The Google Doodle for June 2nd, 2016, celebrated the 117th birthday of Charlotte (Lotte) Reiniger, a little-known German filmmaker who, in 1926, released THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED, one of the first animated features, if not the first, more than a decade before Disney released its first animated feature, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS in 1937. Reiniger’s beautifully magical film was developed painstakingly, frame by frame, in cut-out silhouette style. Lotte created ACHMED with a small team of collaborators. She was 23 when they began working on the film. It took three years to complete.
THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED deserves to be a landmark. And it would be if it were better known. It is technically history’s first feature-length animated movie ,,,It’s a very good movie, not only for animation fans and movie buffs. This movie is done completely with silhouettes. It may seem primitive and precious trying to picture that in your head, but the effect is astonishing. Reiniger had been involved with the German Avant-Garde movement, and she makes inventive use of shapes and backgrounds, crafting a definite mood. Indeed, she evokes an entire world using only two dimensions and two shades (the film does use colored tints for backgrounds and effects, but not for details). (Jeffrey M. Anderson, combustiblecelluloid.com)
The film’s original negative was destroyed in 1945 and thought to be lost forever until a nitrate copy was found … and restored to its former glory [in 1999]… Reiniger’s innovative and influential craft [is] a rudimentary silhouette animation (which she herself called “shadows films”) … An intricate assemblage of black cardboard shadow puppets, created by the use of tiny pairs of straight nail scissors that were then manipulated using sheets of lead joined by wires on a homemade contraption (called a ‘Tricktisch’, or a trick table) … Reiniger’s most subsidised film – funded and sponsored by a banker whose father shepherded the film’s revival in the 1970s – ACHMED is the product of a small team of animators unaware of the future influence their ingenuity would have. (Edward Frost, Cine-vue.com, 2013)
Reiniger was a consummate storyteller, using as her inspiration the Arabian folk tale collection ONE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS — but one gets the feeling she could have chosen just about any source material and created a similarly breathtaking masterpiece. Indeed, while the episodic story itself is reasonably compelling, it’s Reiniger’s artwork which really holds one’s attention: watch the intricate movements and interactions of the characters with their environment and with each other, as objects and people shift shape, and the landscape is kept in constant motion; it’s simply a fascinating process to see unfolding. (filmfanatic.org)