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Germany, 1926 (MIFF 2000, Animatrix)

Director: Karl Koch, Lotte Reiniger

Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is commonly claimed to be the first animated feature film. However, over a decade before, in 1926, Berlin-born avant gardist Lotte Reiniger designed the exquisite 'siIhouette film', The Adventures of Prince Achmed. Loosely based on 1001 Arabian Nights, the film employs elaborate cutouts, early multi-plane camera work (to add three-dimensionality), as well as experiments with wax and sand to produce this exquisite visual feast.

A fantasy world of plotting sorcerers, fearless heroes, magic lamps and flying horses, Prince Achmed is sophisticated in both plot and technology. The detailing of both locale (the exotic and frightening alien lands of Wak Wak) and character (a princess and her attendants fly down to bathe in island lake on lace wings) is incredible. Early visual effects and the use of colour to punctuate excitement— spells and enchantments, rampaging orges, mechanical animals—is amazingly elaborate for such early cinema. This reconstructed version, presented here on tape, comes courtesy of the British Film Institute who have undertaken a restoration, complete with new English intertitles.

"There's never been anything like it... the images, most of them gorgeously detailed, are dazzling. A rapturous animated kaleidoscope with a more abstracted visage of 1001 Arabian Nights than you could dream "—San Francisco Chronicle

See also...

The Little Chimney Sweep

Based on the 1935 version, this is among the wittiest of Lotte Reiniger's silhouette films, with a lively and original music track. A little chimney sweep outwits a gang of rogues who have kidnapped ... More »

The Magic Horse

A silhouette film from Lotte Reiniger who has been cutting out paper shapes and photographing them since 1923. Here is another one, a fragment from the Arabian Nights. ... More »

The Grasshopper and the Ant

A silhouette film telling the fable of the grasshopper who, having idled all summer, appeals to the industrious ant for help in winter. ... More »


Lotte Reiniger made an invaluable contribution to early cinema and this enlightening documentary examines the life of this pioneering German animator. Born on the eve of the 20th century, Reiniger ... More »


Can there be such a thing as an 'unseen' Disney film? If you think you've seen it all, Disney's Unseen Treasures will surprise you. Like the scene from Snow White they said was too scary for ... More »


This killer Japanese animation packs a stake-snapping whallop. Dispensing with exposition, Blood-The Last Vampire propels the viewer headlong into the story. Saya, a teenaged girl, sits alone on a ... More »

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