Once upon a time, long before Disney or Pixar, Lotte Reiniger ignited the world of animation with shadows, light, and a pair of magical scissors.
Once upon a time, a young woman ignited the world of animation
with shadows, light, and a pair of magical scissors.
Before Walt Disney, there was a trailblazing woman at the vanguard of animation. Influenced by folktales and legends, Lotte Reiniger was a tour de force of creativity and innovation: she invented the multiplane camera and created the oldest surviving animated feature. This stunning film explores the life and times of a woman who is finally being given her due. - Eileen Arandiga, Canadian Film Centre
Winner of the BEST U.S. SHORT Award
at the American Documentary Film Festival and Film Fund : April 2018
I have always been intrigued by storytelling; humans have evolved perfecting the ancient act of telling folktales around a fire, the moving light, the crackling and popping sounds, and the face and the hands of the storyteller moving out of darkness and back into the light. And no one has achieved this magical campfire quality in film better than Lotte Reiniger. For this reason and many more, I wanted to tell her story.
As I dug into her history, I just wanted to know more and more. Lotte Reiniger was a bit of a mystery to the world, and the fact that it wasn’t easy to answer some of my questions just made me want to dig deeper. The more I researched, the more I began to respect and appreciate this woman’s story. She lived through some awful times, but she never stopped animating these wonderful films. She also holds two of the most important achievements in animation; she invented the multiplane camera which was revolutionary for animators, and she created the first feature length animation, but these achievements are both often mistakenly credited to Walt Disney, which says so much about our culture and society back then and still today.
One day I discovered the most charming interview with Reiniger from 1976, and I started a project of mixing musical themes with her voice, and then playing with timing to create a compelling and charming story of her life. Music plays a dynamic role in this film as it fills in the gaps of her life story that she was either too sad or too reluctant to talk about. And then came the daunting task of setting the story to visuals. It was a big undertaking because Lotte’s work is amazingly beautiful, and to tell her story in the style she perfected would be near impossible. So I collaborated with the wonderful artist, Elizabeth Beecherl, and she met the task with exceeding expectations. She used Lotte’s style as inspiration, but she also put her own artistic spin on it. I couldn’t be happier with it, and one of Lotte’s great old friends, Paul Gelder, said Lotte would have been thrilled with it as well! Which is great to hear because as we made the film, we were constantly asking each other, would Lotte like this? Would she be happy we made this film about her?
I hope this film inspires others to dedicate themselves to a passion and a craft as Lotte did and to sing the unsung stories of the heroes in our shadows.
- Carla Patullo