I saw this post at the ever increasingly fantastic ASIFA Hollywood blog. They also followed up with a second post showing even more beautiful looking production stills. This first full length animated film was made by German animator Lotte Reiniger in the mid 1920’s. You have GOT to check this stuff out.
The production design is masterful, mesmerizing. I feel like I’m 9 years old and looking at photographs my own dreams or something. I can’t get over how fantastic and beautiful this stuff is. I look at it, know how it was made and think about the craft and skill- especially for the backgrounds- and I just smile. I feel like I’ve been shown a treasure. I have no idea if the film plays out well at all. To me the design is enough to make me a fan.
The grace and power of these silhouettes- the whole film is done only in silhouette- cut out paper on a light box. I’m thrilled to see this stuff being highlighted in the online animation community. This seems to have a raw and direct connection to older European heritage storytelling. This in itself isn’t surprising seeing as it was made during the prime shift away from local performance to projected product in the early 20th century. But to my eyes in the early years of the 21st century this is such a treasure. It jumps right over the intervening years and efforts and plops you right back into the aesthetic of a small puppet box in a cobble stoned street in Prague or someplace similar. Simple, quiet, primitive “slow” things like shadow puppets, etc. feel like long lost miracles of ingenuity and craft today.
ASIFA is currently having a fund drive for their fantastic blog. Go there now and toss a few dollars their way. If they keep putting stuff like this up it’s way more than worth the donation.