Reiniger, Lotte (1899–1981) By Leskosky, Richard J.
Berlin-born Charlotte ‘Lotte’ Reiniger, the first woman animator, was the foremost practitioner of silhouette animation (paper cut-outs lit from beneath and manipulated one frame at a time under the camera). She anticipated Disney’s multi-plane system of separating image levels under the camera to create illusory depth by a dozen years. Chinese shadow plays fascinated her as child, and a lecture by German Expressionist director/actor Paul Wegener on animated film inspired her as a teen. While a student at Max Reinhardt’s acting school, she published a book of silhouettes of his actors. Reiniger made her first silhouette film in 1919. She gravitated to fairy tales, fantasies, and operatic themes, but her films nonetheless usually contained wry social commentary, often on gender issues. She also made theatrical commercials and special silhouette effects scenes for live-action features. In 1926, assisted by husband and live-action director Carl Koch and animators Berthold Bartosch and Walther Ruttmann, she completed her feature-length masterpiece, Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed [The Adventures of Prince Achmed]. The first animated feature made in Europe, it employed tinted film stock to reinforce the emotional impact of each scene. Her second silhouette feature, Doktor Dolittle und seine Tiere [Dr. Dolittle and His Animals] (1928), premiered in Berlin with a score by Kurt Weill and Paul Hindemith. Reiniger’s filigreed images are intrinsically abstract and expressionistic, and her stories partake of the surrealism of dreams. After World War II, she worked mostly in Great Britain.