Cut Out Animation Narratives


Exploring Narrative through Cut Out Animation


Grade Level:  5th Grade

Time Needed: 4-5 class Periods, 45 minutes each


Focus:  To understand and appreciate the process of cut out animation.



1.     The student will be able to demonstrate their knowledge of cut out animation through a group collaborative project.

2.     The student will show an understanding and comprehension of the cut out animation process by creating a narrative.


Motivational Resources:

1.     You tube video clips of Lotte Reiniger's works.

      a. The Adventures of Prince Achmed

      b. Hansel and Gretel

      c. Cinderella

2.     You tube video clips of Terry Gilliam's works.

      a.  The Miracle of Flight

      b.  Quintessential Gilliam

3.     Historical imagery of animation from cave paintings, and Egyptian drawings.

4.     Old animation techniques imagery of zoetrope's, thaumatropes and flipbooks.


Art Materials:

1.     Scratch paper or sketchbooks

2.     Pencils

3.     Colored pencils

4.     Markers

5.     Scissors

6.     Pin tabs for joints on characters

7.     Tape

8.     Camera


Introduction to the Lesson:


            Animation has been around for hundreds of years; some of the first known animations were cave paintings and murals in the Egyptian culture. Animation was used as a means of telling a story about an event, time or place.  In the cave paintings they showed animals with multiple legs as if to show the animals in motion.  The murals in the Egyptian culture showed images of men wrestling frame by frame; they depicted the movement of the men by drawing each step in the fight sequence.  These are only some of the early examples of what animation was like without the help of technology.  Animation does not have to be made by using a computer like what we see today, some of the early processes used were incredibly simple and easy to make.

            The thaumatrope was one of the first non-technology based animations used.  It was first created as a magic trick used on stage for the magician as on optical illusion. It was a simple device that had two images on either side of a circle cut out, attached to both ends were strings that you wiggle between your fingers to make it spin back and forth.  The images blurred together when moved quickly which created a uniform image. (show an example of a thaumatrope)  Another device that was used was the zoetrope, a more advanced optical illusion that was very much like the drawings found in the Egyptian buildings.  Each part of the zoetrope was a drawing done in sequential order to show movement from one step to the next.  (show the example of the zoetrope) another simple form of animation that I am sure many of you have seen are flip books. Flip books are really a fun and simple way to create pictures in movement, by placing layers of paper together and drawing sequential drawings on each piece of paper you can flip the pages super fast to make those images move.  All of these forms were used as a means of entertainment when they first came out. 

            The power of animation is unending and can be taken to multiple levels.  Many artists that choose to use animation use it to their advantage by adding a certain level of creativity and liveliness to their work.  There are two artist that I would like to draw your attention to that uses technique called cut out animation.  Cut out animation is a process that involves 2D paper cut out characters.  Each movement is placed then taken by a camera until all shots are compiled to make a moving picture.  It may take over 200 shots to make 30 seconds of a movie.  The process requires patience and creativity. 

            Lotte Reiniger was a female cut out animator who created vibrant and detailed cut out animation movies. We will be looking into her works to better understand the elements of cut out animation and how we can use this technique to inspire creative animation.  Her animations are meticulous, detailed and dramatic. She brings intensity to the subject matter that reflects beyond the story; she creates energy and life within her animations.  Her animations may be classified as cut out animation but it can also be called silhouette animation because she takes her cut outs and uses them behind a screen with a light to reflect the shadows. (Show example)  One of her famous animations is the story "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" done in 1926.  This animation is a prime example of her ability to create narrative using the process of cut out animation.

            Another artist that uses cut out animation is Terry Gilliam who is a famous writer/director, created comical animations for the movie "mighty python and the holy grail," and other pieces such as, "the miracle of flight." Each of his pieces share a similar comical expression which he creates by appropriating images from old paintings or photos. He has a very distinct flair and style to his animations; they are somewhat cartoon characters that he creates. By looking at both of these artists we will have a better understanding of the cut out animation process and it can really add to a narrative and give it a creative flow.


Instructional Procedure for Art Making:


Day 1:

            After introducing the lesson show the students a PowerPoint of imagery illustrating the ideas described from the opening introduction.  Ask the students some opening questions about what they see, and what they find interesting.  Introduce the lesson and what the criteria is for the assignment.  Students will be creating a cut out animation using one of themes from the list given to them: Magic, Knights, Fairy tale, Heroes, Monsters, Love, Animals, Nature, Voyage or Other (whatever they can think of that was not on the list), however, it needs to be approved by the teacher in regards to appropriateness and versatility for a narrative. 

            The goal here is for students to create a narrative that illustrates their chosen theme.  Students will get into groups of about 3-4 (depending on class size, group evenly) and in the groups the students will collaborate together on a story line that they will create.  Students will create a narrative using the simple format of a beginning, middle and end.  To help jump start their thinking they are required to have the characters complete a task, that task is entirely up to them or they can use the worksheet provided to help give them ideas.


            Criteria for Assignment:

·      Students must create a storyboard showing the events of their narrative. At least 15 frames.

·      The narrative has a clear task being performed.

·      There are at least 2 characters in the narrative.

·      Students use the materials effectively to create their characters.

·      Students must use time well and effectively in order to get their narrative done.

·      Students successfully downloaded and saved all material for their work and compiled it into I-movie.

Day 2:


Today the students will begin to create their storyboard now that they have their ideas in place. Students are required to have at minimum 15 frames to complete their narrative, 5 for each component of the story (beginning, middle and ending).  This is just the minimum, I do require that students take more time into their work and make more frames.  It is important to have many frames to create a continuous story line, too short and the narrative will not flow.


Day 3:


Today the students will be working on creating their animation by setting up their stations as demonstrated by the teacher.  Students are expected to work as a team to get the project done.  They will more than likely not be able to finish their work on the first day of production, so they will have today and tomorrow to work on creating their animation.  It is important to have cameras ready for each team, and each camera will be numbered.  Each student must check out the same camera each time so that they can leave any pictures that they had on there previously but they do need to back up their images onto the classroom flash drive.

Day 4:

Students will continue to work on their projects. They are expected to stay on task and if they have any questions to please ask. It is important that they finish taking all their pictures for their project so that they can save them onto the classroom flash drive and save on the computer.


Day 5:

Students will now take their files and place them into i-movie where they will compile the photos in order to create their animation. Once that is done, students can now experiment with sounds and filters to enhance their cut out animation project.  All sounds and filters must be relevant to the task and the overall narrative that they chose.  They must thoroughly think through and be critical of how they put together their project.  Today is the last day to work on this project, however, if necessary we can add a work day.


Day 6:

Evaluation! Students will present their work to the rest of the class.


Evaluation Assessment:

1.     When the students are finished with their projects they will present it to the classroom

a.     Questions to ask:

                                                      1.     How did you use the information about Lotte Reiniger and Terry Gilliam's work into yours?

                                                      2.     What about your project did you find to be successful?

                                                      3.     What about your project was unsuccessful?

                                                      4.     What did you find creative in the other projects?

                                                      5.     Do you think you successfully showed us the narrative and the task that was being made? Did you produce enough frames?

2.     When discussing the projects make sure to incorporate the influence of Lotte Reiniger and Terry Gilliam's work.  How did the students show what they learned from the lesson? Does it show in their work? If so, how? what did they do?

3.     Hand out the final reflection sheet to the students and have them fill one out.  Since this was a group project, students will be able to reflect on their progress and the progress of others.  This will allow for a sufficient analysis of the group as a whole.


D.B.A.E Checklist:

            Art History: Students look at the works of Lotte Reiniger and Terry Gilliam.

            Art Curriculum: Students will have a self-reflection sheet and group discussion.

            Art Production:  Students will create an I-movie cut out animation narrative.

            Aesthetics:  Students will discuss the works of Lotte Reiniger and Terry Gilliam.





"The Adventures of Prince Achmed." You Tube. Web. 14 Dec 2009. <>.


"History of Animation." Wikipedia. Web. <>.


"The Miracle of Flight." You Tube. Web. 14 Dec 2009. <


Moritze, William. "Lotte Reiniger." Animation World Network (1996): n. pag. Web. 14 Dec 2009. <>.


Production Process of Lotte Reiniger Work

The Adventures of Prince Achmed Clip by Lotte Reiniger

Cinderella by Lotte Reiniger

Hansel and Gretel by Lotte Reiniger

The Miracle of Flight by Terry Gilliam

Quintessential Gilliam by Terry Gilliam

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This page contains a single entry by parke345 published on December 15, 2009 10:24 AM.

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