ComingSoon.net is checking out the best cartoon-to-live-action adaptations. Check out our picks in the gallery below!
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A cartoon’s appeal has almost everything to do with the limitless potential of the medium.
Live action projects are confined to reality, with budget constraints and the actual limits of human ability keeping these sorts of projects from reaching the high heights and the low lows of animation, for better or worse. That’s why it’s so surprising that so many cartoons end up getting the live action treatment.
No matter if it’s a graphic novel, a children’s show, or a comic strip, these animated cartoons all received a real-world spin in hopes of achieving massive box office numbers. Some tend to flop tremendously, but these are exceptions—these movies, despite how good their source material is, managed to succeed at keeping the spirit of their original animations alive even as they transitioned into reality.
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Which of these live action cartoons is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
live action cartoons
Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
When James Cameron swore off all movies except
Avatar sequels for the rest of his career, Robert Rodriguez leapt at the opportunity to complete Cameron’s vision for a live-action take on the popular manga series Battle Angel: Alita. My goodness, did Rodriguez deliver. Alita is a highlight of 2019 and a stand-out of the live-action adaptation subgenre.
Forget Michael Bay’s
Transformers films: Travis Knight’s prequel, Bumblebee, takes a pretty abysmal live-action series and harvests enough heart and soul from Bay’s films to remind viewers what made the cartoon watchable in the first place. Set in the 80s, Bumblebee has all kinds of charm and a bunch of great action—there’s something about a real explosion that just doesn’t compare to an animated one.
Christopher Robin (2018)
In a similar vein to
Pete’s Dragon, Disney’s Christopher Robin is a much more mature take on a children’s cartoon. All about finding the joy in everyday life, even as an adult, the film stars Ewan McGregor as a grown-up Christopher and sees the animals of the Hundred Acre Wood coming to find him after years of no contact.
Ghost World (2001)
This one’s really unique—it’s rare for a novel to capture the intricacies and complexities of teenage life so well, let alone a graphic novel. Director Terry Zwigoff does a commendable job keeping the color palate and and charm of it all, helped greatly by the casting of a young Scarlett Johansson.
Paddington & Paddington 2 (2014, 2017)
Paddington movies are just about perfect, through and through. The ideal live-action realization of a character who originated as a cartoon, the Paddington films are as lighthearted, easy-going, and breezy as their source material is while also making sure to utilize the benefits of live action (stuff like set design, A-list actors, things like that).
Pete's Dragon (2016)
Disney’s incessant string of remakes shows no signs of stopping, so at least they were able to sneak in one that actually has artistic merit. David Lowery, a notable indie director, took the 1977 musical and brought some much-needed upgrades to the cartoon.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Alita, Scott Pilgrim hails from a series of graphic novels. Edgar Wright’s movies have a very animated feel to them in the first place, so it only makes sense that his real-life version of this manga ends up containing everything that makes the series readable in the first place.
Sin City (2005)
The second Robert Rodriguez film on this list, 2005’s
Sin City is peak Rodriguez (with a little help from Quentin Tarantino thrown in, as well). Despite being a live-action project, the film maintains the black-and-white aesthetic and comic book blocking of the source material while also making things a lot more cinematic.
Speed Racer (2008)
The Wachowski siblings made a name for themselves with their masterpiece,
The Matrix, back in 1999, but nothing stopped them from continuing to churn out masterful works of science fiction. Really, they’re the perfect choice to adapt cartoons into live action—they proved this to be true with 2008’s Speed Racer, a highlight of the 2000s and an all-time great live action adaptation.