Silhouettes and Shadows

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Shadows, Movement

Social Studies – Women’s History, Countries Around The World (Crafts)

Mathematics – Symmetry

Language Arts – Reading For Information, Literature

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Lotte Reineger

Motor Skills (Cutting), Symmetry, Contour Drawing, Crafts (Paper Cutting), Puppetry (Shadow), Animation, Neutral Colors (Black And White)

I don’t know about you all, but I just love checking out Google Doodles when they appear. If you are unfamiliar with Google Doodles, Google often changes their logo on special occasions or to celebrate milestones in history. Sometimes the doodle will just be an illustration and sometimes it’s an animation.

Last week, there was a doodle animation on German animator, Lotte Reineger.  What a treat! I had never heard of Reineger before. Little did I know, she produced the first feature length animated film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed. I had always thought Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs  was the first. You can find information  and videos about Lotte Reineger and her Google Doodle here.

Lotte’s animations are all done with silhouettes not unlike her native country’s paper cutouts called, scherenschnitte. Paper cutouts originated in China and the tradition spread to several other countries. Find a short history of paper cutouts here. Lesson plans and examples of Poland’s wycinanki paper cutting tradition can be found here and here. More information about Japan’s kiragami can be found here and here. A Mexican papal picado lesson can be found here. So, if you are studying countries around the world in social studies, you might explore some paper cutting variations with them. If you are studying symmetry in math, many of these cutouts employ both regular symmetry around a line and radial symmetry around a point. Cutting is also an excellent way to improve fine motor skills.

Reineger was also influenced by wayang kulit or Indonesian shadow puppetry. Shadow puppetry was first done only with the hands. Look here for a reading for information lesson and a video about hand shadow puppetry history. Look here for wayang kulit lesson and video. 

So, Lotte combined jointed paper cut outs and the back lit idea of shadow puppetry to create her animation. Instead of just filming a shadow puppetry performance,  Reineger painstakingly moved her jointed figures and used stop motion photography. I talked about stop motion animation and how to use it in the classroom in my post about another woman animator, Mary Blair. Lotte created animations about several fairy tales. So, if you are studying fairy tales or shadows, students could create a shadow puppet show or a stop motion animated film to reenact the story. To help them create the characters and sets, they might use simplified shapes like these.

If you are looking for a new literature book for your classroom, there is a fairly new picture book out entitled Young Charlotte, Filmmaker by Frank Viva.  This little girl loves all things black and white and loves filmmaking. I think it’s interesting because the name Lotte is short for Charlotte and  Reineger is mentioned in the book. Could this main character be named after the famous filmmaker?  I also find it surprising that I found Young Charlotte, Filmmaker not too long ago and now I hear about Reineger. What a bit of serendipity!

As you can plainly see, there are many places that Lotte Reineger’s story could be used as inspiration for classroom units of study. I hope you will introduce this very talented individual somewhere.

Come back again real soon!


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