Art, limitations, and Lotte Reiniger

I was thrilled to see the Google Doodle celebrating such a progressive woman in the field of animation!

When I got really into animation for awhile last year, I came across Lotte Reiniger’s silhouette animation Aschenputtel (Cinderella). Today is Reiniger’s birthday—the German genius would have been 117.

Aschenputtel came out when Walt Disney was twenty one, 28 years before his Cinderella and six years before Mickey Mouse was created. It is the epitome of early animation: delicate, short, and soundless.

I love how her animations work within her limitations. Made by moving paper dolls bit by bit (think claymation), the over 40 animations she made over her career took days upon days, and still look great. Stylized, sure, but great.

Artists work wonderfully in limitations. Since art is basically indefinable, there are rarely any limits except those an artist chooses, but when an artist makes their own boundaries the art flourishes like a well-kept garden. Think the strictness of form poetry or the layered meter of Mozart.

If an author were to write words as they flow to their head, the story would be ill-structured, random, poorly-worded.

It’s interesting how something so freeing works so well in boundaries. People like limitations, to an extent. Rules in art are special, as they work just as wonderfully when followed as when broken.

Nonetheless, Reinger worked in a time when animation was young and new, and her limitations were more technical than by choice. However, she managed to create a masterpiece within her limitations of soundlessness and time…but broke the limitation of technology by inventing silhouette animation.

And by the way, she didn’t just beat Disney to Cinderella. She beat him to the first feature length animated film. While Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is often given that credit, Reinger’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed,  the oldest surviving feature length animated film, came out in 1926, over ten years before Disney’s attempt.

Cough Syrup

I’ve been really into the song Cough Syrup by Young the Giant recently. I’ve been listening to it nonstop and learning to play it on ukulele.

Whenever I start getting really into a song, it’s usually because of the lyrics matching some aspect of my life. I got really into love songs when I was trying to convince my boyfriend to go out with me, for example. So, why Cough Syrup now?

I don’t feel quite like Life’s too short to even care at all. But I do sometimes feel like there is some fortune that I should have found by now

Sometimes we feel like we work so hard, but go unrewarded. I certainly do a lot. I feel like there should have been a fortune found by now.

I think everyone raised on Disney and storybooks goes through this at a point. After all, it took me a long time before I realized that there is no “ending” to growing up. You don’t someday get a job and then live happily ever after from then on out–you just keep living. There is no “happy ending, everything stays the same now,” ever.

There also is no singular goal to life. Sometimes I think life would be easier if I were born Cinderella or Ariel or whomever–at least then I would have some sort of life goal. But life doesn’t have built in goals, you have to make your own, and solving problems you make up is more difficult than fighting a dragon placed in your path.

Because what if you choose the wrong goal? Or a goal too difficult to tackle?

So I run to the things that could restore me, restore life the way it should be.

I try to get into meditation, yoga, healthy eating, exercising…all the stuff they say makes you feel better, but the only thing that has had an improvement I can see is sleeping more, which is literally like, “if you spend less time awake, life is better.” Great.

So what do we do? What is the magic cough syrup that restores life to the way it should be?

Well, I’m still searching…and I think it’s different for everybody. It’s probably love. In the Disney movies it’s always love:) They have to have some truth to them, right?

It probably is love, now that I think about it. I wish they could bottle love up like a medicine.

A dark world aches for a splash of the sun…