A live-action animated film is a film that combines live action filmmaking with animation. 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, while 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
During the popularity of the silent film in 1920s and 1930s, 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 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 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.
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's most famous scenes.
Development of live-action/animated films by Disney
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, released in 1943 and The Three Caballeros, released in 1945, 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 saw Uncle Remus sing "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" in an animated field, and tell 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 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, from 1971  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 1974 Swedish film Dunderklumpen , Walt Disney Productions's Pete's Dragon from 1977 experimented with this and does the opposite of its predecessors, putting the animated dragon, Elliot, in a live-action setting.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) 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, 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 fictional 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 prequels and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example, include substantial amounts of animation, though this has not been critically recognized as such due to the realism of the animation. However, some critics like Roger Ebert do not consider these to be live-action/animated films, stating that "in my mind, it isn't animation, unless it looks like animation."
- Ridley, Jane (20 March 2015). "10 great movies that mix live action with animation". New York Post. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
- Gleiberman, Owen; Schwarzbaum, Lisa (2013-07-31). "5 Best -- and 5 Worst -- Live-Action/Animation Hybrid Movies". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2015-11-15.
- Gibron, Bill (2014-12-02). "The 10 Best Films That Combine Live Action With Animation". PopMatters. Retrieved 2015-11-15.
- "That's Not All Folks!". Siskel&Ebert.org. 1999. Retrieved 2011-12-24.