So one afternoon I was going through a TV guide and came across one of the all time cult classic movies, Incredible Mr. Limpet. Why does that title sound so familiar. Reading further I finally remembered. Even though I have never seen this movie for decades, its one of those that you remember and talk about it, but what was it called? One of the magical Don Knotts movies from the early 60’s, where Mr. Knotts trips and plunges into the ocean then suddenly becomes an animated fish with spectacles. Everyone and everything on the surface is true life. This movie of live action/animation got me thinking, “how many of these magical movies are out there in cinematic land?” And, that’s where my research began.
Not talking about computer generated imagery for this article and I hope this is not the end of cartoon world in movies as we know it, thanks to computer technology. No, we are looking at true art of cartooning and film making. Since 1927 (long before computers) there was Koko the Clown, a cartoon clown in live action surroundings. The clip was called ‘Out of the Ink Well’.
More of the cult classic movies of live action/animation genre from pre computer era are….
1940 – You Ought To Be In Pictures
Only Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and Porky’s car are animated. Daffy and Porky quit the studio they work for to pursue a film career of their own.
1945 – Anchors Aweigh
A very nice fantasy musical with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Animated performance from Tom and Jerry. Gene Kelly and Jerry Mouse do a cute tap dance routine. Basically the story is about two sailors who take off to Los Angeles for some life experience.
1964 – The Incredible Mr. Limpet
In my opinion one of the best of Don Knotts movies. A comical fantasy in the WW 2 era (1941) before Pearl Harbor. Shy, fish loving bookkeeper (Don Knotts) trips and plunges deep into the ocean and at that point becomes an animated fish. Comes to the surface and talks to the non-cartoon people on the shore, his wife and buddy (Carole Cook and Jack Weston). In the end he even becomes a war hero.
1964 – Mary Poppins
A fabulous Walt Disney fantasy musical where a magical nanny takes two young children on a journey.
Starring: Julie Andrews – Mary Poppins
Dick Van Dyke – Bert/Mr. Dawes
‘Chim Chiminy’ good movie!
1971 – Bed Knobs and Broomsticks
This fantasy musical is very comparable to ‘Mary Poppins’. In 1940, Miss Price took a witchcraft correspondence course in hoping to help on the WW 2 effort against the Nazis. Eglantine Price and three children take you down a road of magical spells, adventure and fun on a bed for the whole family.
Starring: Angela Lansbury, David Tomlinson.
1977 – Pete’s Dragon
A Walt Disney fantasy musical with live action/animation. Story is based in the early 20th century and a young boy named Pete (of course) has a friend named Elliott, an animated dragon who can make himself invisible. Lots of fun and action!
Starring: Sean Marshall, Helen Reddy, Red Buttons, Shelly Winters, Mickey Rooney and Charlie Callas (as the voice of Elliott).
The next selections are not quite considered as cult classic movies….yet. They are still hand drawn cartoon animation only with a tiny bit of computer help. That’s OK! They are still magical movies and show us that we are NOT at the end of cartoon world.
Sadly it looks like we might have lost some of the fantasy musical genre. Old musicals have a special feel good aura around them. But then, so did ‘Incredible Mr. Limpet’ and ‘Harvey’.
Going back to the movies at hand we continue with….
1988 – Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Produced by Steven Spielberg
A murder mystery set in 1947. Bob Hoskins, as private detective ‘Eddy Valiant’ has an investigation in Toontown where he comes across the evil mobster ‘Judge Doom’ played by Christopher Lloyd and his group of henchmen played by animated weasels. Very entertaining movie!
1992 – Cool World
Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Kim Basinger and Brad Pitt.
A famed cartoonist finds himself in the animated world he drew and created. Mature (13+ rating) detective type story. A very well done live action/animated film.
1996 – Space Jam
Starring: Bugs Bunny (voice of Billy West) and Michael Jordan.
An out of this world story where a basketball game is challenged between the evil space creatures Monstars and the fun loving Looney Tunes. Michael Jordan joins the Looney Tune’s team as a ringer. Most of the Looney Tune characters are here in this action pact movie.
2000 – Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
Starring: Moose and Squirrel
Co-starring: Rene Russo (Natasha), Jason Alexander (Boris), Robert DeNiro (Fearless Leader), Randy Quaid, Jonathan Winters and John Goodman.
Fearless Leader finds out that Rocky and Bullwinkle have returned to Hollywood and sends Natasha and Boris to destroy them in their usual way of killing….bombs. Adapted from the TV show that was first broadcast in Nov. 1959.
2003 – Looney Tunes: Back in Action
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman and Steve Martin.
Bugs and Daffy try to save world domination with help from Brendan and Jenna. Steve Martin is the sinister one.
All the Looney Tune cast are in this great movie in one way or another. Sam the sheepdog is beating up Ralph the wolf is an example of some of the background antics, which are hilarious.
Incredible Mr. Limpet started this journey of mine on the search for what I call the cult classic movies of this genre. Integrating cartoons with live action, what a great idea!
3D computer animation with live action may be taking over, bringing the end of cartoon world as we know it….I hope not! Never the less this genre also made great movies with their computer imagery software (another article). Great movies like these….
Alice in Wonderland;
Chronicles of Narnia
So in conclusion, Twitter your favorite cartoon production company and lobby for more live action/cartoon movies.
Thank you, Cinema Serge