First animated feature film to screen in Brandon

Cinematic fantasy fans often cite Walt Disney’s “Snow White” (1937) as the first full-length animated feature film. But more than a decade earlier, German filmmaker Lotte Reiniger produced “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” (1926), a feature-length animated fantasy that thrilled audiences worldwide. The film will be shown with live accompaniment at the Brandon Town Hall at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 30.
Unavailable and unappreciated for many years, Reiniger’s unique silent animation fantasy has now been restored so today’s audiences can once again enjoy it.
“The Adventures of Prince Achmed” features a silhouette animation technique that Reiniger invented that involved manipulated cutouts made from cardboard and thin sheets of lead under a camera. The technique she used for the camera is similar to Wayang shadow puppets, though hers were animated frame by frame, not manipulated in live action. The original prints featured color tinting, which has since been restored.
The story is based on elements taken from the “One Thousand and One Nights,” specifically “The Story of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Paribanou” featured in Andrew Lang’s “Blue Fairy Book.”
In “Prince Achmed,” a handsome prince rides a flying horse to far-away lands and embarks on magical adventures, which include befriending a witch, meeting Aladdin, battling demons and falling in love with a princess.
All action is depicted in the at-times beguilingly intricate silhouette style of animation that Reiniger herself developed. Film was Reiniger’s passion; as a child she was delighted by the trick films of French illusionist Georges Méliès, and later the dreamy horrors of Paul Wegener. She was also an enthusiast for the Chinese art of shadow puppetry, creating her own silhouette spectaculars for a parental audience.
As a young woman and keen to work with Wegener, she found a job designing silhouettes for the intertitles in his films. Leaving Germany prior to World War II, she settled in England and continued to work on animation and film projects until her death in 1981.
In 2016, Reiniger was honored with her own “Google doodle,” in which the search engine featured Reiniger accomplishments on what would have been her 117th birthday.
THE SILHOUETTE STYLE animation of “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” was inspired by Wayang shadow puppetry from Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia.
Two homages to “Prince Achmed” can be spotted in two Disney films: the duel between a witch and a wizard who both transform in various creatures is found in Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone” (1963), and a character named Prince Achmed makes a cameo at the beginning of Disney’s “Aladdin.”
Admission is free and the family-friendly program is open to all; freewill donations will go to ongoing building renovation and restoration work.
Musical accompaniment for the film with be provided by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film musician. The film is the third in this summer’s silent film
series, which allows local moviegoers to experience silent film the way its makers originally intended: on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.
Also on the bill will be several short animation films from the silent era. “Because we’re showing ‘Prince Achmed,’ we figured we’d make it an all-cartoon night,” Rapsis said.

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