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Jack and the Beanstalk — Lotte Reiniger, 1955

This classic fairy tale is brought to life in elegant silhouette animation by pioneering animator Lotte Reiniger. Her own distinctive method of animating cut-out paper puppets against beautifully painted, back-lit backgrounds creates an astonishingly fluid animation. She also uses multiple layers of silhouettes sandwiched in layers of glass. In order to achieve realistic, complicated movement, Reiniger constructs her puppets from up to fifty separate pieces, all connected using fine wire.

Classroom Activities

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  • The setting is the only part in colour. What are the different settings? How is colour used in them? Why has it been used this way?
  • How do we know what the characters are feeling if we cannot see their faces? How does the puppets movements show how they are feeling?
  • Stop the film at 02:33. How is Jack feeling as he goes home? How do we know this? (Consider music and visuals.)
  • Stop the film at 03:30. Why was his mother frightened to let Jack climb the beanstalk? Would you have climbed the beanstalk?
  • Spot the shots. Look carefully at the camera shots. Use the Spot the Shots worksheet to record all the different shots you can spot. LINK Can you think of reasons why these shots were used?
  • What does the giant’s daughter do to help him escape from the giant? List all she does to help him escape.
  • How is this film similar or different from the original Jack and the beanstalk story? Use this sheet for your notes.


  • ‘All the riches in the World’ – what do you think these are? Is money the only way to be rich or can you be rich with other things?
  • The old widow is poor. Many people around the World still live in poverty today – why? What things are being done to help these people? Are there local charities you could support?
  • This is a basic fairy tale story. What was the purpose of fairy tales? How many other fairy tales do you know?
  • Was Jack right or wrong for stealing the hen? You may want to set up a classroom debate on this. If you decide he was wrong for doing this what should his punishment be? What are the laws on stealing in this country?
  • What other films or books include giants? How are giants usually depicted in these? Is it fair the characterisation of giants?



  • Write a diary as if you were Jack. Describe what happened this day and how you felt.
  • What rhyming words does the giant use when he smells Jack? Can you add another verse to this?
  • Think of an alternative ending for the film. Write a script for what may have happened instead.


  • Can you make your own puppets? How easy or difficult is it to make them move? Create a box setting for them.


  • In groups act out the film.
  • Act out what happened to the giant’s daughter after her father was killed.


  • Make your own 3D castle in the sky. Try to include a moving gate or drawbridge. Think about what resources would be best to use.
  • How much money would you get for a golden egg? Check the current price for gold. What would you do with this money is you had a magic hen?
  • Can you grow something? A sunflower, a runner bean etc. What do you need to make it grow?


  • Who wrote Jack and the Beanstalk? Did they write anything else?

Clip Details

Record Id 007-002-000-033-C
Resource Rights Holder BFI Archival Footage Sales
Project Ref STST2-12
Year of Production 1955
Genre Fairytale, Animation
Curriculum Areas Expressive Arts, Literacy and English
Director Lotte Reiniger
Country of Origin UK
Medium / Content 2D Animation, Fiction, Colour, Sound
Themes Feelings, Relationships, Danger / Fear, Culture / Society, Poverty / Class
Clip Length 09:49
Clip Length 09:49
Age Group P1-P4, P5-P7