Like so many other aspects of the film industry, animation is still a male-dominated field. In the early days of the industry, women worked most often as inkers and painters, so while their work was arduous and crucial, it often went uncredited and rarely got them promoted to supervising or directing positions. Fortunately, women are constantly gaining ground in animation, especially as producers – Toy Story 3, produced by Darla K. Anderson, became the highest-grossing animated movie of all freaking time – and I'm already counting down the months until Brave, which will feature Pixar's first female lead plus is co-written by Irene Mecchi, who you might know as creator of the esteemed Recycle Rex (really) and co-writer of a little movie called The Lion King (due credit also goes to Osamu Tekuza and, uh, Shakespeare). But let's turn the clock back and pay a little homage to a woman who became an animation pioneer before 3D, before CGI, even before Mary Ellen Bute's experimental shorts or Retta Scott's Disney screen credit: Charlotte "Lotte" Reiniger (1899-1981).
Over 80 years ago, the first feature-length animated movie was produced, not by a bunch of dudes and their rodent-obsessed leader, but by a German woman named Lotte Reiniger. Reiniger created her own style of animation, called sihouette animation, by taking what she loved about shadow puppet theatre—namely the cut-out puppets and backgrounds—and with her husband as cameraman, adapted them to the screen. Acting as director, animator, paper cutter, writer, and one-woman art department, Reiniger worked on over 70 films.