Saturday, 17 March 2012

Figure 1: Lotte Reinigir

During the 20s, Lotte Reiniger (Fig 1), born in 1899 and died in 1981, made a name for herself using shadow puppets in a stop-motion animation technique after gaining an incredible talent cutting out silhouettes from paper with uncanny detail and precision as William Moritz mentions on his article about her on his website,

"She had an astonishing facility with cutting--holding the scissors still in her right hand, and manipulating the paper at lightning speed with her left hand so that the cut always went in the right direction. She drew the storyboards and devised the plots and characters, which were closely linked." (Moritz, 1996)

She did not create visually realistic movies, but instead created movies purely out of artistic form and style. Reiniger was inspired to great extend by Chinese shadow puppets when she was a teenager, influencing her through her successful career. Her avant-garde style in the animation industry at the time grabbed the attentions of many critics and ultimately set a turning point in innovation. Phillip Kemp elaborates in his review of the animator:

"Among the great figures in animated film, Lotte Reiniger stands alone. No one else has taken a specific animation technique and made it so utterly her own." (Kemp, 2010)

Reiniger created many paper-cut movies depicting famous children's tales such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty, but she started her baby steps into the world of animated films with The Pied Piper of Hamelin, released in 1918, followed by The Adventures of Prince Ahmed, released in 1926. Her films depicted a phenomenal sense of graceful motions for the type of medium used.

Thanks to the shadowy appearance of the figures and props in the foreground, we are left to use our own imagination to fill in the blanks. However, the stunning amount of character that had been put into these simple, cut-out shapes would fill most of it in for us. Abhijit Ghosh Dasitidar of the online newspaper '', tells us about her use of silhouette in character design.

"The cutting strokes provided the figures with characters. As the gaunt sorcerer, the plump good natured witch, and the obese, power conscious emperor are caught in motion, against a background of light and shadow, assigned roles lucidity emerge."  (Dasitidar, <no date>)

During the rise of Disney and with the innovative use of sound in recent animated films, cel-based animation became the new and ruling form of animation, unfortunately overshadowing Reiniger's technique of using cut-out silhouettes. The use of traditional animation was not cost-effective. It used up many resources and took time to produce, but inevitably became the status quoe and animators such as Reiniger began to disappear during the late 1970s when Disney was the dominant force in animated films.

The audiences of today may prefer to view other animated films than silhouetted, sto-motion ones. This is, however, until they could view the works of Reiniger. Her later works in the 1950s, created for and aired on television, were not as well-crafted as her earlier films and captivated audiences with a certain wonderment which was and is, sadly, not present in the majority of other filmmakers. It is unlikely that the world will see the magical works of another like Reiniger.

Moritz, William (1996) Lotte Reinigir (Accessed 17/03/12)

Kemp, Phillip (2010) Renigir, Lotte (1899-1981) (Accessed 17/03/12)

Dasitidar, Abhijit (<no date>) Lotte Reinigir's Silhouettes (Accessed 17/03/12)

Fig 1 Pigeon, Gilliger (2012) Lotte Reinigir (Accessed 17/03/12)

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