Thursday, 12 April 2012

Animator Profile : Lotte Reiniger

Fig. 1
Lotte Reiniger (1899-1881) was a German film director and silhouette animator. Her style is instantly recognisable and her creations are breathtaking. The bold and intricate character silhouettes bring to life to stories she animates. Reiniger’s love for the style came from her childhood fascination with the Chinese art of silhouette puppetry. This passion progressed into her teens, when she attended a talk by the director (and actor) Paul Wegener, who at the time she was majorly influenced and infatuated by due to her love of cinema. The talk was supposedly focused on the possibilities of animation. After enrolling in the acting group Wegener belonged to, Reiniger attempted to attract attention from her inspiration by creating silhouette portraits of the various actors within the group. It wasn’t long before her talent was noticed and her career began creating intricate title cards for many of Wegener's films.

Fig. 2
Her career spiralled on and upwards, as word of her talent spread. Although Reiniger's work has proved popular, she still remains today, as an unknown pioneer outside the world of animation. William Moritz states, "Lotte Reiniger, when mentioned at all, is most often brushed off in a single sentence noting that she apparently made a feature-length silhouette film in 1926, The Adventures of Prince Achmed; but since that was in Germany, and silhouettes aren't cartoons, Disney still invented the feature-length animated film with Snow White. Anyone who has seen Prince Achmed wouldn't be convinced by this reasoning, but, alas, only a tiny fraction of the people who see Snow White ever get to see any Reiniger film at all." (Moritz 1996) Moritz admiration is expressed through her passion for Reiniger's style and expresses how the animator's acknowledgement in the world of animation isn't made prominent through history. Arguing the fact that Reiniger's The Adventures of Prince Achmed is the first feature-length animated film is definitely a valid consideration. The possible reason for her animated films to be over looked in terms on animation could be down to her unique style and how her work doesn't retain the traditional form of hand drawn animation. Whether Reiniger's work is widely known or not, it can be agreed on her style and creations are visual moving masterpieces.    

Fig. 3
Arguably Reiginer's best known and most impressive works are from the 1950's, where she recreated The Grimm Brother’s Fairy Tales out of expressive, detailed silhouettes. Cinderella in particular for its character design can be appreciated and admired by many. The fairy-tale iconic features, such as costume and shapes, are bold and remain prominent throughout. The audience feels, in a way, they are given all the information, as they understand fully how the characters are feeling, as well as what their intensions/actions are. The fact silhouettes can be read as clear as they can is a true beauty within itself. Midori Snyder argues, "I am totally gobsmacked by German artist Lotte Reiniger's gorgeous black papercuts that she used to make silhouette animated fantasy films as well as beautiful book illustrations (when money could not be found for the films). Her work spans some 60 years (from 1919 to 1979), the early work developed in Germany, then later after the war she settled in London where she continued her work on short animated films and illustrations." (Snyder2011) Snyder makes her amazement and love for Reiniger's animations known, she then continues to state background knowlegde of the animator.  

The process that Reiniger put herself through will never be fully appreciated by other non-animators, the intensity and determination is commendable. Meg Ratner observes, "She began by carefully storyboarding every scene in detail, creating color drawings that would guide her in making the silhouettes. Reiniger broke the figures down into separate parts, then cut each limb and torso from black cardstock. These were hinged on thin wire so that every joint was able to articulate a great number of movements. She hated the imprecision of some animation. “Hands are practically the only way to show a silhouette figure’s emotions,” she explained. “Without all five fingers, it’s not so good.” In fact, her contribution to the elegance and dexterity of animated figures is enormous. She also made a point to include animal silhouettes because in animation films, “man and beast are on the same level, which would be impossible on a theatrical stage.” As part of her research, she spent hours at the zoo, then returned to her studio where she would get down on all fours to imagine what it would feel like to be a particular animal." (Ratner 2006) Ratner expresses and explains in detail the intensity and extremes Reiniger will go through to create in her eyes perfection within animation. This style of animation is brilliantly unique and the years of hard work, determination can be experienced in the beauty of her silhouettes and the expressive, flowing motion - a visual delight to behold.

List of illustrations

Figure 1. Lotte Reiniger. At: (Accessed on:2/4/12)
Figure 2. Reiniger, Lotte (1954) Cinderella. At:  (Accessed on:2/4/12)
Figure 3. Reiniger, Lotte (1954) Aladin and His Magic Lamp. At: (Accessed on:2/4/12)


William Moritz (1996) Lotte Reiniger. At: (Accessed on:3/4/12)

Midori Snyder (2011) Lotte Reiniger: Silhouette Fairy Tale Films. At: (Accessed on:3/4/12)

Megan Ratner (2006) In the Shadows: Lotte Reiniger. At: (Accessed on:3/4/12)

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