Live-action animated film

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A live-action animated film is a film that combines live action filmmaking with animation.[1] Films that are both live-action and computer-animated tend to have fictional characters or figures represented and characterized by cast members through motion capture and then animated and modeled by animators. Films that are live action and traditionally animated use hand-drawn, computer-generated imagery (CGI) or stop motion animation.



Beginning of combining live-action and animation[edit]

During the silent film era in 1920s and 1930s, the popular animated cartoons of Max Fleischer included a series in which his cartoon character, Koko the Clown, interacted with the live world; for example, having a boxing match with a live kitten. In a variation from this and inspired by Fleischer, Walt Disney's first directorial efforts, years before Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was born in 1927 and Mickey Mouse in 1928, were the live-action animated Alice Comedies cartoons, in which a young live-action girl named Alice interacted with animated cartoon characters.

Many previous films have combined live action with stop-motion animation using back projection, such as Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen films in the United States, and Aleksandr Ptushko, Karel Zeman and, more recently, Jan Švankmajer in Eastern Europe. The first feature film combining these forms was The Lost World (1925). In the Soviet film The New Gulliver (1935), the only character who was not animated was Gulliver himself.

The 1940 Warner Bros. cartoon You Ought to Be in Pictures, directed by Friz Freleng, featured Warner Bros. characters interacting with live-action people. The animated sequence in the 1945 film Anchors Aweigh, in which Gene Kelly dances with an animated Jerry Mouse, is one of the actor/dancer's most famous scenes.

Development of live-action/animated films by Disney[edit]

Throughout the decades, Disney experimented with mixed segments of live action and animation in several notable films, which are primarily considered live action. In the Latin American film pair Saludos Amigos (1943) and The Three Caballeros (1945), [2] Donald Duck cavorts with several Latin-American dancers, plus Aurora Miranda (sister of Carmen Miranda), who gives him a kiss. In Song of the South (1946)[2] Uncle Remus sings "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" in an animated field, and tells the stories of Brer Rabbit through animated sequences. So Dear to My Heart (1949) improved upon this.

1964's Mary Poppins[3] is one of the best-known artistic films of this nature, with a minutes-long scene in which Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews, as well as many other actors, travel to a land which Van Dyke's character created. One of the best-known scenes was an improvised number in which Van Dyke's character dances around with penguin waiters, as Andrews watches happily. Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) [3] features a live action and animated sequence in which Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson dance together in an underwater nightclub. In the latter half, Tomlinson bears the brunt of aggressive, anthropomorphic soccer-playing animals.

Inspired by the Swedish film Dunderklumpen (1974), Walt Disney Productions's Pete's Dragon (1977)[3] experimented with these techniques. Unlike its predecessors, it put the animated dragon, Elliot, in a live-action setting.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)[3] by Disney and Amblin Entertainment, broke new ground with its advanced special effects and "realistic" portrayal of the interaction of animated characters and live actors. Memorable moments include the piano duel between Donald Duck and his Looney Tunes rival Daffy Duck, Jessica Rabbit's entrance, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse in the same scene, and Bob Hoskins handcuffed to the title character.


With live action and traditional animated films, two negatives were double-printed onto the same release print pre-digitally. Since then, more complex techniques have used optical printers or aerial image animation cameras, which enabled more accurate positioning, and more realism for the interaction of actors and fictional animated characters. Often, every frame of the live action film was traced by rotoscoping, so that the animator could add his drawing in the exact position. With the rise of computer animation, combining live action and animation became common.

Criticism of techniques[edit]

The Star Wars prequels and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example, include substantial amounts of animation. This is often not recognized as such by critics due to the realism of the animation. Roger Ebert said that "in my mind, it isn't animation, unless it looks like animation."[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ridley, Jane (20 March 2015). "10 great movies that mix live action with animation". New York Post. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b Gleiberman, Owen; Schwarzbaum, Lisa (2013-07-31). "5 Best -- and 5 Worst -- Live-Action/Animation Hybrid Movies". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2015-11-15.
  3. ^ a b c d Gibron, Bill (2014-12-02). "The 10 Best Films That Combine Live Action With Animation". PopMatters. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. Retrieved 2015-11-15.
  4. ^ "That's Not All Folks!". Siskel& 1999. Retrieved 2011-12-24.