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10 Best Animated Movies From Directors Who Mostly Do Live-Action Films




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Summary

  • Directors like Tim Burton and Wes Anderson excel at directing animated films because their distinct artistic styles translate flawlessly between mediums.
  • Some directors can only bring their desired stories to life through animation, which allows for versatility and recognition among audiences.
  • Animated films directed by renowned live-action directors can be a refreshing departure from their usual style and can receive critical acclaim and awards.

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Occasionally, directors who are known for their work on live-action sets will switch things up and direct an animated film or two. Though it can be a challenge to direct a new medium, it often pays off for directors who have a distinct artistic style to their films. For directors like Tim Burton or Wes Anderson, their live-action style translates flawlessly between mediums as it’s often elevated by animation techniques.

For some directors, the stories they want to bring to life on screen can only be done through animation, such as Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio. These films are noted as some of the best due to their placement in the director’s filmography, as well as the response from audiences. Additionally, each of the films proved the versatility of their respective directors.

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10 Robot Dreams (2023)

Directed by Pablo Berger

ROBOT and DOG stand among other animals at the beach on Coney Island in Robot Dreams.

Robot Dreams

Director
Pablo Berger

Runtime
102 Minutes

Distributor(s)
Neon

Pablo Berger’s short filmography is made up of live-action films. His newest endeavor is an animated film and while it’s received a great amount of praise, Robot Dreams is largely unknown. Robot Dreams is about the friendship between a robot and a dog in New York City.

From those who have seen the film, it currently has scores of 100% from critics and 94% from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. According to reviews of the film, Robot Dreams beautifully conveys a heartwarming, and at times heartbreaking, story about friendship despite the absence of dialogue in the film. Robot Dreams is also currently nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 96th Academy Awards.

Robot Dreams premiered at the 76th Cannes Film Festival in 2023 and has only been released in international theaters since then.

9 Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga’Hoole (2010)

Directed by Zack Snyder

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Cast
Emily Barclay , Abbie Cornish , Essie Davis , Adrienne DeFaria , Joel Edgerton , Deborra-Lee Furness

Runtime
97 minutes

Zack Snyder has become known for his action-packed films such as Justice League and Dawn of the Dead. While Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is by no means critically acclaimed, it has picked up a following over the years. This is because, while the plot of the film is often dull, it is nonetheless entertaining. Aligned with compliments given to other movies in Snyder’s filmography, Legend of the Guardians‘ darker tone and grand visuals are the biggest takeaway from the film. It’s one of the animated films most similar to its directors’ live-action style.

8 The Polar Express (2004)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

The Polar Express
Cast
Tom Hanks , Daryl Sabara , Nona Gaye , Jimmy Bennett , Eddie Deezen , Peter Scolari , Michael Jeter

Runtime
100 Minutes

Before The Polar Express, Robert Zemeckis successfully blended animation and live-action in 1988 with the acclaimed Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but The Polar Express was the first fully animated film he directed. Zemeckis created a Christmas classic that deserves a mention for its distinctiveness. The film utilizes motion capture animation, which results in mixed reviews from audiences and critics. The animation style sets The Polar Express apart from other films listed, and whether that’s a positive thing or not varies depending on who’s asked, as some find the animation to be creepy.

7 Raya And The Last Dragon (2021)

Directed by Carlos López Estrada

Raya and the Last Dragon
Cast
Awkwafina , Kelly Marie Tran , Thalia Tran , Daniel Dae Kim , Alan Tudyk , Izaac Wang , Ross Butler , Patti Harrison , Gemma Chan , Sandra Oh , Benedict Wong , Lucille Soong

Runtime
112 minutes

Co-directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon marks the first animated feature directed by Estrada. While Estrada doesn’t have a vast filmography, the films he directed before were live-action comedies. Raya and the Last Dragon was praised for its heartfelt narrative and exceptional animation. The film was put on Disney+ simultaneously with its theatrical release but was still given its deserved praise. Raya and the Last Dragon was also nominated for multiple awards and was given a 93% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

6 The Adventures Of Tintin (2011)

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Tintin and the Thompsons look at a newspaper in The Adventures of Tintin

Known for his live-action films such as Jurassic Park and Jaws, Steven Spielberg directed the animated film, The Adventures of Tintin. Similar to Robert Zemeckis’ The Polar Express a few years before, the film uses motion capture technology but was more warmly received than Zemeckis’ use. Much like Spielberg’s other films, The Adventures of Tintin invites audiences on a thrilling journey. It is among the many highly rated films by Spielberg on Rotten Tomatoes with a 75% critics score. Additionally, The Adventures of Tintin won a Golden Globe for Best Animated Motion Picture.

5 Frankenweenie (2012)

Directed by Tim Burton

Following the similar and beloved style of Tim Burton’s live-action films, Frankenweenie is an animated movie that fits within the horror genre, though it’s a children’s movie, so things don’t get too intense. The design of the characters, as well as the film’s color palette, are reminiscent of Burton’s live-action works such as Beetlejuice or Sweeney Todd. However, while Burton had directed an animated film before, the critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes for Corpse Bride ranks slightly lower. Additionally, Frankenweenie is the only animated film that Burton directed in which he was awarded, winning at the Saturn Awards.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stop-motion animated film resembling Tim Burton’s artistry, but he did not direct it, he was a producer.

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4 Happy Feet (2006)

Directed by George Miller

Mumble dancing around.

Happy Feet
Cast
Carlos Alazraqui , Lombardo Boyar , Jeffrey Garcia , Johnny A. Sanchez , Robin Williams , Elijah Wood

Runtime
108 minutes

Directed by George Miller, Happy Feet is a considerable departure from his live-action work. Miller is most known for his work directing the Mad Max franchise, full of gritty action films, contrasting the lighthearted children’s movie about a dancing penguin. Happy Feet is not Miller’s highest-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes, but the film was massively successful. For some critics, the imagery of Antarctica was a standout, switching back and forth between wide and long shots of the scenery and close-ups of the animals. Happy Feet is also Miller’s only Academy Award so far, winning Best Animated Feature.

3 Rango (2011)

Directed by Gore Verbinski

Rango
Cast
Johnny Depp , Isla Fisher , Timothy Olyphant , Abigail Breslin , Ned Beatty , Alfred Molina , Bill Nighy , Stephen Root , Harry Dean Stanton , Ray Winstone , ian abercrombie , Blake Clark

Runtime
107 Minutes

Rango is an animated Western directed by Gore Verbinski, most known for directing parts of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Rango is a unique story of a pet chameleon who ends up in unfamiliar territory. The film is wonderfully animated and won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Rango‘s win is significant because it was the first non-Disney or Pixar film to win in the category since Happy Feet a few years prior. Rango also remains Verbinski’s highest-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes, with a score of 88%.

2 Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Directed by Wes Anderson

Covered from beginning to end in Wes Anderson’s recognizable visual style, Fantastic Mr. Fox was destined to be visually stunning. However, the film is just as entertaining as it follows the titular fox on his adventures of theft that cause problems for those around him. Although many of Anderson’s films have a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Fantastic Mr. Fox is near the top with 93% from critics. Fantastic Mr. Fox is carried by its voice cast of acclaimed actors, providing a sort of comedy that’s both entertaining for children, and witty enough for adults.

1 Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Pinocchio looks through two glass cups in Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio sticks to a tone seen throughout Guillermo del Toro’s live-action films. Del Toro is known for dark fantasy films, most notably Pan’s Labyrinth. Therefore, it only makes sense that his version of the children’s story was just as dark. This resulted in a fresh retelling of Pinocchio that both audiences and critics preferred over Disney’s live-action film released months apart. With a 96% Rotten Tomatoes score from critics, Pinocchio is del Toro’s highest-rated film on the site, in which he directed and earned him multiple awards, including an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

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