The usual thing is to mention ‘Who framed Roger Rabbit?’, Or ‘Space Jam’ itself, in addition to several Disney classics, with ‘The novice witch’ or ‘Mary Poppins’ at the helm, when it comes to citing films known that integrate animation and real image. However, the references are many since the great cartoonist Winsor McCay, author of ‘Little Nemo in Slumberland’, one of the great works in the history of the ninth art, made the striking short film ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’, where the cartoon of a prehistoric animal shared the story with actors of flesh and blood, without interacting with each other. The piece, which dates back to 1914, is not really the first show to successfully employ the technique of animating frame by frame on paper, but it is a pioneering proposition in some respects, anticipating the animated fantasies of the insightful Walt Disney. The launch of ‘Space Jam: New Legends’, twenty-five years after the premiere of its predecessor, invites us to review some basic cinematographic examples, and others less popular but highly suggestive, that stand out in this rich audiovisual field where creativity flies .
In the field of stop motion, a laborious variant of animation that consists of giving life to a doll in front of the camera, usually made of plasticine, physically moving it the least to photograph the millimeter change until achieving 24 frames per second, thus giving the sensation of dynamism, it has the filmmaker Ray Harryhausen as its undisputed teacher. Already in the 50s, he mixed this technique with a real image, collaborating on titles such as ‘The monster of remote times’ (1953) or ‘The monster from another planet’ (1957), before leaving his mark on ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ (1963) or ‘Clash of the Titans’ (1981). Disney released the successful ‘Mary Poppins’ in 1964, but years before the all-powerful company had already experimented with short films and other productions, including ‘Song of the South’ (1946), whose story is so controversial today that it is available to us at the Disney + payment platform, a decision that has caused controversy. ‘The three caballeros’ (1946) is another song, a jewel like’ Pedro and the Dragon Elliot ‘(1977), but already in the 1920s they brought together a real actress and cartoons in several short pieces that started from’ Alicia en Wonderland’. It was before the birth of Mickey Mouse, the first choice to dance with Gene Kelly in ‘Levando anclas’ (1945), whose dance choreographies remain in the collective memory. The studies of the famous mouse did not give up the rights of his creature and finally who shared the frame and pirouettes with the face of ‘Singing in the rain’ was another rodent, the mythical Jerry, without Tom. Precisely both animals, eternal rivals, premiered at the beginning of this season an adaptation of the classic owned by Hanna-Barbera that mixes animation and live action, as it is now called.
The musical ‘Levando anclas’ is recognized as one of the key titles in the insertion of cartoons in live action films, although there are previous samples in the history of cinema. Today it is difficult to limit the productions that use this technique. Disney itself is remaking its animation classics with live actors and infographics. Remakes such as ‘The Jungle Book’ (2016) or ‘Aladdin’ (2019) confirm this, with good collections in the traditional exhibition circuit. ‘Avatar’ (2009), the great James Cameron, also mixed CGI and a cast in the flesh. Before, initiatives such as ‘Night at the museum’ (2006), adventure and special effects for the whole family had already squeezed it. The creatures exhibited in the museum come to life and are flushed brown before the eyes of a giddy security guard, read Ben Stiller, who sees them and wants them to fix the mess. Putting aside the new technologies, having cited some incontestable examples – to which we can add ‘Arthur and the Minimoys’,’ Casper ‘,’ Alvin and the chipmunks’, the recent ‘Sonic, the movie’, even the terrible ‘ Cats’-, it is time to focus on traditional animation to find films to discover, such as ‘The incredible Mr. Limpet (A fish with glasses)’ (1964), where a man obsessed with enlisting as a sailor turns into a fish when he throws himself into the sea from a pier. Under water wishes can be fulfilled.
A title already mentioned in the opening of the article, the first that comes to mind when talking about the subject of these lines, is ‘Who framed Roger Rabbit?’ (1988), with Bob Hoskins leading the cast. The ill-fated artist plays a petty detective who crosses the curves of Jessica Rabbit, whose dialogue, “I’m not bad, it’s that I’ve been drawn like that”, appears at the top of sentences in the history of cinema. The great Robert Zemeckis signed an imaginative proposal that turned some icons of animated cinema upside down. Baby Herman, the grumpy baby smoking a cigar, was ahead of ‘The Boss Baby’. A rarity to highlight, ‘Evil Toons (Malefic Drawings)’ (1992), sketched by the viscous Fred Olen Ray, Stakhanovistic B and Z filmmaker who has in his filmography with endearing nonsense such as ‘Alienator’ or ‘Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers’ . Here he deceived David Carradine and confronted him, by grace of post-production, that is to say, with some infamous cartoons.
To list a quality cult-movie, ‘The Dangerous Lives of the Altar Boys’ (2002) is not vindicated enough. An original film, which mixes real image and animation – with designs by Todd McFarlane, the creator of ‘Spawn’ – to tell the story of nonconformist students who use their imagination to escape from the annoying reality that surrounds them. They decide to translate their own lives into a superhero comic in which they are the protagonists. The action takes place in the 70s. A good sample of independent cinema with ideas. He played in his day, but does not stop attracting attention, ‘The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle’ (2000), one of the great failures of Robert de Niro, here acting as a charismatic villain. Probably the outrages of the Rocky squirrel and the Bullwinkle elk, famous in the US in the 60s, did not have the same pull in the rest of the world. ‘Monkeybone’ (2001) also crashed, despite being directed by Henry Selick, the real manager – Tim Burton was in production – of the wonderful ‘Nightmare before Christmas’. Brendan Fraser was interacting with an animated monkey that did not convince the respectable. Delusion does not always satisfy a non-judgmental audience.
Reclaimable seems to be for the family audience ‘Enchanted: the story of Giselle’ (2007), with a splendid Amy Adams before fully living, deservedly, the honeys of fame. A fun comedy, original although somewhat poorly finished, that raised the possibility that a Disney princess would end up in the real New York of that time. It exceeded $ 340 million at the box office. A sequel has been announced for next year, ‘Disenchanted’. The Farrelly brothers, top creators of commercial successes subscribers to eschatology such as ‘Two very dumb fools’ or ‘Something about Mary’, mixed traditional animation and real image in the cult film ‘Osmosis Jones’ (2001), with Bill Murray in the skin of a man of battered health in whose interior all kinds of beings inhabit. Like the mythical television series ‘Once upon a time … the human body’, in a hardcore plan. There are many variants that exploit an audiovisual resource that allows experimenting with the medium and offering the public different, ingenious and transcendent works.
Cool World: a blonde between two worlds
The acid response to the referential ‘Who framed Roger Rabbit’ tells the story of a prisoner (Brad Pitt) who can get out of jail creating a comic entitled ‘Cool World’, with a voluptuous and spectacular protagonist designed in his image and likeness by Kim Basinger. In this fantasy world there is only one rule: drawings cannot have sex with humans, but we already know that meat is weak (and, by the looks of it, ink too). Directed by the legendary Ralph Bakshi, responsible for ‘Tygra, Ice and Fire’, the animated version of Robert Crumb’s Fritz the Cat and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ before Peter Jackson, it was poorly received by critics and audiences, perhaps due to to its experimental and transgressive tone.
Mix of animation and real image at the service of an imaginative story that fuses drama and science fiction. Behind this European co-production is Ari Folman, responsible for the suggestive ‘Waltz with Bashir’, a must-watch, an equally indispensable title in this list that meets the same characteristics. Based on the novel ‘Futurology Congress’, by Stanislaw Lem, the film is an unusual proposal, which is carried away by fantasy in the form to cover a fatalistic speech. The exquisite Robin Wright plays a successful actress, herself, who is proposed to buy her image as if signing a pact with the devil. By selling the rights, your identity, conveniently scanned, can be digitally used by the customer at will. In return they offer him an exorbitant amount of money and the possibility of always staying young on the screens. An attractive premise that is lost in the seas of the Matrix in his speech while offering a vibrant show when cartoons enter the scene. A festival of cartoons out of the ordinary.
It passed through our rooms without pain or glory despite its commendable quality. The film adapts the acid series of the same name written by the curmudgeon Harvey Pekar, an endearing guy who defined himself as a “strident leftist.” First published in 1976, its pages gave rise to the autobiographical genre within the comic. Turned into a chronicler of his own existence, Pekar was revealed as a cult author during the 80s thanks to his collaboration with various cartoonists, including the indispensable Crumb. Both the comic and the movie ironically portray the lifestyle of the American working class. What is interesting about the film is the control and fusion of the resources provided by both media, a detail that is conspicuous by its absence in most of the adaptations that we know of. The remarkable interpretation of Paul Giamatti, between reality and fiction, the animated scenes and a documentary part starring the real Pekar, immerse us in the particular universe of a critical scriptwriter who strikes the foundations of the country of the stars and stripes. For these payments Oscar Aibar dared to something similar, long before, with ‘El gran Vázquez’ (2010), played by Santiago Segura with some illustrations coming to life.
As a good example of the correct use of new technologies to animate a character in a real image environment, it is worth highlighting the leap to the big screen of the adventures of Paddington the bear. It has two long-format installments that work wonderfully, above ‘The Smurfs’, ‘Garfield’, the SpongeBob movie where he shares images with Antonio Banderas or ‘Peter Rabbit’. Some will remember the haunting television series of yesteryear, made with puppets, also based on the acclaimed character created by Michael Bond, a classic icon of British literature. Intelligent and fun adaptation of the English story, it is a good sample of family cinema, with echoes of Wes Anderson’s aesthetics. The action centers on the rambunctious animal, grown deep in the Peruvian jungle. Upon his arrival in London, hidden in a boat after an earthquake destroyed his home, the endearing bear knows friendship and experiences funny tribulations, with some setbacks. The hairy protagonist gets into several troubles that serve as an excuse to offer the viewer a recommended show full of good action gags that has an equally commendable sequel.