In a meadow, a most beautiful flower is growing and from its blossom a graceful girl emerges. As she is hardly bigger than a thumb, she is called Thumbelina. An ugly toad thinks Thumbelina is just the beautiful wife he has been seeking for his son.
Helped by the fish, the delicate creature can estape at the last minute, and a butterfly takes her to a charming river landscape. Safe on the shore, Thumbelina spends the summer and the autumn playing joyful games in the midst of mushrooms, bushes, ferns and flowers. When winter comes, she finds refuge underneath the ground with a field mouse.
Her neighbour, a rich mole, falls in love with the beautiful girl and the field mouse advises Thumbelina not to turn down the proposal. On the day of the wedding, Thumbelina goes out once more to bid farewell to the plants and animals, the sun and sky. The girl tells her troubles to a swallow resting on a tree branch, tired from his flight to the south. They decide to fly to the warm countries together. Travelling on the swallow’s back, they journey over forests, lakes and high mountains to Greece. In the land of fairies and flowers, Thumbelina finds a new home among beings like herself.
Hans Christian Andersen, who wrote this fairy tale, was himself a migratory personality. He spent his whole life travelling and wandering from his native country, Denmark, through all of Europe and was constantly inspired to create new stories. Lotte Reiniger loved Andersen’s fairy tales all of her life. As early as 1921, she staged one of the Danish poet’s fairy tales, The Flying Suitcase (Der Fliegende Koffer, Germany, 1921), and only one year before she died, she scissor-cut the illustrations for the fairy tale The Little Mermaid, which was published as a booklet. —Christel Strobel, BFI
Among the great figures in animated film, Lotte Reiniger stands alone. No one else has taken a specific animation technique and made it so utterly her own. To date she has no rivals, and for all practical purposes the history of silhouette animation begins and ends with Reiniger. Taking the ancient art of shadow-plays, as perfected above all in China and Indonesia, she adapted it superbly for the cinema.
She was born in Berlin to cultured parents, and from an early age showed an exceptional and, it seems, self-taught ability to cut free-handed paper silhouettes, which she used in her own home-made shadow-theatre. Initially she planned to be an actress, studied with Max Reinhardt, and used her skill at silhouette portraiture to attract the attention of the film director Paul Wegener. He invited her to make silhouettes for the intertitles to his films Rübezahls Hochzeit (Germany, 1916) and Der Rattenfänger von Hameln (Germany, 1918).
Wegener introduced Reiniger… read more