Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Lotte Reiniger (1899 - 1981)

Lotte Reiniger was a german artist who produced animated stories using silhouettes cut from paper.  Her work was based upon the ancient tradition of shadow-puppetry, but instead of filming a performance in real time, the shadow-puppets were photographed, moved and photographed again, in a process similar to stop-motion animation.
Fig. 1 Cinderella [film still]
 The physical nature of the puppets gives the animation a realistic feeling, as there are none of the "boils" and deformations that occur with drawn animation.  At the same time, there is no mismatch between the characters and the background, which can occur with cel animation.

Stylistically, Reiniger's animations are highly distinctive, in part because of the rarity of silhouette animation, but also because of the careful design of her puppets.  Although they are often highly intricate, the silhouette always remains clear and identifiable; a feature that helps the audience to "read" the characters.
Fig. 2  Cinderella [Film Still]

The character design is timeless, with the personality of the character easily visible even to modern audiences; at the same time, they move with a fluidity that can still captivate the viewer.

Although time consuming, the technique of silhouette animation was considerably cheaper than cel-based animation, which enabled Reiniger to continue making films long after the accension of cel animation.  However, the success of the medium is highly dependent upon the skill of the character creator and animator (Reiniger), and cannot easily be distributed in the manner of cel animation studios.

List of Illustrations

Figure 1.  Institut für Kulturforschung (1922) Cinderella [Film Still] At: (Accessed on 23/03/2011)

Figure 2.  Institut für Kulturforschung (1922) Cinderella [Film Still] At: (Accessed on 23/03/2011)


Dasitidar, A. G. (2011) Lotte Reiniger's Silhouettes [Online] At: (Accessed on 23/03/2011)

Kemp, P  (2003) Reiniger, Lotte (1899 - 1981) In: BFI Screenonline [Online] At: (Accessed on 23/03/2011)

Larson, E.H. (1999)  Lotte Reiniger Information [Online] At: (Accessed on 23/03/2011)

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