing or settle for inconsistency. It is also hard to move the limbs without accidentally sliding the whole body or knocking into other cutouts. I think I was moderately successful in my animation, and that I got the basic idea down, but the timing and movements are off because it was hard to tell how much to move everything without instant feedback, like I am used to in this generation.
Palfreyman, Rachel. “Life And Death In The Shadows: Lotte Reiniger’s Die Abenteuer Des Prinzen Ahmed.” German Life & Letters 64.1 (2011): 6-18. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.
Speed, Louise. “The Adventures of Prince Achmed. (Reviews).” Marvels & Tales 17.1 (2003): 181+. Academic OneFile. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.
Weideman, Paul. “Lotte Reiniger.” The Santa Fe New Mexican 1 Jan. 2010, Pasatiempo sec.: PA-43. Lexis Nexis.Web. 28 Oct. 2014.