The 10 Best Films That Combine Live Action With Animation

Disney may have "invented" it, but here are ten examples where live action footage blended with animation to become a cinematic statement all its own.

Let's get one thing straight right up front: we clearly recognize, going into this category, that almost every movie made in 2014 could be considered for this list. Thanks to a little something called CGI and its overuse by modern moviemakers, almost every film featured at your local Cineplex contains some animated element. That beautiful rendering of your favorite city or countryside? Digitally tweaked. That stunning car chase or impossible stuntwork? Aided by computer-generated vehicles and characters.

Of course, your favorite superhero and his equally engaging villains are rendered with the help of technology. Even basic stuff, like support wires, make-up mistakes, and posthumous performances are altered, thanks to those post-Jurassic Park technical breakthroughs. So we aren't going to address this approach. If we did, we'd have to parse through hundreds of movies and make mention of each instance where a laptop or motherboard made a difference.

Instead, we will concentrate on those "old school" examples of live action merging with cartoons. In some cases, the real world is a mere bookend for the pen and ink intrigue presented inbetween. In other cases, both the real and the rotoscoped are combined in completely creative and clever ways. There are some obvious examples that everyone points to (so do we), but we've also uncovered some forgotten films that tried to use the concept for equally idealized reasons.

The result is our 10 Best Films Combining Live Action with Animation. Again, we are allowing for those illustrations where both approaches are separate. For the most part, integration is the endgame, wherein with depressed private dicks interact with cartoon rabbits, and tiny animated men attempt sex with their live action sweethearts.

10. The Phantom Tollbooth
It was helmed by former Warners' wonder Chuck Jones. It contained a performance by child star of the era Butch Patrick (ex-Munsters) in both live action and cartoon forms. It was based on a beloved children's book by Norton Juster (who despised the final results) and sat on the shelf for nearly two years before finally being released. It even forced producing studio MGM out of the animation business for over a decade. Still, the story of a spoiled young boy who learns valuable educational lessons after traveling through the title entity into a series of surreal parallel universes has a bizarre magic all its own.

9. The Incredible Mr. Limpet
After taking home five Emmys for his amazing work on The Andy Griffith Show, Don Knotts was lured away by Universal for a career as a movie star. His first film was this engaging little oddity, a kid's movie about a military reject, marine life-loving bookkeeper who magically transforms into a talking tilefish. As a result, he ends up helping the Navy win World War II. Sure, there are plenty of matinee oriented adventures along the way, including run-ins with sharks and some antics with a crusty old crab character, but Knotts' unique personality and peculiarities shine through, even with his fish persona rendered in pen and ink.

8. Coonskin
Be warned: this is a product of the '70s through and through, in both politically incorrect and very NSFW ways. Controversial cartoonist Ralph Bakshi wanted to make a satire on racism and he retrofitted the famed Uncle Remus tales (made equally contentions via Disney's Song of the South) into a story about three animals rising to the top of the Harlem organized crime scene. Of course, depictions of African Americans as '30s-era blackfaced primitives, and the dated depictions of gender and sexuality, stunned Me Decade audiences, drawing criticism from all social sides. Originally given a very limited release, the once condemned film is now seen as a masterpiece of confrontational content.

7. Volere, Volare
As an allegory for the way love and relationships "change" us, this Italian treat from The Icicle Thief's Maurizio Nichetti is hilarious. Our hero is a voice actor who does sound effects dubbing for cartoons. When he meets and falls in love with a pretty handywoman named Martina, he starts to feel funny. Then, without warning, he slowly becomes an animated character himself. The rest of the film is farce, with our little man desperate to woo (and win over, sexually) his live action partner. While the premise may seem outlandish, Nichetti's warped world view, with its allusions to emasculation and male chauvinism, come through loud and clear.

6. James and the Giant Peach
After helping Tim Burton realize his artistic aims with the brilliant Deck the Halloween Halls crossover, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Henry Selick was hired by Disney to bring Roald Dahl's beloved book to the big screen. Problems ensued from the beginning, including budget limitations, a last-minute songwriter substitution (Andy Partridge of XTC out, old reliable and dull Randy Newman, in), and some unwarranted studio interference. Selick wanted James to be live action throughout. The money men said "No." Still, the Dahl estate was more than pleased with the results, leading Selick to strike out on his own and create modern day classics such as Coraline.

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