Monday, September 5, 2016

Lotte Reiniger's Fairy Tale Style In Vogue Again

Anyone who's anyone in animation these days, now knows the name and work of Lotte Reiniger, if they didn't already, and not a few households are becoming familiar with her this year as well.

Not only were we treated to a most beautiful, hand-created Google Doodle, commemorating her work and 117th birthday on June 2nd this year, but Rebecca Sugar, the first 'solo woman creator' of an animated TV series at Cartoon Network, Steven Universe, referenced the style of Reiniger in a special episode, titled "The Answer" earlier in the year.
But let's have a quick look at the Google Doodle first:
 While I thought it was lovely, I didn't have full appreciation for it until I realized it was created by "doodler" Olivia Huynh, in the same manner Lotte Reiniger herself used: with paper, scissors, many, many hand- crafted puppets and a unique camera rig to take photos frame by frame.
(Reiniger made over 40 short films this way, as well as the feature length The Adventures of Prince Achmed.) Here's a fascinating look behind the scenes of the the Lotte birthday tribute Google Doodle:
And here's Lotte Reiniger herself, telling you how you can do the same at home. This is amazing and enchanting footage. (Note: if you take Lotte's advice, you may need a saw to cut a hole in your dining room table...):
Going back to present day TV pop culture, creator Rebecca Sugar has created quite a buzz with her own achievements. (You can hear an interview with her HERE in NPR's On Point.) In an special episode, The Answer, which deals beautifully with love, Sugar stated:
We wanted to give Garnet the ultimate animated fairy tale love story, with imagery inspired by all our favorite animated fairy tale love stories of all time. We started by drawing influence from Lotte Reiniger, creator of the oldest surviving animated feature film, “The Adventures of Prince Achmed.” The film is done with Lotte Reiniger’s signature silhouette animation technique and the compositions are stunning.We referenced the silhouetted characters, but also the dense, lush, ornate background compositions in the film. (Source)
Steven Universe, popular not only with kids but many others, including Emmy-watchers, is pushing a lot of conventional boundaries, not only in how it was created by Sugar (and how big a win that was for female animators and directors everywhere) but also in the deep messages it presents.
The show has gained a big following beyond its target demographic for pushing the boundaries of LGBTQ representation, as well as diving into themes like self-discovery and healthy relationships. “It’s very important to me that we speak to kids about consent, that we speak to kids about identity,” creator Rebecca Sugar said at Comic-Con last month.”I want to feel like I exist, and I want everyone else who wants to feel that way to feel that way too.”  (Source)

Sugar has stated many times that she's not only great admirer of Lotte Reiniger's aesthetic and overall animation work, but the way she pushed boundaries, doing what no one in the world had really done before in creating, not only animated films but pioneering such a beautiful style that has rarely been surpassed even today. That legacy lives on, not only in how much illustrated and paper cut silhouettes seem to automatically echo Once Upon A Time, but also in how she told fairy tales, inspiring others to approach their own unique obstacles with all the determination, hard work and ultimately, beauty that Reiniger's fairy tales have as a signature.
It's not the first time we've seen film and TV inspired by Reiniger's fairy tale work (see a still from Michel Ocelot's 2011 film Tales of the Night below) but it may be the biggest pop culture exposure she's had in quite some time.
A huge admirer of Reiniger's work and fairy tale films, (which were greatly influential in her lifetime and continue to be so today, in fairy tale books, films and various methods of storytelling), I couldn't be happier to see her name entering popular consciousness again and becoming a well-known name - and fairy tale influence, in the best sense - among animators and filmmakers in the industry today.

Fairy Tale Bonus of the Day:
Lotte Reiniger discusses her process for creating films, as well as her career, in this rare recording, just recently made available via the USC Hugh Hefner Moving Image Archive website.
You can listen to the 45 minute recording online HERE.


  1. Lotte's work has been quite informative for my own. Thanks for getting all these sources in one place, very handy. I hadn't seen the google doodle 'making of'. Stealing the LR quote... :)

  2. I can't believe I've never heard of her before. I want to go watch her films immediately!
    (P.S. It's so nice to have you back, Gypsy! We missed you and your fairy tale news!)