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Listen to Lotte Reiniger and Rebecca Sugar Discuss Animation

For those of you still feeling sedentary after the holidays or just looking for some weekend inspiration, listen to these two interviews with Lotte Reiniger and Rebecca Sugar. They each have accomplished an important first in animation: Lotte Reiniger was the first woman to direct an animated feature, and Rebecca Sugar was the first solo woman creator of a TV series at Cartoon Network. These milestones are separated by 87 years, which says a lot about both how far animation has come and how far it still has to go.

Lotte Reiniger (1899–1981) is a German animation director who, between 1919 and 1979, made over 40 short films utilizing paper cut-out animation techniques. In this extremely rare interview, which was recorded in 1976 and recently made listenable through the USC Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive website, she details her career leading up to and after the release of her animated feature The Adventures of Prince Achmed which was released in 1926—eleven years before Disney’s Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.

Last week, Rebecca Sugar (b. 1987) took some time to discuss the creation and production of her new show, Steven Universe, during an interview on NPR’s On Point. Her accomplishment may not be as trailblazing as Reiniger’s, but she has nonetheless managed to do something that no other woman artist has done in Cartoon Network’s 21-year-history. In the interview, she delves into her thoughts on the animation industry, answers some call-in questions, and treats listeners to a live performance of some of the songs that she has written for the series.

  • Barbara

    Okay animation historians, you keep saying Rebecca Sugar is the first solo female animated show creator (at Cartoon Network). So who is the first ever? I spent some time searching and came up with nothing. (Also, depressingly, if you search ‘top women in animation’ you get crossed with a lot of hits for lists of top hottest female cartoon characters.. ugh.)

    • AmidAmidi

      Julie McNally-Cahill co-created “My Gym Partner’s a Monkey” with her husband in 2005.

    • Christina Skyles

      I’m not entirely sure, but I think the first solo female animated show creator in American television in general was Sue Rose, who created “Pepper Ann”. Before then, there were quite a few co-creators, most notably Arlene Klasky of Klasky-Csupo.

      • Marbles471

        You beat me to nominating Sue Rose. Can’t think who it would have been before Pepper Ann showed up. (I don’t think that series gets the love it deserves, incidentally. I’ve seen a few episodes again as an adult and I think it’s brilliant.)

  • Roberto Severino

    I finally had some time to watch the show and to see all the episodes that have been aired so far and I really like where they’re going with it and the kinds of themes that are being explored.

    The last two episodes I saw have been probably the best because of how they were able to get a lot of emotion and good character development in those with some really creative execution. There’s some surrealism in the episodes, but there’s a lot more to the show than just that with each episode making me want to find out more about Steven and the world that he lives in on top of some amazing art direction, though I understand why there was a controversy over the character design changes and the streamlining that took place. I suspect it was partially so that the overseas animation process would go smoother.

    Each episode subtly feels like part of something much bigger so there’s a bit of mystery there too. Probably one of the best looking shows that Cartoon Network’s had in a long time. Thanks for posting these two interviews. I’m really enjoying them.

  • Taco

    Rebecca Sugar is awesome! Her comic series Pug Davis was one of the online works that I completely consumed when I first found it online via her old Deviantart page years ago, and her sort comic “Don’t Cry For Me I’m Already Dead” genuinely made me weepy. Rebecca, your voice is timid but quietly exuberant and your songs and music are, as the Italians say; Bellissimo! I hope you keep writing your own personal music and songs outside of these TV shows and one day release an entire album, and maybe even make an animated music video or two for the yet to be album, which I hope you produce one day. ~:-)

  • SarahJesness

    I dunno, I bet Lauren Faust would’ve liked the opportunity. Eh, whaddya gonna do?

  • CM

    Er, it seems that you’re comparing Rebecca Sugar to Lotte Reiniger for some reason Other than being female, they’re two completely different artists.

  • Keen Bean

    Rebecca Sugar has honestly made one of the best cartoon shows of our generations. There so much beautiful production being made these years. Bless this world for having people like her, Pendleton and Ian Jones Quartey soon to join those ranks I’m sure.

  • Cathy

    Reiniger and her work survived Hitler, despite her husband being a vocal opponent of the Nazis. Lotte & Carl barely survived during some of the wartime years, spending time OUTSIDE their homeland as much as she could. Lotte & Carl ended up leaving Germany and relocating to England. Very, very different working conditions and historical significance.