Before there was Walt Disney, there was Lotte Reiniger. Born in Berlin in 1899, Reiniger pioneered new forms of paper cutout animation in the 1920’s. Inspired by shadow puppetry, Reiniger developed highly articulated paper puppets to be animated through stop-motion camera work. Her elegant paper silhouettes breathed life into the fairytale The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), a film that bears the distinction of being the first feature-length animation. Although she initially struggled to find a distributor, once Prince Achmed premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, it then became a critical and popular success.
Back-lit paper silhouettes are so closely associated with Reiniger that schools of animation will often refer to this type of work as the “Lotte Reiniger style.”