Animation: Cut-Out

Lotte Reiniger
Lotte Reiniger

One of the earliest animation techniques, cut-out animation is a form of stop-motion in which the characters or props are cut out from materials such as paper, cardboard, photographs or fabric. The shapes are placed flat on a background and moved manually, with each movement captured by a camera which, when edited together, gives the impression of movement.

A brilliant pioneer of cut-out was the German director Lotte Reiniger, who created the first feature-length - and oldest surviving - animation, The Adventures Prince of Achmed in the 1926, which was made using her distinct style of cut-out called 'silhouette animation'. Named due to the black on white material she used, it created a charming, otherworldly shadow effect that was very experimental for the time.

Since then, many filmmakers have been inspired by Reiniger's unique approach, and in fact, cut-out remains a great method for budding animators to start with today, due to its simple but effective process. Although it can now be replicated using computer systems, there are various examples of the traditional cut-out method that can be found in modern animation. Here is a list of notable uses of the style from Lotte Reiniger to Monty Python and modern-day short animations.

We also have film lists on hand-drawn animation3D/CGI animationVFXstop-motionrotoscopoing, and the history of animation.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed

CertPG

Age group7+

Duration66 mins

The Adventures of Prince Achmed(1926)

This magical fantasy is the oldest surviving animation film in the world, telling an Arabian Nights-style story using a stunning silhouette style.

One of the first feature-length animations made by a pioneer of cut-out animation, female director Lotte Reiniger’s distinct silhouette technique gave her films a unique ethereal feel, similar to shadow puppetry.

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Lotte Reiniger: The Fairy Tale Films - Disc 1

CertPG

Age groupAll ages

Duration192 mins

Lotte Reiniger: The Fairy Tale Films - Disc 1(1961)

Collection of Lotte Reiniger's stunning depictions of popular fairy tales using her unique silhouette animation style.

Director Lotte Reiniger continued to use her beautiful silhouette style well into the 1960s to bring to life some of your favourite fairytale films including Snow White, Cinderella, Puss In Boots and Aladdin.

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Lotte Reiniger: The Fairy Tale Films - Disc 2

CertPG

Age groupAll ages

Duration192 mins

Lotte Reiniger: The Fairy Tale Films - Disc 2(1961)

Collection of Lotte Reiniger's stunning depictions of popular fairytales using her unique silhouette animation style.

A second disc dedicated to the German animation pioneer's fairytale films. This set includes Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel and Thumbelina.

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Norman McLaren — The Master's Collection — Disc 6

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration128 mins

Norman McLaren — The Master's Collection — Disc 6(1933)

An extensive collection of the works of Norman McLaren, Oscar winning Scottish filmmaker who pioneered many techniques in animation and sound design.

Another animation innovator who rose to fame in the 1930s, Norman McLaren was known for his experimental and somewhat surreal approach to animation techniques. Collection six of McLaren DVD Boxset focusses on his work in paper cut-out animation, including well-known short Le Merle.

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Anatomy of a Murder

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration154 mins

Anatomy of a Murder(1959)

Riveting courtroom drama centred around a local prosecutor who gets a chance to rekindle his faltering career.

Look out for the cut-out animation credit sequence, created by American graphic designer Saul Bass who became infamous for his title sequences for Otto Preminger and other great directors including Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder and Martin Scorsese.

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Monty Python And The Holy Grail

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration91 mins

Monty Python And The Holy Grail(1974)

This comedic take on the Arthurian legend from famed British funnymen Monty Python sees the knights encounter all forms of silliness on their quest.

Director Terry Gilliam created the animated interludes and credit sequences across all the Monty Python work and preferred the surreal, offbeat effect that cut-out gave in comparison to the graceful, elegant look of a Disney film.

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Fantastic Planet

CertPG

Age group7+

Duration70 mins

Fantastic Planet(1973)

This 70s surrealist animation tells the story of a future where humans are pets to the giant alien race of Draag

The first feature film by animator Rene Laloux, full feature-length animations were still rare at the time of its release in 1973. Celebrated for its eerie, surreal imagery it offered a brave alternative to mainstream Disney animation that lead it to winning one of the main prizes at the Cannes Film Festival that year.

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Tales of the Night

CertPG

Age group7–11

Duration81 mins

Tales of the Night(2011)

Complete with werewolves, magical instruments, sorcerers and mythical beasts, this French animation captures the enchantment of storytelling.

Working almost exclusively with fairytales, French director Michel Ocelot’s style in Tales of the Night in inspired by Lotte Reiniger’s silhouette animation.

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British Council Shorts 2013 - Primary

CertUnclassified

Age group5–11

Duration60 mins

British Council Shorts 2013 - Primary(2013)

A programme of seven short films, including an exciting mix of animation, live action and documentary, tailored to suit Primary clubs.

On this compilation of shorts you will find a brilliant and charming film called The Storyteller made via cut-out animation that brings to life an Indian folktale.

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British Council Shorts 2014 - Primary

CertUnclassified

Age group5–11

Duration58 mins

British Council Shorts 2014 - Primary(2014)

Ten great British made short films for Primary ages.

This compilation features two short films – Boudica and Miss Todd - both made via cut-out animation to different effect.

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Encounters Short Film Festival 2015: Pic'n'Mix

CertUnclassified

Age group7–14

Duration65 mins

Encounters Short Film Festival 2015: Pic'n'Mix(2015)

A brilliant selection of new short films from around the world suitable for ages 11+, put together by Into Film young programmers.

On this compilation you will find the joyful short film The Girl Who Spoke Cat about a girl desperate to unleash her creativity in stern, rule obeying world made out of cut-outs of newspaper sheets.

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