Overlooked No More: Lotte Reiniger
Animator Who Created Magic With Scissors and Paper
October 22nd, 2019
Via The New York Times: "A decade before Walt Disney Productions came into existence, making its name synonymous with animated films, there was another pioneer of the art form — Lotte Reiniger.
Reiniger’s filmmaking career spanned 60 years, during which she created more than 70 silhouette animation films, including versions of 'Cinderella,' *Puss in Boots' and 'Hansel and Gretel.' She’s perhaps best known for her 1926 silent film 'The Adventures of Prince Achmed,' a fantastical adaptation of 'The Arabian Nights' that was among the first full-length animated features ever made. [...]
Reiniger’s editing was meticulous. Starting with more than 250,000 frames, she and her crew used just over 100,000 in the film, which ran for an hour and 21 minutes, each second requiring 24 frames. It took three years to complete, and premiered in the Volksbühne, or People’s Theater, in Berlin, when Reiniger was 27. [...]
Beginning with 'Prince Achmed,' she also created an early version of the multiplane camera, which gave two-dimensional animation a hitherto unexplored depth, movement and complexity. She called her device a tricktisch, or trick table.
Reiniger described her process this way: 'Figures and backgrounds are laid out on a glass table. A strong light from underneath makes the wire hinges disappear and throws up the black figures in relief. The camera hangs above this table, looking down at the picture arranged below.'
After taking a photograph, Reiniger and her team moved the figures into their next position and photographed the scene again. 'The important thing,' she wrote, 'is to know how much to move the figures so that a lifelike effect may be obtained.' [...]
She died on June 19, 1981, in Dettenhausen, Germany. She was 82. Though The New York Times did not take note of her death at the time, the Times film critic A.O. Scott recalled her in a 2018 article about the unsung women who had advanced the art of filmmaking.
Praising Reiniger’s 'blend of whimsy and spookiness,' Mr. Scott wrote that her 'dreamy images that seem to tap right into the collective unconscious suggest both an antidote to Disney and a precursor to Tim Burton.' "