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Google Doodle celebrates animation pioneer Lotte Reiniger

Thursday is the 117th birthday of the German woman who pioneered the art of stop motion animation in a style utterly her own.

German director and animator Lotte Reiniger would have been 117 today. Born in 1899, she was one of the pioneers of animation, and is widely credited with having made the world's first full-length animated film, "The Adventures of Prince Achmed," in 1926.

What made Reiniger's style unique, and what is being celebrated in today's Google Doodle, was her inspiration: from a very young age, she was fascinated with the shadow puppetry of China. Her films were created using intricately detailed shadow puppets, filmed using a technique we would now call stop motion, moving the puppets a little bit at a time between frames. She also developed and used in the world's first multiplane camera, a piece of technology further developed and used by Disney in 1937 for "Snow White."

She directed her first film in 1919, and went on to make nearly 60 films in her idiosyncratic style in her career, many of them based on fairy tales. Only around 40 of these films survived; when the left-leaning Reiniger and her husband Carl Koch fled Germany in the 1930s as the Nazis rose to power, she had to leave much of her work behind.

Reiniger died in 1981, but her legacy was an important one.

"No one else has taken a specific animation technique and made it so utterly her own," wrote Philip Kemp of the British Film Institute. "To date she has no rivals, and for all practical purposes the history of silhouette animation begins and ends with Reiniger."