Stop motion animation is a frame-by-frame method of animation that focuses on manipulating an object to make it appear as though the object is moving. Lotte Reiniger takes a unique approach to this form of animation. She uses silhouette cutouts for her characters as well as the foregrounds in her films. In most cases, the backgrounds are painted or created using some other medium is used to create a full-color background.
The first film worth mentioning is called The Star Of Bethlehem. This film was made in 1921. This is a 12-minute film that tells the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. The foreground as well as all the characters are cutout silhouettes while the background appears to be painted in full color. The story is told verbally by a narrator as there is no explicit dialogue between any two characters.
Another animation done by Reiniger is Cinderella, which was made in 1922. This film is unique because it is the only film (at least out of these four chosen) of Reiniger’s that contains no verbal narration at all. The story is told through text on the screen. Instead of all the text appearing on the screen at once, the text is gradually uncovered and made visible. This was made so that the reader can read the text as it is uncovered.
It is also worth mentioning that in Cinderella, the visual is displayed in “windows” rather than a full environment. The three images provided show different interactions between different characters as well as the severing of a foot. These scenes, similar to the rest of the film, are displayed inside of a “window” in front of a single, solid-color background. This is unique to Cinderella because many of her other films have full, vibrant backgrounds.
Reiniger also made an adaptation of Hansel and Gretel in 1955. It is very similar to The Star of Bethlehem when it comes to visuals and verbal narration. The only thing that makes this unique is that the background is in black and white rather than full color.
The last film worth mentioning is Reiniger’s adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk, also made in 1955. This film is also very similar to The Star of Bethlehem as far as visual depiction and narration.
It is worth mentioning that this film does contain actual speech by the characters. There is the bearded old man chanting “All the riches in the world!” and asking Jack to trade his pig for the bag of beans. There is also the giant who chants “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman!” upon noticing realizing that Jack is in the giant’s daughter’s room.
The figure and motion of the characters is very unique to the paper cutout style of animation used in Reiniger’s works. This is something that, albeit possible, would be very difficult to draw and animate using traditional styles of animation. The motion of the characters is also something that would be difficult to imitate in any live-action film.
Lotte Reiniger took a very unique approach to stop motion animation that was ahead of her time. She was the only one in her time to truly utilize this style of animation to such an extent.