Artists’ Styles: Tone & Mood

Lotte Reiniger


  • a German filmmaker who produced lush, elaborate scenes using stop-motion with excruciatingly detailed silhouette cut-outs. Even more impressive was the duration of her films—which qualify as features—made ten years before Disney’s Snow White, which is generally recognized as the first animated feature film
  • Made the first fully animated feature in history which is also the first feature-length silhouette film in 1926, The Adventures of Prince Achmed
  • Reiniger transcended the flatness of silhouette animation by pioneering the multi-plane Tricktisch (trick table), in which layers of glass are inserted into a table so that images with layers and depth can be shot through the table’s central hole
  • Inspiration: Reiniger’s cut-out style was inspired by Chinese silhouette puppetry
  • Method:
    • If a figure needed to make some complex or supple movement, it would have to be built from 25 or 50 separate pieces, then joined together with fine lead wire
    • If a character needed to appear in close-up, a separate, larger model of the head and shoulders would have to be built–as well, possibly, as larger background details to stand behind it
    • Reiniger cut out exquisitely detailed character silhouettes, joined their limbs with thread or wire to make the puppets movable, then positioned them on the surface of a light box and photographed each frame individually, stopping between frames to move each figure a few millimeters more with her hands
  • Documentary “The Art of Lotte Reiniger
  • Video examples of her work:


Fritz Lang


  • a German-Austrian filmmaker, screenwriter and occasional film producer and actor
  • film noir
  • “dark visionary whose meditations on human loneliness where punctuated by a stark visual style and an obsessive work ethic”
  • created cinematic nightmares as well: crafting terrifying frescoes and mad (but sometimes all too true) visions of a world of crime and war
  • made a number of acclaimed silent and talkie films
    • “Metropolis” (1927)
    • “M” (1931)
  • ultra-noir hues of high-style black and white cinematography




Edward Gorey

  • American writer and artist noted for his illustrated books
  • Style: pen-and-ink drawings often depict vaguely unsettling narrative scenes in Victorian and Edwardian settings




Time Burton


  • After studying at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), he worked as an animator at the Walt Disney Studios before breaking out on his own. Taking inspiration from popular culture, fairy tales and traditions of the gothic, Burton has reinvented Hollywood genre filmmaking as an expression of a personal vision
  • “I always felt much more connected to creatures than, say, people”


  • “stitching was always a very symbolic thing for me. A feeling very much schizophrenic or compartmentalized, or falling apart or not together…symbolic or meaningful”


  • On humor & horror: “it’s always such a head on collision of comedy and tragedy in light and dark. In most good dramas there’s a perversely funny element to it, usually as well. They’ve always been more connected than not”
  • On colors: “The color blue I find is the most calming to me…Red is a good emotional release…it’s a strong quick emotional color”

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 2.13.53 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 2.14.00 PM

  • Inspiration:
    • “What I really responded to in movies was German Expressionism…with the shadows and the light and dark…like Friz Lang…those old films that really captured a spirit and feeling of like being in a dream scape or inside of somebody’s mind
    • Examples: The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories (1988)

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Exploring other mediums:





  • black-and-white tones (monochromatic color: colors (tints, tones, and shades) of a single hue)
  • using lighting
  • film grain effects
  • minimalistic
  • minimal ambient sounds to create an eerie atmosphere often associated with the horror genre
  • Dark presentation: describing the work as comparable to film noir and German Expressionism

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