Lotte Reiniger: Happy Birthday to the Fairy Godmother of Animation
[Image via MusicBoxTheatre.com]
Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I were the head of Google Doodle. But my Doodle-dreams are made of pipes because in order to assume this role I’d have to know things like the date Momofuku Ando was born or when the 86th anniversary of the first radio calisthenics broadcast took place in Japan. (I have no idea.)
I can, however, tell you that today would have been Berlin-born filmmaker Lotte Reiniger’s 117th birthday—she passed away in 1982 at the age of 82—and it’s being celebrated by an adorable Google Doodle, happily sitting on the search site’s homepage as you read these very words:
If you’re unfamiliar with Lotte Reiniger, don’t worry, I’ve got your back. Reiniger was to animation what Oprah Winfrey is to the morning talk show: a pioneer.
In 1926, 10 whole years before Walt Disney even dreamed of bringing seven dwarfs and a raven-haired princess to the big screen, Reiniger had already created the first-ever, full-length animated movie, The Adventures of Prince Achmed. When Disney released Snow White in 1937, many of the techniques used to give Dopey his classic dopiness and Snow White her mirror-certified beauty were taken directly from what Reiniger had developed.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed turned out to be one of the few full-length features Reiniger made but that hardly classified her as a slouch; Reiniger completed almost 60 short films during her decades-long career, refining her idiosyncratic stop-motion style and finding inspiration in classics like The Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Critics credit her fascination with fairy tales and an unending attraction to the ancient Chinese and Indonesian art of shadow-plays as the two heaviest influences on her distinctive visual aesthetic.
“Among the great figures in animated film, Lotte Reiniger stands alone,” said Phillip Kemp of the British Film Institute. “To date she has no rivals, and for all practical purposes the history of silhouette animation begins and ends with Reiniger.”
So now you know all about the woman responsible for giving animated life to happily ever after, though to be fair, you could’ve just googled it.