The year 1926 was an important one for animation. That year, animator Lotte Reiniger released the animated feature length film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed. Although it may not be the first animated film, it is considered the oldest surviving one, as the pervious two made before it are lost. The movie uses silhouette cutout stop motion animation which is unique to her and few other animators. Although the style is not often used, it uses fairly common animation techniques to achieve its effect.
Silhouette animation is achieved using a form of cutout stop-motion animation. The dark part of the silhouette is made up of construction paper, paperboard, or other opaque types of materials. These materials are then placed over a backlight that creates the look and feel of a silhouette. A piece of colored transparent paper can also be placed over the light to give color to the film. In the case of Prince Achmed, this was achieved post-production by tinting the film. It is then filmed top-down from an overhead camera. This process can also be imitated through traditional animation, such as in Revolutionary Girl Utena, and be complimented by cels, claymation, and live-action depending on what the animator sees fit.
In The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Reiniger made paper cutouts using wire to joint the character’s limbs. Doing this created a tedious task of keeping track of where each limb would be in each frame, as the character were quite detailed. However, she used this to her advantage that gives her more control over the character’s movements. Instead of having to draw each character in a slightly different pose for each frame, Reiniger only has to move a joint. This is best shown in the bath scene, where the princess is introduced to us. In it, a deer comes up to the bath and is about to drink from it. The head and the body move but gives an accurate representation of what it would look like. The princess moves her whole body and is shown accurately.
Another display of this type of animation from Lotte Reiniger is Däumenlinchen. This short was made in 1953 and displays backgrounds that would be quite difficult to accomplish with silhouette animation and were not previously exhibited in Prince Achmed. The short features a girl who wanders in the forest. Only her head, arms, and legs move throughout which displays a distinct style and silhouette credited to Reiniger.
The 1935 short Papageno is yet another example of silhouette animation from Lotte Reiniger. In it, animals are given movements that are simple, such as only moving the legs, and transformations are made from animals to humans. This shows her characteristic style of shaping previously shown in Prince Achmed.
Although Reiniger was not the first one to use silhouette animation, she forwarded the medium and inspired others to do the same. Today, her works are regarded for their movement and distinct style the Reiniger used in almost all of her films.
“Animation: Reiniger’s Prince Achmed – AnimationResources.org – Serving the Online Animation Community.” AnimationResourcesorg Serving the Online Animation Community. N.p., 02 Oct. 2015. Web. 02 Dec. 2015. <http://animationresources.org/filmography-reinigers-prince-achmed-the-first-animated-feature/>.
Spannhake, Helga. “Animation Began with Scissors | Culture | DW.COM | 07.08.2012.” DW.COM. N.p., 8 July 2012. Web. 02 Dec. 2015. <http://www.dw.com/en/animation-began-with-scissors/a-16147777>.