Live-action animated film

"Live-action/animated film" redirects here. For the list of live action and animated films, see Films with live action and animation.

A live-action animated film is a film genre which utilizes various traditional animation or computer animation sequences, usually blended together, in live action films.[1]

A film that is 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, while films that are live action and traditionally animated with scenes where fictional characters are represented, usually have these scenes hand-drawn digitally or analogously.



Beginning of live action and animation

During the popularity of the silent film in 1920's and 1930's, the popular animated cartoons of Max Fleischer included a series where 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 to do so 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 combining 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 to do this was The Lost World (1925). In the 1935 Soviet film The New Gulliver, the only character who wasn't animated was Gulliver himself.

When the development of sound processing created sound film, the Warner Bros. cartoon You Ought to Be in Pictures, directed by Friz Freleng, can be seen as a predecessor to Roger Rabbit, which was released in 1940. The animated sequence in the 1945 film Anchors Aweigh in which Gene Kelly dances with an animated Jerry Mouse is one of the actor's most famous scenes.

Development of live action animated films from Disney

Throughout the decades, Walt Disney Animation Studios experimented with mixed segments of live action and animation in several notable films, which are primarily considered live action. In The Three Caballeros, released in 1945,[2] features a scene where Donald Duck cavorts with several Latin-American dancers, plus Aurora Miranda (sister of Carmen Miranda), who gives him a kiss. in 1946, Song of the South[2] saw Uncle Remus sings "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" in an animated field, and tells the stories of Brer Rabbit through the animated sequences, with So Dear to My Heart, released in 1949, improving 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 in 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, from 1971 [3] features a live action and animated sequence in which Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson dance together in an underwater nightclub, while Tomlinson must bear the brunt of aggressive, anthropomorphic soccer-playing animals in the latter half.

Inspired by the Swedish-filmed success of Dunderklumpen from 1974, Walt Disney's Pete's Dragon from 1977[3] experimented with this and does the opposite of its predecessors, putting the animated dragon, Elliot, in a live-action setting. The film was well received by critics, and is considered to be one of Disney's most experimental films in the live action and animated film genre.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)[3] by Disney and Amblin Entertainment broke new ground with its advanced computer-generated imagery 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.

Continued growth of live action animation films

Filmmaker and animator Ralph Bakshi combined live action and traditional animation in 1973's Heavy Traffic, 1975's Coonskin, known in some places as "Streetfight" and 1992's Cool World, with Cool World being poorly received for its lack of story.

With the commercial and technological success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Space Jam, a number of live-action/animated films followed from other studios, including Cool World, and Looney Tunes: Back in Action - though none of them have had any major commercial success equal to Roger Rabbit or Space Jam.

2014's Guardians of the Galaxy had Josh Brolin undertake motion capture for Thanos, but he was uncredited in the film. It is believed that he undertook motion capture again to appear as Thanos in Avengers: Age of Ultron in a post-credits scene, released in 2015.

The combination of live action and animation is very common in TV commercials and TV shows, especially those promoting products appealing to children.


With live action and traditional animated films, double-printing two negatives onto the same release print pre-digitally, while complex techniques used optical printers or aerial image animation cameras, which enabled more accurate positioning, and more realism into interaction of actors and ficitonal 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

The Star Wars saga and the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example, include substantial amounts of animation, though it hasn't been critically recognized as such because of the animation's realistic appearance. However, critics like Roger Ebert do not consider this to be live-action animated films, stating that "in my mind, it isn't animation, unless it looks like animation."[4]

List of live-action animated films


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