Lotte Reiniger’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed is widely believed to be the oldest surviving feature-length animated film. The film’s narrative is based on episodes from The Arabian Nights, and Reiniger took advantage of animation’s ability to represent the imaginary by focusing on some of the more fantastical elements of these stories, such as Achmed’s flying horse. Reiniger used shadow puppets, which she meticulously crafted by hand, in concert with stop-motion techniques, to create a film of technical complexity and haunting beauty.
Lotte Reiniger was born in 1899 in Berlin, Germany and was among the first women to achieve a successful career in animation and film direction. In her youth, Reiniger was captivated by silhouette puppetry and adapted the laborious technique for use in her full-length films. Her most notable film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, 1926, is the oldest surviving animated feature and is based on the tales of The Arabian Nights. After producing nearly seventy films throughout her career, Reiniger passed away in 1981.