Public Domain Theater: The Adventures of Prince Achmed (& “Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp”)

Welcome to Public Domain Theater, your home for the wonderful world of films that have (in the United States, at least) fallen into the public domain, and are free for everyone to see!

This time, we have a real piece of history for you: the 1926 film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, directed by Lotte Reiniger, which holds the distinction of being the oldest surviving animated feature film (well, for a given definition of “feature length”; it clocks in at a little over an hour).

This silent film was made using Reiniger’s signature silhouette animation, and tells a fairy tale that borrows heavily from The Thousand and One Nights, without being an adaptation of any specific story from that volume. It’s very much a “random events plot”, with our princely hero blundering from exotic locale to exotic locale, and encountering bizarre spirit creature after bizarre spirit creature, all rendered in a style halfway between beautiful and fever-dream.

As for our opening short, we’re going to stay on theme, and present you with the two-reel animated short “Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp”. A fairly faithful retelling of the Aladdin story … except for the part where Aladdin is played by Popeye the Sailor, and the princess he woos is Olive Oyl. C’est la vie.

So come on, folks, and see how, decades before Disney put their own stamp genies and magic lamps, other animators were already doing them proud!

Opening Cartoon:

Feature Film: