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directed by Lotte Reiniger
UK 1922


Lotte Reiniger was one of the twentieth century's major animation artists, pioneering a unique and distinctive style of black and white silhouette animation in her interpretations of classic myths and fairy tales.

Reiniger began her career in Germany and in 1926 made The Adventures of Prince Achmed (available on BFI DVD), one of the first and most ingenious full-length animated films in the history of cinema. Her first film adaptation of a fairy tale was Cinderella in 1922. She moved to Britain in the 1930s where she joined the GPO Film Unit and later worked for the Crown Film Unit of the COI. From 1952 onwards, Reiniger, together with her husband Carl Koch, created a series of fairy-tale films for Primrose Productions based on the Brothers Grimm, Wilhelm Hauff, Hans Christian Andersen and the stories from One Thousand and One Nights.

Excerpt of review from BFI located HERE

DVD Reviews

DVD Review: BFI - Region 2 - PAL

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Region 2 - PAL


1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• The Art of Lotte Reiniger (16:41)
• Mike Figgis' selection (extract from Friday Night Hijack, 2008, courtesty Sky Arts) (1:59)
• 22 Page Illustrated Booklet

DVD Release Date: November 17th, 2008
Foldout Keepcase in a Cardboard Case



Lotte Reiniger was one of the earliest pioneers of animation, and is often credited as making the first animated feature length film. Unlike the conventional drawn animation that we're used to in post-Walt Disney cinema, Reiniger used black paper silhouettes which were hand drawn, cut out, and assembled with wire joints. The assembled figures were then placed over a background on an illuminated surfaces and individual pictures were taken with minute movements between shots. In this collection, we get a sampling of some of her 40 surviving short films. All of the films in this selection are based on fairy tales, some of which are well known (Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretal, etc.) and others a bit more obscure (The Golden Goose, The Caliph Stork and so on). Yet, whatever differences exist between them they are wonderful one and all. Reiniger's work ranks amongst the most creative and lovely in the history of animation and the films in this collection are indicative of her talent. Yet they shouldn't be written off as mere kid's fare. To be sure, I'll be showing this to my son when he's old enough, but in the meantime I'm very grateful to have these gorgeous shorts in my collection.

Although all of the shorts in this collection display some damage (mostly scratches or dirt), by and large they look quite good for their age. I don't believe that these films have undergone any restoration (at least none that the booklet mentions), but that's not really an issue here since the film elements used here have help up quite well over the years. There is occasionally some soft or even slightly blurry background imagery in a few of the cartoons, but as the bonus documentary explained, Reiniger intentionally used this effect for the water and sky. It should also be mentioned that although the majority of films here are in black and white, toward the end of her career, Reiniger and her husband began experimenting with the use of color and two of the shorts "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "The Frog Prince" make use of their technique.

The discs sport a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The narration and the music arealways fairly clear, but a few of the films do have noticeable background noise (in this case a constant, but minor hiss). This generally isn't a distraction, but it certainly isn't welcome either. Their are a few silent films in the collection that use title cards, but most of the the films use narration with optional English captioning. As per usual with the BFI discs, the subtitles here are easy to read and don't interfere with the picture.

The film also comes with three extras. First the release comes with an illustrated 21 page booklet that has essays on every film on the two discs and a decent biography of Reiniger. Next, there's the fascinating documentary "The Art of Lotte Reiniger" which shows the artist at work on "The Frog Prince" and gives a detailed look into how she creates a picture. Finally, the there's also a short introduction by Mike Figgis to a trio of Reiniger's film during something called "Friday Night Hijack". Here he discusses the time that he spent with Reiniger in an artist's commune as well as an anecdote about her experiences in Berlin at the end of the second World War.

The set is a wonderful addition for set for anyone interested in animation no matter the age (parents be warned though, "Cinderella" does contain a pair of mildly risque jokes including the word "slut" on an intertitle). I strongly encourage anyone considering the purchase to take the plunge. Definitely recommended.

 - Brian Montgomery


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