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Gabriel de Gravone
Based on stories from "The Arabian Nights." A wicked sorcerer tricks Prince Achmed into riding a magical flying horse. The heroic prince is able to subdue the magical horse, which he uses to fly off to many adventures. While travelling, he falls in love with the beautiful Princess Peri Banu, and must defeat an army of demons to win her heart. The entire film is animated using the silhouette technique, which employs movable cardboard and metal cutouts posed in front of illuminated sheets of glass. Written by
THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED pit him against the evil African Sorcerer in an attempt to rescue beautiful Princess Peri Banu from terrible peril.
German filmmaker Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981) was fascinated with cutouts and puppetry from childhood. After seeing a silent film by the great Georges Méliès as a teenager, she knew that movies would be her destiny. Reiniger loved make believe and would eventually make films on a whole series of fabulous characters, from Dr. Dolittle (1928) and Puss in Boots (1936) to Thumbelina (1954) and Hansel & Gretel (1955).
Reiniger's area of expertise was in silhouette animation. Using a pair of scissors, she produced amazingly elaborate images from black paper and then had them back-lit and photographed one frame at a time, moving the cutouts slightly each time, thereby producing the illusion of movement. Her masterwork, after three years of labor, was THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED, produced eleven years before Disney's SNOW WHITE, thus becoming the world's first animated feature film.
The movie tells an exciting story from the world of the Arabian Nights, full of magic, menace & monsters, and incorporates the tale of Aladdin and his love for Achmed's sister Dinarzade, thus giving the movie two valiant heroes instead of only one. The romantic exploits are slightly leavened with a touch of delightful decadence and good humor, exemplified by Achmed's few moments in the seraglio on the magical Isle of Waq Waq.
It is fascinating how these pieces of black paper can evoke an emotional response from the viewer. It is a testimony to the wonderful artistry of their creator, Lotte Reiniger, a woman who richly deserves to be more celebrated by those interested in cinema history.
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