Lotte Reiniger would have loved to see the Google Doodle paying tribute to her work as an artist on her 117 birthday, were she alive today. A German animator and pioneer in the field of shadow puppetry, she directed a total of 55 puppet animation films. Below are five interesting facts about Reiniger that most do not know.
- The first work by Reiniger was directing her animated short “The Ornament of the Lovestruck Heart” released in 1919, two years before Walt Disney began animating the short “Newman Laugh-O-Grams,” as noted by IMDB and Wikipedia.
- Lotte Reiniger began working with shadow puppetry while still in high school, notes The Telegraph. She used her silhouette puppets to act out scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. Reiniger had been fascinated with Chinese silhouette puppetry and used to make cutouts of various characters that she’d use in her own homemade shadow theatre to entertain her family and friends, notes Wikipedia and BFI Screenonline.
- Mark Whitehead, in his book “Animation: The Pocket Essential Guide,” notes that Lotte Reiniger, who was born in 1899 in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin, was attracted to the possibilities of animation while attending a lecture on trick photography delivered by Paul Wegener. He was a leading German actor back then. Inspired by his speech, Reiniger joined Max Reinhardt’s theatre company of which Wegener was a member. Here, she began making silhouette portraits of many of the company’s famous actors. This caught Wegener’s attention. He hired her to design title-cards and captions for his films and she received credit as an assistant animator on his “The Pied Piper of Hamlin” (1918).
- Mark Whitehead also notes in his book that Reiniger was even presented with a studio of her own in 1923 and finances necessary to produce her first full-length feature by a banker named Louis Hagen. And in 1926 came “The Adventures of Prince Achmed,” which was the first full-length animated film in history. The feature was filmed “in black and white and then hand tinted,” notes Whitehead. He adds that Reiniger and her fellow animators, namely, her husband Carl Koch, Berthold Bartosch and Walter Ruttmann, used “wax and sand animation as well as silhouettes.” Her work even received support from Jean Renoir. Her second animated feature was “The Star of Bethlehem.” A clip from the film can be seen below.
- Several of her films contained hidden anti-Nazi messages at a time when the Nazi influence was growing in Germany. She left her homeland in 1948 and moved to Britain. Her final work before death was the 1980 animated German short “The Four Seasons.”
Take a look at her birthday Google Doodle below.