Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Animation Techniques: Papageno

Little over a month ago I was trawling the web—as you do—and came across the daily Google Doodle. The animation was generated in celebration of German puppeteer Lotte Reiniger's 117th birthday. Having never heard of her before and being intrigued by the doodle, I began looking into Reiniger's work as a silhouette film pioneer.

Still from Papageno.

Using stop-motion animation techniques, Reiniger was a true artist and a prolific moviemaker who made close to seventy films (both original and as advertisements) by the end of her career. She is credited with having created the first feature-length animated filmmany years before Disneyand constructing an early form of the multi-plane camera. For a much more in-depth biography as well as a timeline of Reiniger's career, I suggest visiting this site.

The original Google Doodle for June 2nd, 2016.

The magic of Reiniger's puppetry craft has influenced generations of shadow theatre enthusiasts. Her skills as a designer, model maker, and director truly set the stage for favourite fairy tale interpretations like Snow WhiteSleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Aladdin, The Frog Prince, Puss in Boots, Thumbelina, and many others. Modern-day animation artists are still drawing from her techniques, and it can be argued that this woman's legacy has touched every animated creation since her first film was aired back in the 1920s.

Behind the scenes at Google HQ.

One of Reiniger's more well-known works is Papageno—a short set to and loosely based upon Mozart's opera, "The Magic Flute." The video below covers the methods used in that particular piece, including character design, scene sequence, and storyboarding. It also gives viewers a sneak peek into how Reiniger would trace and cut her figures before punching holes into their limbs, tying them together with wire hinges, weighing them with lead, and flattening them for easier movement.

The video also looks into the creation and use of an animation table, and Reiniger herself demonstrates how stop-motion animation is completed by first going through fractional movement and then onto camera specs, figure turning, close-ups, depth perception tricks, as well as background construction, layering, and movement. She even explains how her works are set to a music track and, toward the end, how she advanced the silhouette technique to include colour. Amazing stuff.

"The Art of Lotte Reiniger" by John Isaacs & Louis Hagen.

Released in 1935, Papageno is the story of a birdcatcher who longs for female companionship, gets attacked by a giant snake, and then decides to hang himself. After being saved by his fairy-bird friends, he plays his magical bells, smooches his new lady-love, and hatches a bunch of mini-me babies. Or something. Fairy tales are strange. Anywho, many of Reiniger's other films can be found on YouTube, so if you like what you see here and want to discover more...I would suggest starting there.

Papagena rides an ostrich and has an army of flamingos.

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