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Lotte Reiniger’s World: A Stone’s Throw from the International Stuttgart Animation Festival

Lotte Reiniger's World: A Stone's Throw from the International Stuttgart Animation Festival

With Stuttgart’s 20th International Animation Festival underway, animation fans in Germany will have plenty to marvel at this week. Top prize money and a well-organized festival attract quality entries from around the world. One of these prestigious awards is the Lotte Reiniger Promotion Award for Animated Film, a 10,000 Euro film prize for the best student “graduation animated film” made at a higher ed institution.

While present at the Festival in name and inspiration, Lotte Reiniger’s unbridled spirit and lifelong dedication to silhouette art/silhouette animation can be more fully experienced a mere 26 miles south of Stuttgart in Tubingen. This tiny, picturesque German city’s Stadtmuseum (city museum) houses the immersive, permanent and world’s largest exhibit of Reiniger’s work. Centrally located in Tubingen’s beautiful Altstadt (old city center), the museum is a walkable distance from the train station and close to restaurants and tourist attractions, which yes, include a castle (Schloss Hohentubingen)!

The World in Light and Shadow. Silhouette cut-outs, Shadow Theater and Silhouette Film is a wonderfully designed, almost labyrinth-like tour through the lives and work of Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981) and her husband/cameraman/best friend, Karl Koch. When Reiniger died in the neighboring town of Dettenhausen, the Stadtmuseum inherited a treasure trove of Reiniger originals, including not only artwork and film prints but also clothing, photos, Lotte’s book collection, ephemera about Reiniger and her films, illustrated diaries, personal
correspondence and much more.

The World in Light and Shadow offers visitors an incredibly extensive collection of Reiniger originals: Exquisite and complex silhouette cut-outs of all sizes, large silhouette theater puppets, hand-made, hand-painted stages, set accessories, original drawings, book illustrations, collages, silhouette figures from her animated films, film posters, articles and accolades from countries around the world. The exhibit is both an education and an adventure: Ample information is provided about Lotte’s life and work while providing visitors with every thinkable way of experiencing Reiniger’s art and artmaking/animation methods.

The exhibit is beautifully designed to encourage visitors to animate: One of Lotte’s giant hand-painted stage fronts is elevated and set on tracks, enabling visitors to “pan” it back and forth in front of large, glass-encased silhouette figures, creating their own stage compositions with Lotte’s characters. Scissors, black paper and overhead projectors enable anyone inclined to cut out their own silhouettes and see them projected against white walls, which in turn have their own giant, wooden silhouette figures on tracks that can be physically pushed and pulled to form new silhouetted scenes. Screens are interspersed throughout the exhibit, showing either Reiniger productions or Lotte herself at work. One giant screen allows viewers to step between the projector and screen, thus integrating their own silhouetted actions into Lotte’s animation. A wall of drawers contain Reiniger surprises: One drawer opens to reveal hand-drawn timing charts, another contains a storyboard, yet another opens to reveal a movie about Lotte Reiniger, with a headset close at hand!

A timeline of Lotte Reiniger’s life, travels and work cover another wall and provide rare glimpses of a confident, life-loving artist: Lotte the only child with her parents, Lotte smoking a cigar, Lotte with Karl in Egypt, sitting on a camel, Lotte in long pants standing nonchalantly, elegantly in front of a fireplace… and Lotte and Karl, clever enough to sidestep Hitler and spend many of the Third Reich years in other countries: Italy, France, England.

A trip through The World in Light and Shadow is a trip through the world of a woman brimming with curiosity, creativity and passion. A beautiful soul who loved teaching her art to people of all ages, whose presence at the beginning of animation and lifelong commitment to silhouette and silhouette animation emblazoned her stamp and influence forever on our artform.

The World in Light and Shadow is in German, but english tours of the exhibit can be scheduled. The exhibit contains such a wealth of fascinating visuals, that even without a guide visitors will be simply awestruck.

Souvenirs are on sale at the front desk: Books (in german), DVDs and even a Lotte Reiniger tote bag! Online sales can be found here.

Photos: Cathy Joritz, Stadtmuseum Tubingen

Cathy Joritz is an animator/filmmaker/artist currently teaching at the University of Kansas. She’s based in both  Germany & the US.

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