Saluting an animation pioneer

Pioneer of animation Lotte Reiniger features in today’s Google doodle. In 1926, Reiniger made the first feature-length animated film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed. But since Reiniger worked in silhouette rather than cartoons, she seldom gets credit for making cinematic history. Reiniger made about 70 films in all. Few remain available, as her works suffered the fate of so many silents, being destroyed or lost. Those that survive do so in inferior prints that tend to lose her finely detailed backgrounds.

Reiniger had a genius for manipulating the paper in her silhouettes, a genius that went hand-in-hand with her gifts for plot, character, and storyboarding. Some of her figures needed as many as 50 separate pieces to express a particularly fluid movement. Closeups required separate, complex figures, plus extensive backgrounds.

neupertThough historians gave Walt Disney the credit for animated features, Reiniger’s work opened up a trail that led to the blockbuster Pixar films of today. Pixar’s head, John Lasseter, has become a revolutionary figure in animation. In the recent UIP book on LasseterRichard Neupert explores the filmmaker’s signature aesthetic and storytelling strategies and details how he became the architect of Pixar’s studio style. Neupert contends that Lasseter’s accomplishments emerged from a unique blend of technical skill and artistic vision, as well as a passion for working with collaborators. In addition, Neupert traces the director’s career arc from the time Lasseter joined Pixar in 1984. As Neupert shows, Lasseter’s ability to keep a foot in both animation and CGI allowed him to thrive in an unconventional corporate culture that valued creative interaction between colleagues.