The Google Doodle honoring Lotte Reiniger’s birthday was a pleasant surprise. Outside of animation circles not many know of the stop motion animation pioneer whose feature film The Adventures of Prince Achmed made in 1926 predates Walt Disney rise as America’s best known animator.
Reiniger hand made detailed black cardboard cutouts of the characters which were put together with wire hinges. She brought them to life using stop motion animation, shooting frame by frame on a multi-plane camera with a strong backlight.
With the rise of the Nazi Party, Reiniger and her husband and creative partner Carl Koch decided to leave Germany, but found that no other country would give them permanent visas. As a result, the couple spent the war years between 1933–1944 moving from country to country, staying as long as visas would allow. When Reiniger and Koch were finally granted permanent visas and asylum in England in 1949, most of her work was left behind some of it destroyed.
Luckily some of her work survived the war and became inspiration for animators everywhere. Even a scene from a Harry Potter movie utilized her silhouette style to animate a scene called “The Tale of the Three Brothers”.
Even now I refer back to her work to stimulate the creative juices. Her ability to simplify characters and backgrounds into simple shapes is still a great reference for me and I will frequently check out some of her works on YouTube for some creative inspiration. Reiniger’s work frequently pulled from European fairy tales and folk myths, and one of my favorites was her version of Thumbelina, called Däumelinchen.