15th Aug2014

Ten Best: Live-action/Animation Movies

by Phil Wheat


Ari Folman, visionary director of Waltz With Bashir, brings us a journey beyond imagination in his upcoming movie The Congress. Robin Wright (pictured above) plays a version of herself in this thought-provoking film, which merges live-action and colourful animation. To celebrate the release of The Congress today (our review is here), we take a look at some other movies which have embraced a live-action/animation mash-up.

1) Mary Poppins

Family favourite Mary Poppins delighted audiences when it first burst onto screens in 1964, and now 50 years later the magical tale continues to enchant a brand new generation of film fans. The hit adventure’s wonderful mix of live-action and fantasy animation was surely one of the elements which won it five Oscars at the 1965 Academy Awards, including Best Visual Effects.

2) Ted

Boston car hire salesman John’s (Mark Wahlberg) friendship with his best buddy Ted is so realistic that it is sometimes hard to believe he is actually interacting with a large computer-animated teddy bear. Seth MacFarlane used motion capture and a foul-mouthed voice over to bring his animated creation to life. The live-action/animated friends were so convincing that they even won Best On-screen duo at the 2013 MTV Movie Awards.

3) James and the Giant Peach

Everyone dreams of escaping their humdrum life and going on an adventure; but never in his wildest dreams did James Trotter imagine that he would enter an animated world where he would fly half way across the world on a giant peach, accompanied by a group of insects. This 1996 mix of live-action and stop motion animation boasted an impressive voice cast including Susan Sarandon, David Thewlis and Miriam Margolyes.

4) The Pagemaster

Despite the lukewarm reaction to Macaulay Culkin’s 1994 family film The Pagemaster, the movie was actually ahead of its time and one of the first films of its kind to merge live-action, animation and CGI. The adventure centres on Culkin’s anxious young character Richard Tyler, who is plunged into a cartoon fantasy world during a visit to the library.

5) Space Jam

Family flick Space Jam burst on to cinema screens in the late nineties, tapping into the already huge Looney Tunes fanbase. Our favourite cartoon characters teamed up with basketball superstar Michael Jordan for the movie – which grossed over £230 million and was nominated for several awards including a Grammy for R-Kelly’s famous soundtrack single ‘I Believe I Can Fly’.

6) 500 Days of Summer

While this doomed love story is entirely live-action, its non-linear plot is made much easier to follow by some very handy animated title cards. The minimalistic animations tell us how many days our lovesick protagonist has known the object of his affections Summer, and beautifully illustrate which season the action takes place in.

7) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

After six films of purely live-action adventures, the Harry Potter franchise dabbled in animation during its penultimate outing in 2010. Despite being a short scene, the minimalist animated version of the ‘’Tale of Three Brothers’’ was the perfect way to translate the wizard fable from the books onto the big screen.

8) The Life Aquatic

Wes Anderson utlilised stop animation for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou in 2004. The man bringing colour and vibrancy to the movie’s many creatures on both sea and land was Henry Selick – who is also the brilliant animator behind James and the Giant Peach, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline.

9) Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Cartoon royalty came together to appear in 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which saw Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Warner Bros’ Bugs Bunny share a screen for the first time. Set in a world where cartoons live among humans, Bob Hoskins’ cartoon-hating detective must find out who murdered Marvin Acme – a crime being blamed on Roger Rabbit. The family classic won three Academy Awards including Best Visual Effects.

10) A Scanner Darkly

While most of the movies on the list have featured a mix of separate live-action and animation scenes, Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly merges the two styles in a unique way. The 2006 movie was shot with a live-action cast including Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr and Winona Ryder, before being computer-animated using Rotoshop.

The Congress is in UK cinemas now.


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