Animation Pioneer: Lotte Reiniger

Lotte Reiniger was born in Berlin-Charlottenberg in 1899. She is known as a pioneer of silhouette animation, pre dating Disney by 10 years. She was fascinated with the cinema and Chinese Silhouette puppetry as a child and later enrolled in the acting group The theater of Max Reinhardt where she began to draw silhouettes of the actors and also created title cards to the films of Paul Wegener. Her silhouette intertitles for Wegener’s Der Rattenfänger von Hameln (The Pied piper of Hameln) was very successful and she was then admitted to the experimental animation and short film studio Institut für Kulturforschung (Institute for Cultural Research). Here she met Carl Koch who would become her creative partner and husband.

With Cark Koch as producer, she directed a number of short films. She is well known for her film Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926). After its premier in Paris, it became a success both with wide audiences and with critics. She worked on a variety of animation, live action and advertising projects and moved to London in 1949 during Nazi-Germany. In 1953 she partnered with Louis Hagen Jr., and founded Primrose productions where she produced over a dozen silhouette short films based on the Grimms’ Fairy Tales for BBC and Telecasting America.

Reiniger was awarded the Filmband in Gold of the Deutscher Filmpreis in 1972 and in 1979 she received the Great Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Reiniger died in Dettenhausen, Germany, on 19 June 1981, at the age of 82.

As artists and animators, we can carry forward her passion for her art, and the appreciation that something as seemingly simple as black paper on a light background can create stunning, dramatic and entertaining works. This is a reminder that certain simplicity in form does not necessarily diminish the quality of animation, nor does the complexity of 3d animation always trump the earlier forms.

Here is a link to her film Prince Achmed.




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