Throughout much of animation’s early history, women were afforded limited opportunities. One of the few exceptions was Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981), who had a stellar career using silhouette animation. Most silhouette animation involves stop motion action of paper cutouts, with backlighting. The paper cutouts are usually created using black paper, which accents their appearance against the bright backlighting. Movement is achieved by repositioning the cutouts in the stop motion format. Needless to say, it is a very intricate process, and the final product looks exquisite. Reiniger is considered the most influential silhouette animator, and for good reason. Her Prince Achmed (1926) film is one of the first feature-length animated films. Yes, feature length! Imagine creating a feature-length film using paper cutouts and stop motion. Reiniger made over sixty films and had a prolific career that lasted from 1919-1980. An incredible run. The Filmmuseum in Dusseldorf, Germany has a collection of her working materials, as does the BFI National Archive in England. She was clearly an animation pioneer.
This brief film from the Metropolitan Museum of Art provides a nice look at Reiniger’s process. The film is from 1970 and has a running time of 16:54. I suggest viewing the segment that runs 2:57 – 12:23.