Disney: 9 Times Animated Characters Entered The Real World – Screen Rant

Animated characters mingling with live-action subjects is nothing new, it was a gimmick even before Walt’s day, but Disney has it down to a science.
Disney has always been at the top of the animation game in terms of technique, design, and delivery. Decade after decade, the studio has been perfecting the medium with new characters and methods of bringing them to life, even bringing such colorful creatures out of the animation cells and into the real world.
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Animated characters mingling with live-action subjects is nothing new, it was a gimmick even before Walt’s day, but the studio seems to have it down to a science. It’s even evolved to become the subject of many of their favorite films, some winning major awards. To some, it’s a feat of filmmaking technology, but true Disney fans continue to be in awe of human interactions with their favorite cartoons.
While Walt Disney might not have been the multimedia mogul he would be, Mickey Mouse was practically already an icon by the time this film was released. Hollywood Party was essentially a screwball comedy with an all-star cast of Golden Age actors including the likes of Laurel and Hardy, Jimmy Durante, and a guest appearance by Mickey Mouse.
It’s not just a guest appearance, though, it’s a literal one, as Jimmy Durante is able to interact with Mickey and even hoist him up by his tail. For something made in the 1930s, the effect is actually quite remarkable. It even had Walt Disney in an uncredited voice role.
Disneyland had several episodes where animated characters interacted with live-action performers and guests, but “The Plausible Impossible” essentially taught the basics of animation using a handful of Disney characters to properly demonstrate.
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Everything from the stretch and squash technique of cartoon movement to the application of foley sounds is discussed and covered, much to the dismay of one easily angered duck. Donald Duck is definitely put through the wringer to demonstrate different animation gimmicks, but it ends up being one of the funnier moments from the special — especially when he has the gusto confront Walt Disney directly.
Fun and Fancy Free is an interesting movie, to say the least. Essentially a package film featuring two Disney shorts hosted by Jiminy Cricket and Edgar Bergen, there’s plenty to discuss with and without the cartoon elements. Circus bears and giant beanstalks aside, the film provides Prime examples of cartoons mingling with the real world.
From Jiminy Cricket’s frequent commentary in the second act to Willie the Giant literally ripping off the roof of the house down the street, it definitely bears Disney’s trademarked whimsy. And that’s not even mentioning the one-man puppet show going on at Bergen’s place.
The use of animated characters in a live-action film is a great way to convey concepts like an imaginary friend, abstract thought, and other such motifs. A prime example of this is none other than Elliott from the original Pete’s Dragon
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Granted, Elliot is confirmed in the film to be 100 percent real, but there’s something unique about using an animated character rather than constructing a giant mechanical puppet. Pair that with the colorful, over-the-top ’70s aesthetic and it’s a recipe for a Disney film with a whole lot of personality.
While the previous films mentioned are centered around animated characters in live-action worlds and with live-action performers, Enchantedon the other hand, takes the concept and applies it literally. Though not the first Disney film to do so, it does utilize the motif to a phenomenal degree.
The backbone of the film’s plot surrounds an animated Disney princess who steps into the real world of NYC. And while it might turn the animated characters into live-action ones, it does literally bring one world into another.
While it earns a spot by a technicality, Christopher Robin does feature a full cast of animated characters making their way into the “real world.” The characters might be CGI, but by their appearance alone, it’s clear that they don’t belong in circa 1950s London.
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While it might have served the characters better had they looked more like their animated selves, there’s still a bit of a delight to be taken from seeing the friendly faces of Pooh and company coming out of the Hundred Acre Wood. Credit has to be given for its mixing of realms, at least.
This Henry Selick masterpiece is deliciously weird, especially with its use of stop-motion animation that practically rules the film. As eccentric as it is, there’s something that just pushes the film’s visuals and motifs over the edge in the third act when it’s revealed that James’s insect friends are all real.
Stop-motion characters in a live-action setting might not be anything novel, but the way the characters in James and the Giant Peach exist with such solidity and personality makes them truly stand out from the crowd.
Fantasia earns a particularly special mention on two accounts. The first, and most obvious, is for the image of Mickey Mouse coming fresh from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment to shake hands with maestro Stokowski. But the second one is something that might not be noticed at first but occurs through the entirety of the film.
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Disney’s concert feature is one of the only movies that features its soundtrack as a literal character. After the intermission, Deems Taylor literally calls it forth for some interaction with both the audience and the orchestra. Since the soundtrack is practically the star of the show, there’s hardly ever a moment when it isn’t “on screen.”
When it comes to movies about cartoons entering the real world, the idea most people think of is Who Framed Roger Rabbit. For 1988, this was quite a feat for both animation and CGI technology, as it brought cartoon characters from across studios and companies together on the big screen to mix and mingle all in the same universe.
Great attention to detail was gone into the technology and polish that brought these characters to life. While characters like Roger and Jessica might be two-dimensional, they have weight, depth, and dimension. They aren’t just cartoons anymore, they are as developed and real as their live-action costars.
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Zach Gass is a writer from East Tennessee with a love for all things Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel. When not writing for Screen Rant, Zach is an active member of his community theatre, enjoys a variety of authors including Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkein, and is a proud and active retro-gamer.


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