Robinson, Fiona

Out of the Shadows: How Lotte Reiniger Made the First Animated Fairytale Movie

(1) K-3 Lyrical writing and fanciful scissor-cut, watercolor, and felt pen illustrations are a perfect match for this sophisticated exploration of the life and work of groundbreaking animator Charlotte "Lotte" Reiniger (1899–1981), told in three parts. Each section begins with an elegant title card, as if the reader were watching a silent film. Part one focuses on young Lotte's early life in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Berlin, establishing her love of fairy tales and cinema. After receiving a gift of articulating Chinese puppets, her life is forever changed from being "a reader and viewer of stories into a teller of stories." As a teenager, her unique interests in both acting and Scherenschnitte ("scissor cuts") lead to an opportunity to experiment with stop-motion in what becomes a wildly popular film. Parts two and three chronicle her meeting of her future husband/creative partner, introduction to the Tricktisch (or "trick/animation table"), and journey to create the first animated fairy-tale feature film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926). Every spread offers an exceptional visual experience, regularly amplifying aspects of the narrative. For example, winding film tape gracefully draws the reader's eye across the page, while a stunning vertically orientated layout reinforces how a multiplane camera works. Vivid watercolor washes, similar to dyes used throughout Reiniger's films, pop against the mostly black backgrounds and silhouetted figures. Substantial back matter includes bibliographic resources as well as an author's note summarizing Reiniger's multi-decade career (and acknowledging the orientalism found in her early work).


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