magic and fantasy and labour of creating the first animated movement

Charlotte Lotte Reiniger was a German film director and the pioneer of animation. Her film “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” that she begun making in 1923 and released in 1926 was the first and the oldest surviving feature-length animated film. Reiniger made more than 70 films over her career. Reiniger fled Germany to England in the 1930s, and was not able to bring her original negatives with her. As a result, most modern prints are copies of copies, which have lost much of the fine detail, especially in backgrounds.

The Art of Lotte Reiniger (1970, John Isaacs)

“If you don’t have an animating table, you take your best dining table, cut a hole into it, put a glass plate over it, and over the glass plate some transparent paper”

Lotte Reiniger

More than just noting that Reiniger’s Prince Achmed, begun in 1923 and released in 1926, was a pioneer feature-length animated film, one must proclaim that it is a brilliant feature, a wonderful film full of charming comedy, lyrical romance, vigorous and exciting battles, eerie magic, and truly sinister, frightening evil. Our current prints of Prince Achmed were “restored” in 1954 with a new (rather kitschy) musical score by Freddie Phillips, which means that the images move faster than they should (18 frames-per-second silent speed versus 24 frames-per-second sound speed). The original symphonic score by Wolfgang Zeller, one of the great film composers, more correctly supports the drama with a thrilling grandeur, exciting suspense and lush romanticism. Furthermore, although the “restoration” reestablished the tints of the original, much of the fine background detail in most scenes is lost. (Original nitrate prints are available in Europe, so let’s hope that a more authentic restoration becomes available soon.)” – William Moritz, a longtime California Institute of the Arts professor, film historian, specialized in visual music and experimental animation.

NA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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