The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)
aka Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed
Article 5630 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Lotte Reiniger and Carl Koch
What it is: Arabian nights in silhouette animation
An evil sorcerer creates a magical flying horse in an attempt to claim the daughter of a Caliph for his own. The Caliph’s son, Prince Achmed, tries to prevent the scheme, but is spirited away by the flying horse. Can he prevent the sorcerer from prevailing?
This may well be the first feature-length animated movie, a good ten years before SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS. I suspect the reason its historical significance is often overlooked is due to the fact that Lotte Reiniger and her silhouette animations are consigned to the fringes of the medium; despite Reiniger’s animation skills, the style never really became popular. The story is a compendium of Arabian Nights cliches, and I suspect a few stories were conflated into the mix; Aladdin and his lamp make appearances in the second half of the movie. I think this movie is well worth seeing; Reiniger’s animation is evocative and capable of expressing real emotion, which is quite surprising when your figures are only silhouettes. No, it will never achieve the fame of Disney’s accomplishments, but it earns its place in the history of animation.