Film The Adventures of Prince Ahmed is the oldest surviving animated feature film. Argentinian animator Quirino Cristiani is known to have produced animations earlier than Ahmed director Lotte Reiniger, but they've been lost.
Working backwards through time in selecting these films, I'm slowly hitting the milestones or at least the eras of the milestones, the first colour films, the age of sound, and soon feature films, commercial films and experiments in moving images themselves.
But because I'm working backwards they also feel like the last of their kind. This is the last possible animated feature film I can select, The Wizard of Oz the last colour feature film, Grand Hotel the last sound picture, and I have an idea what the last film will be but let's not spoil the surprise.
At what point should I stop? The first commercial film? No, that feels too late. Lantern shows? No that feels too early. I do have an end date and indeed an end film in film in mind but filling the spaces between will be a real challenge. Rocky times ahead.
Putting that shop talk to one side, what of the film itself? My single viewing was during my MA Screen Studies course, a screening in a seminar room from the BFI dvd. Although I'd read the brief synopsis, nothing prepared me for the magical radiance of the images and story and how so much potential beauty is lost when such things are produced in a computer.
Earlier in the year, Google celebrated the life of Reiniger with one of their Doodles, in this case a video piece which is still available on their YouTube channel:
Cynically, however lovely this is, I assumed that it must have been produced in a computer to give a sense of what the films were with much less effort. Imagine my surprise whilst researching this blog post in finding this making of video in which its revealed the artist mimicked the techniques of the original director in order to create this tribute:
"I just cut these out" she says as we survey a silhouette I don't think most of us would be able to produce as neatly or under the kinds of deadlines she must have been up against. On reflection, of course it had to be traditionally animated to give it the right atmosphere. To do anything else would have been a disservice.