Tim here, contributing to our ongoing celebration of Women’s History Month with a look at one of the truly pioneering artists in the history of animation. And Lotte Reiniger isn’t important simply because she was a woman in a medium that has done such a good job over the years at remaining a boys club. The work she did, silhouette animation based on the shadow puppet theater of East Asia, remains as unique in the 2010s as when she created it over 40-year career beginning in Germany in the 20s, and she created, largely by herself, the first entirely animated feature that still exists (at least two Argentinean films from the 1910s are now lost), eleven years before Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Puts a little bit of added context to that company’s half-proud attempt to declare themselves progressive because, in 2013, they finally hired a female co-director for one of their projects with Frozen.
That film was The Adventures of Prince Achmed, which remains one of the easiest of Reiniger’s projects to see, thanks to a full restoration in the late 1990s. It’s a basic riff on themes from the Arabian Nights – a wicked magician, a brave prince with a flying horse, a couple of helpless women to be rescued – almost hopelessly square and hokey in its embrace of every fantasy adventure cliché you could dream up. But then, the point was never really about the story. The point was things like this: