Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Adventures of Prince Achmed

Any Disney book will tell you that "Snow White" was the first full length animated film, but Lotte Reiniger's "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" is "considered by many" to be the first full-length animated film. "Snow White" would undoubtably be the first full-length hand-drawn animated film, but I from what I've read, Disney is not meticulous about making this distinction. Reiniger's story is told through enchantingly intricate paper cutouts and premiered in Germany in 1926-beating "Snow White" by 11 years.

This story is very sexually charged, but as everything is told through silhouettes, it's more subtle. Prince Achmed is supposed to be the hero, but I hardly think he's more noble than any of the horny villains. The Arabian Nights is probably the worst for portraying females as nothing more than sex objects...ironic, because they're all supposedly told by Scheherezade, a female.

But the film is spellbinding to watch and the music wonderful, if the historical importance weren't reason enough to watch it. And how interesting that fairy tales are so closely linked with the beginnings of animation?

The story combines the story of Prince Achmed and the Fairy with Aladdin, but the liberties taken still fit the style and characteristics of the Arabian Nights, especially using the story-within-a-story (although, Prince Achmed did NOT fool around with all of the Fairy's servants before he met her. It's funny that we're often under the impression that all older movies were laughably wholesome).

Lotte Reiniger has done versions of several fairy tales, including Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Thumbelina, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Portions, if not full versions, of all of these can be found on youtube. "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" is currently on Netflix instant play. Here's the beginning of Prince Achmed:

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