Lotte Reiniger

1899 – 1981
Airing The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) on Wednesday, Sep. 9 at 7:45 AM on TCM

Lotte Reiniger was creating beautiful hand-cut silhouette animation films a full 10 years before Walt Disney entered motion pictures. Reiniger learned the art of scherenschnitte (cutting designs with scissors) as a child and used her first cutout figures to stage Shakespeare. That changed after a lecture by actor-director Paul Wegener on an animation film. Reiniger joined the Max Reinhardt School of Acting where Wegener taught and impressed him with her silhouettes. Wegener asked Reiniger to animate wooden rats for his film Pied Piper of Hamelin (1918), and the following year she made her first short, The Ornament of the Heart in Love (1919). Impressed, a banker with a film company loaned his studio for her first feature The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), which took three years and 250,000 frames to create. 

She emigrated to England in 1936 with her husband Carl Koch (who shot her animations), where she made short fantasy films for the BBC until Koch’s death in 1963. In 1972, she received The Golden Reel Award at the Berlin Film Festival, which led to a revival of her films and a lecture tour of North America. Reiniger returned to filmmaking, making her final film The Four Seasons a year before her death in 1980.

Select Filmography

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)
Daughter (1937)
Mary’s Birthday (1951)
The Magic Horse (1957)
The Four Seasons (1980)