As impressive and immersive as films like the upcoming Finding Dory may be, their animators owe an enormous debt to the field’s pioneers. These resourceful men and women used rudimentary technology to create lasting works of art, but are largely unknown to the general public. As reported by Vox, however, today’s Google Doodle hopes to draw attention to the contributions of the woman who is effectively the mother of all animation: Charlotte “Lotte” Reiniger.
Reiniger was born in Germany in 1899 — 117 years ago Thursday — and created more than 40 animated films, including The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), widely recognized as the world’s oldest surviving feature-length animated film. Largely due to the technological limitations of her era, she was known for “silhouette animation,” a style in which backlit cardboard cutouts are used to create black silhouettes. They are then painstakingly manipulated and filmed. Google’s one-and-a-half minute doodle actually utilizes this age-old technique, and the results are truly stunning.
If you’re curious about the underlying artistic process, you can check out the video above, where YouTubers Nat and Lo go behind-the-scenes at Google and speak to the woman responsible for today’s Google Doodle: Olivia Huynh. Like many animators, Huynh was inspired by Reiniger’s work, and seems to have gained an even greater respect for it after attempting to re-create it.
In addition to providing Nat and Lo with a look at the creative process, Huynh also detailed the story that the doodle is trying to tell. It begins with Reiniger in her studio cutting a flower out of cardboard. She then walks through several scenes she created, which are populated with characters she made, and plants the flower. As she leaves, all of her characters come into the frame to thank her and present her with flowers of their own.
Leave it to Google to give you the feels with a doodle. Privacy-related kerfuffles notwithstanding, you have to admit that there are some true wizards working there who are capable of some pretty impressive stuff.