From paper cuts to pins – five pioneering female animators

As I transition from traditional non-moving art to digital animation I have the ultimate excuse to watch cartoons. Well, I mean – I study animation history to have a broad base for my creative works. Obviously. And studying female animators is particularly rewarding, since the artistic span is broad. (Money constraints means I don’t have access to many general animation history books. It’s not a prioritized area for my local library, and the few that’s shown up in my audiobook service have been concentrated on male animators from the US. A bit bland.) So let’s take a look at five of the most well known ones.

Lotte Reiniger

Lotte Reiniger made her first film 1919, and used black paper cut silhouettes for animation, inspired by Chinese paper cut puppet theaters. A pioneer in many ways; she was the first to use multi plane shooting, and was an outspoken supporter of queer love. (Censorship cut it out, but her most known movie “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” originally had a couple of gay lovers.)

Cinderella (Aschenputtel) —Lotte Reiniger, Karim Al-Zand (13:06)

Zinaida and Valentina Brumberg

The Brumberg sisters were part of the animators who pioneered animation in the USSR. They made, among other things, Disney style shorts based on fairy tales, and made some of the first educational/children’s infotainment movies. One of their hallmarks was use of rotoscopy (and I have to admit that while I’m usually “eh” on the subject I’m impressed here).

Since the clip is without subtitles: the short portrays an expedition to help a spaceship stranded on the moon. “1953 “Полет на Луну” (The Flight to the Moon ) par Zinaida et Valentina BRUMBERG. (CCCP)” (4:34)

Hermína Týrlová

Hermína Týrlová – the mother of Czech animation. She specialised in stop motion, and was especially fond of giving inanimate objects – like handkerchiefs – life. While her most known movie probably is Ferda Mravenec/Fernando the Ant I’m putting Revolt of the Toys here (for several reasons, including the striped socks).

Revolt of the Toys 1945 AKA Revolution in Toyland WWII (8:09)

Claire Parker

Claire Parker patented the pinscreen used in her films. The screen is a grid of tiny metal rods, slid into place to form a picture and then photographed. Ie. they function like pixels on a screen. Among her movies are “The Nose” based on Gogol’s short story. (When I was a kid this would have been shown on kid friendly time slots, since all animation was seen as kid stuff.*)

The Nose ( Le Nez ) Alexander Alexeïeff Claire Parker 1963 Animated short (11:22)

Thus ends our expedition in animation land. I’ll return with more shorts in the future.


*No, I never saw The Nose, but I have a distinct memory of an angst ridden short based on an Edgar Allen Poe story. To a child it was slightly unsettling but mostly boring. My parents was a bit more upset about the thing. The 70s was a different time, my friends!


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