The amazing animated paper cut films by Lotte Reiniger

90 years ago, in 1926, the first animated feature film appeard in the cinemas preceding Walt Disney’s Snow White by more than a decade. It was Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed (The Adventures of Prince Ahmed) by Lotte Reiniger, employing motifs from One Thousand and One Nights. She used figures cut out of black cardboard placed on a translucent glass plate and had gathered experience with this technique called silhouette animation making short films since 1918. Numerous fairy tales were filmed that way, including Aschenputtel (Cinderella) from 1922.

Lotte Reiniger left Germany after the Nazis came to power, traveling through the world as long as countries allowed her to stay. During a stay in Italy in 1935, she managed to film a beautiful rendition of the adventures of Papageno, the main character of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Magic Flute.

Reiniger’s most prosperous time was in the early 1950s when she lived with her husband in London. Although she never acquired funding to produce feature films, she was able to render, amongst others, the fairy tales Thumbelina, Puss in Boots, and Hansel and Gretel.

In 1955, her first colour film came out, featuring the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Only three more films appeared until she died in 1981, partially owed to the death of her essential co-worker and husband Carl Koch. She focused on producing still paper cut scenes from Mozarts’s operas.

Lotter Reiniger died in 1981, two years after moving back to Germany.