There are many types of live action/animated films — everything from The Muppets to Night at the Museum. The best definition I have found for live action/animated film is — ” a motion picture that features a combination of real actors or elements: live action and animated elements, typically interacting.” The combination of live action and the traditionally drawn animation has had a long evolution.
Windsor McCay is credited with being the first to use this interaction with his lovable dinosaur Gertie in 1914. Today we have the state of the art performance capture animation of James Cameron’s Avatar (2009). Between these two there have been a progression of films that have explored child and adult themes.
In the 1940’s Jerry Mouse danced with Gene Kelly to everyone’s entertainment in the film Anchors Aweigh. Donald Duck danced The Cactus Dance with Carmen Molina in Walt Disney’s animated The Three Caballeros. These two movies showed opposite types of incorporating animation and live action.
Disney continued to incorporate live action/animation in his children’s movies of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Two of the most popular were Mary Poppins (1964) which shows Dick Van Dyke dancing with cartoon penguins in an animated setting and Pete’s Dragon (1977) which placed the animated dragon, Elliott, into the live action film.
Adult themes were explored in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and Cool World (1992) as technological advances in animation allowed a more realistic relationship between the live actors and their animated counterparts.
Today we see James Cameron’s fine tuning of live action/animation with performance capture animation and 3-D in Avatar. With the new technology he has brought to the film industry the future should be bright for this genre of film.