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Silhouette animation is
animation Animation is a method in which figures Figure may refer to: General *A shape, drawing, depiction, or geometric configuration *Figure (wood), wood appearance *Figure (music), distinguished from musical motif *Noise figure, in telecommunication ...

animation
in which the characters are only visible as black
silhouette A silhouette ( , ) is the image of a person, animal, object or scene represented as a solid shape of a single colour, usually black, with its edges matching the outline of the subject. The interior of a silhouette is featureless, and the silhou ...

silhouette
s. This is usually accomplished by
backlighting A backlight is a form of illumination used in liquid crystal displays (LCDs). As LCDs do not produce light by themselves—unlike, for example, cathode ray tube (CRT) displays—they need illumination (available light, ambient light or a special ...
articulated
cardboard Cardboard is a generic term for heavy-duty paper, paper-based products having greater thickness and superior durability or other specific mechanical attributes to paper; such as foldability, rigidity and impact resistance. The construction can ran ...
cut-outs, though other methods exist. It is partially inspired by, but for a number of reasons technically distinct from,
shadow play Shadow play, also known as shadow puppetry, is an ancient form of storytelling Storytelling describes the social and cultural activity of sharing narrative, stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatre, theatrics or embellishment. Every cul ...
.


History

Inspired by both European shadow play (
ombres chinoises
ombres chinoises
) and European silhouette cutting ( Etienne de Silhouette and
Johann Caspar Lavater Johann Kaspar (or Caspar) Lavater (; 15 November 1741 – 2 January 1801) was a Switzerland, Swiss poet, writer, philosopher, physiognomist and theologian. Early life Lavater was born in Zürich, and was educated at the ''Gymnasium (school), Gy ...
), the medium of silhouette animation in film seems to have invented independently by several people at around the same time, the earliest known being the
short subject A short film is any motion picture A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art The visual arts are art forms such as painting Painting is the practice of applying paint Paint is ...
''The Sporting Mice'' (1909) by
British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ir ...

British
filmmaker Filmmaking (film production) is the process by which a motion picture A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art The visual arts are art forms such as painting Painting is the pr ...
Charles Armstrong. The first to have survived is the same director's ''The Clown and His Donkey'' (1910). This, and at least one other of Armstrong's films (some stills of which have survived by being reproduced in a book by
Georges Sadoul Georges Sadoul (4 February 1904 – 13 October 1967) was a French journalist and cinema writer. He is known for writing encyclopedias of film and filmmakers, many of which have been translated into English. Biography Sadoul was born in Nancy ...
), is in white silhouette on a plain black background. It is, however, most likely that neither the
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German
animator An animator is an artist An artist is a person engaged in an activity related to creating art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of prima ...

animator
Lotte Reiniger Charlotte "Lotte" Reiniger (2 June 1899 – 19 June 1981) was a German film director A film director controls a 's artistic and dramatic aspects and visualizes the (or script) while guiding the and s in the fulfilment of that . The direct ...
nor the
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American
puppeteer A puppeteer is a person who manipulates an inanimate object, called a puppet A puppet is an object, often resembling a human, animal or mythical figure, that is animated or manipulated by a person called a puppeteer A puppeteer is a perso ...

puppeteer
Tony Sarg Sarg's Nantucket Sea Serpent, 1937. thumbtime=8, ''The Original Movie'' (1922) Anthony Frederick Sarg (April 21, 1880–March 7, 1942), known professionally as Tony Sarg, was a German American German Americans (german: Deutschamerikaner, ) ...
knew of his work, and it was Reiniger who first established many of what are now the standard practices of the formant with her first film, ''Das Ornament des verliebten Herzens'' (''The Ornament of the Enamoured Heart'', 1919). Her
feature film A feature film or feature-length film is a narrative film (motion picture or "movie") with a running time long enough to be considered the principal or sole presentation in a commercial entertainment program. The term ''feature film'' originall ...
'' Die Geschichte des Prinzen Achmed'' (''The Adventures of Prince Achmed'', 1926) – one of the oldest of all animated features – coincided with a revival of interest in silhouettes and sparked off several imitators. Her influence is evident as far away as
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Japan
, with Toshio Suzuki's ''Yonjunin no Tozoku'' (''Forty Burglars'', 1928), and as early as 1924, with
Hidehiko Okuda Hidehiko (written: 秀彦 or 英彦) is a masculine Japanese given name. Notable people with the name include: *, Japanese musician and songwriter *, Japanese jazz saxophonist and bandleader *, Japanese footballer and manager *, Japanese high jumpe ...
,
Tomu Uchida , born Tsunejirō Uchida on 26 April 1898, was a Japanese film director. The stage name "Tomu" translates to “spit out dreams”. Early career Uchida started out at the Taikatsu studio in the early 1920s, but came to prominence at Nikkatsu is ...
and Hakuzan Kimura's ''Kanimanji Engi'' (''The Tale of Crab Temple''

A few silhouette films have also been produced by the
National Film Board of Canada The National Film Board of Canada (NFB; french: Office national du film du Canada (ONF)) is Canada's public film and digital media Digital media means any communication media that operate with the use of any of various encoded machine-rea ...
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Today, pure silhouette films made professionally are rare, and fewer still are animators who work primarily within its confines. However, sequences of digital and drawn silhouette animation can be seen, for example, in ''
South Park ''South Park'' is an American animated sitcom An animated sitcom is a subgenre of the sitcom that is animation, animated instead of live action. History Early history ''The Flintstones'', which debuted in 1960, is considered the first e ...

South Park
'' when the lights are turned off, in an episode of ''
Mona the Vampire #REDIRECT Mona the Vampire ''Mona the Vampire'' is a Canadian-French-Chinese children's television series, children's cartoon series, animated television series that was created by Sonia Holleyman. The series is based on a series of 1990s childre ...
'' (1999) and intermittently in the animation of '' Sayonara Zetsubō-Sensei'' (2007) and in a few levels in ''Donkey Kong Country Returns'' (2010).


Techniques

Traditional silhouette animation as invented by Reiniger is subdivision of cutout animation (itself one of the many forms of stop motion). It utilizes figures cut out of paperboard, sometimes reinforced with thin metal sheets, and tied together at their joints with thread or wire (usually substituted by plastic or metal Brass fastener, paper fasteners in contemporary productions) which are then moved frame-by-frame on an animation stand and filmed top-down with a rostrum camera – such techniques were used, albeit with stylistic changes, by such practitioners as Noburō Ōfuji in the 1940s and Bruno J. Böttge in the 1970

Michel Ocelot's television series ''Ciné si'' (''Cinema If'', 1989) was a little different, combining cutouts and cels and also, more occasionally, live-action and clay animation (this series is better known as ''Princes et princesses'', the feature film version mentioned below). This was also the first silhouette animation to successfully make characters appear to speak for themselves (traditionally, either intertitles or voice-over narration had been used) as the Mixed media, mixed medium made accurate lip syncing possibl

Traditional animation can also be used to imitate silhouette animation, as seen regularly in Be-PaPas' ''Revolutionary Girl Utena, Shōjo Kakumei Utena'' (''Revolutionary Girl Utena'', 1997). Most recently, several Computer animation, CGI silhouette films have been made, which demonstrate different approaches to the technique – Jossie Malis' use already 2D, Flash animation, vector animation

Michel Ocelot's "Earth Intruders (film), Earth Intruders" (2007) and a scene in ''Azur & Asmar: The Princes' Quest, Azur et Asmar'' (''Azur & Asmar'', 2006) use 3D figures Rendering (computer graphics), rendered as silhouettes, while Anthony Lucas' Academy Award-nominated ''The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello'' (2005) mixes 2D characters and 3D backgrounds, both of which are combination of live action and CGI. Computer animation has also been used to make more explicit reference to shadow theatre – particularly of the Southeast Asian ''wayang kulit'' style – by adding visible rods to the characters which appear to be operating them (ironically, in CGI, it is the other way round). This was used in Jan Koester's ''Our Man in Nirvana'' (200

and the opening of the The Walt Disney Company, Disney feature ''The Jungle Book 2'' (2003). Michel Ocelot's television series ''Bergères et dragons'' (''Shepherdesses and Dragons''), which, as of March 2008, is still in Script development#Stages of filmmaking, development

uses a mixture of 2D and 3D computer animation to simulate the look of his earlier, analogue silhouette animation. However, traditional, cutout silhouette animation is still practised to this day by such people as Edward S. de Leon and Reza Ben Gajra, where it is often combined with other forms of stop motion animation such as John Korty, Lumage.


Use of colour

Silhouette films are traditionally monochrome, with the foreground solid black and the background being various shades of grey – the more distant an elements in intended to be, the paler the shade of grey, thus creating an Stereopsis, illusion of depth. In ''Die Geschichte des Prinzen Achmed'', different scenes were Film tinting, tinted in different all-over colours, as was the standard practice among features of the time. ''Das Geheimnis der Marquisin'' (''The Marquise's Secret'', 1922) is a reversed, white-on-black silhouette film. ''Jack and the Beanstalk'' (1955), which Reiniger was forced to shoot in colour, uses full-colour painted backgrounds with the black silhouettes, some of which are inlaid with translucent, coloured, "sweet wrapper" material for a stained glass effect. Though she seems to have made the most of this expanded format, she disapproved of it herself and returned to monochrome films for most of her remaining career, perhaps finding an acceptable middle ground with ''Aucassin et Nicolette'' (''Aucassin and Nicolette'', 1976), which used a more restrained colour palette for its backgrounds (which were built out of pieces of translucent plastic

Among other, later filmmakers, the dominant method of shooting silhouette films in colour has been to imitate the tinted look of ''Prinzen Achmed'' by using backgrounds with many different tones of one colour, or sometimes two close or complementary colours. Full-colour cutout animation in which the characters are mainly seen in profile is sometimes described as colour silhouette film, though this is dependent on one's definition of a silhouette, as opposed to profile or side-on viewpoints in general.


List of feature-length silhouette films

* '' Die Geschichte des Prinzen Achmed'' (''The Adventures of Prince Achmed'', 1926) by
Lotte Reiniger Charlotte "Lotte" Reiniger (2 June 1899 – 19 June 1981) was a German film director A film director controls a 's artistic and dramatic aspects and visualizes the (or script) while guiding the and s in the fulfilment of that . The direct ...
* ''Pinocchio'' (1930) by Ugo Amadoro - An unfinished animated film * ''Shaka no Shōgai'' (1961) by Noburō Ōfuji * ''Princes et princesses'' (''Princes and Princesses'', 2000) by Michel Ocelot * ''Tales of the Night (2011 film), Tales of the Night'' (''Les Contes de la nuit'', 2011) by Michel Ocelot Note: Ōfuji's and Ocelot's features are compilation movie, compilations of earlier series of shorts.


List of short silhouette films

*Tony Sarg's Almanac (1921-1923) 17 Silent films. *Silhouette Fantasies (1916) *Madame Butterfly's Illusion (1940) by Arai Wagorō *Homeless Home (2020)


Notes

{{DEFAULTSORT:Silhouette Animation Animation techniques Silhouettes, Animation