Animators Turned Live-Action Filmmakers: From Tim Burton to <i>John Carter</i>‘s Andrew Stanton

With the sci-fi blockbuster John Carter, which opens in theaters on Friday, Pixar wizard Andrew Stanton (who has two Best Animated Feature Oscars to his name, for Finding Nemo and Wall-E) makes the leap from directing cartoon characters to live-action heroes. It's a path that has been followed by a handful of filmmakers, some of whom made the transition seamlessly while others... well, didn't. We'll find out soon whether John Carter will be a one-off for Stanton (pictured here with the movie's star, Taylor Kitsch) or if he'll be adding more live-action features to his filmography. In the meantime, here's what happened to some of his predecessors:

Frank Tashlin
Animated Past: A journeyman artist, Tashlin served a stint at every major animation house during Hollywood's Golden Age, from Disney to Iwerks. But he did his most memorable work as a member of the Termite Terrace crew over at Warner Bros., where he directed a number of shorts starring such Looney Tunes favorites as Bugs, Daffy and Porky.
Live Action Debut: Tashlin's first brush with live action came when he was hired to complete the 1951 Bob Hope comedy The Lemon Drop Kid, although his contribution wasn't credited. The next year though, he scored a "Directed by..." credit for The First Time, starring Robert Cummings and Barbara Hale as new parents.
Current Status: Tashlin died in 1972, but after crossing over to live action, he never went back, save for producing a 1967 cartoon short based on his own children's book, The Bear That Wasn't, which was directed by fellow Termite Terrace vet, Chuck Jones.
Best Film (Live Action or Animation): It's got to be the ahead-of-its-time advertising spoof Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? with Tony Randall and Jayne Mansfield, although the earlier Mansfield/Tashlin collaboration The Girl Can't Help It is pretty swell too.

Tim Burton
Animated Past: Fresh out of CalArts (where he studied alongside such folks as John Lasseter and Brad Bird), Burton was immediately hired by Disney and worked on such early '80s productions as The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron, while also finding time to make his own macabre-tinged shorts, including Vincent and Frankenweenie. To catch a glimpse of what Burton looked like as a fresh-faced Disney drone, check out Don Hahn's great behind-the-Mouse House documentary, Waking Sleeping Beauty.
Live Action Debut: Frankenweenie fan Paul Reubens personally handpicked Burton to helm 1985's Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, which was his first live-action. But Burton had dabbled in the format before that, with both the six-minute Frankenweenie and a 1982 TV version of Hansel and Gretel with an all-Japanese cast. The special aired a single time on October 31, 1983 and never saw the light of day again until being unearthed for a Burton retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art three years ago.
Current Status: Burton has been a member of Hollywood's live-action directorial A-list since 1989's Batman broke box-office records, but occasionally still dabbles in animation (stop-motion specifically) as a producer (The Nightmare Before Christmas) and director (The Corpse Bride, the upcoming feature-length version of Frankenweenie).
Best Film (Live Action or Animation): Tough choice, but we'd have to go with his unique biopic Ed Wood, followed thisclosely by his contemporary fairy tale, Edward Scissorhands.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Mark Caro
Animated Past: These French directors and former filmmaking team got their start collaborating on cartoon shorts in the '70s.
Live Action Debut: The duo initially transitioned to live action with the 1981 short The Bunker of the Last Gunshots, but it was their feature-length debut, 1991's nightmarish comic fantasy Delicatessen, that really raised their profile at home and abroad.
Current Status: Jeunet and Caro went their separate ways in the late '90s, but both have remained in the live-action realm. Jeaunet's credits include Alien: Resurrection and Amélie (which resembles a live-action cartoon in many ways), while Caro helmed the sci-fi thriller Dante 01.
Best Film (Live Action or Animation): We'd say their second (and last) feature together, 1995's City of Lost Children, is their best film and one of the great fantasy pictures of the '90s.

Kevin Lima
Animated Past: Another CalArts grad-turned-Disney employee, Lima joined the studio as a character animator for Oliver & Company and rose through the ranks, until he left to pursue other opportunities. He was eventually lured back with the promise of a few directing gigs, including A Goofy Movie and Tarzan.
Live Action Debut: Disney chose him to direct 2000's 102 Dalmatians, the sequel to the live-action remake of their animated classic.
Current Status: Lima is back in the animation game... this time for the competition. He's helming the upcoming Bollywood-influenced musical Monkeys of Mumbai for DreamWorks Animation.
Best Film (Live Action or Animation): We have a big soft spot for Enchanted, Lima's utterly charming live-action version of an animated Disney princess tale.

Simon Wells
Animated Past: The great-grandson of none other than groundbreaking sci-fi novelist H.G. Wells (you know, the guy who wrote a little book entitled War of the Worlds), Wells broke into the animation game as a supervising animator on 1989's Who Framed Roger Rabbit and got his first directing job on 1991's An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.
Live Action Debut: Based on the family connection, it's perhaps no surprise that Wells was hired to direct a new live-action version of his great-grandfather's classic novel The Time Machine in 2002.
Current Status: Wells had a difficult time adapting to the demands of live-action filmmaking and was actually replaced by Gore Verbinski for the final weeks of the shoot due to "extreme exhaustion." After a few years away from the director's chair, he returned with last year's motion-capture feature Mars Needs Moms and is currently attached to helm The Diplomat, starring such flesh-and-blood performers as Hayden Christensen and Joseph Fiennes.
Best Film (Live Action or Animation): None of this films are truly great, but The Prince of Egypt (which he co-directed with Brenda Chapman and Steve Hickner) is probably the strongest of the bunch.

Vicky Jenson
Animated Past: Starting out in the world of television animation, where she worked on such shows as the '80s He-Man cartoon and Ghostbusters (the one that didn't feature the real Ghostbusters), Jenson eventually moved into features with Avatar 1.0... uh, we mean FernGully: The Last Rainforest and co-directed the breakout DreamWorks hit Shrek alongside Andrew Adamson (who would later make his own live-action debut with the first two Chronicles of Narnia pictures).
Live Action Debut: 2009's Post Grad, a collegiate comedy that was supposed to be Alexis Bledel's ticket to post-Gilmore Girls movie stardom and Jenson's path to a live-action career.
Current Status: Sadly, it didn't work out that way for either Bledel or Jenson. Post Grad sank without a trace and its director is searching for that always-elusive next gig.
Best Film (Live Action or Animation): Considering that her filmography consists of Shrek, Shark Tale and Post Grad, Shrek wins by default.

Jimmy Hayward
Animated Past: Hailing from the Great White North, Hayward's first professional job was as an animator on the Canadian TV series ReBoot and he followed that up with stints at Pixar and Blue Sky Studios (the makers of the Ice Age movies) before directing 2008's Horton Hears a Who.
Live Action Debut: The ill-fated 2010 comic book movie Jonah Hex starring Josh Brolin as the comic book cowboy.
Current Status: Hayward's been MIA since Jonah Hex bombed big two summers ago, which we totally understand. We'd feel compelled to go into hiding following that kind of public epic fail as well.
Best Film (Live Action or Animation): Um... we're going to go with "none of the above."

Brad Bird
Animated Past: Without a doubt one of the leading lights of his generation of animators, Bird struck out on his own following a brief tour of duty at Disney and worked on everything from the '80s anthology series Amazing Stories (where he created the Family Dog cartoon that later scored its own series) to The Simpsons to King of the Hill. But Bird's reputation really took off following the release of his 1999 directorial debut, The Iron Giant, which is widely considered to be one of the finest animated films of the past two decades.
Live Action Debut: A low-budget, low-profile 2011 action movie called Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol.
Current Status: With rave reviews and over $200 million in domestic box office returns, it's safe to say that a live action career is Bird's for the taking. He's currently attached to the period adventure 1906, which is set against the backdrop of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Best Film (Live Action or Animation): It's a close call between The Iron Giant and The Incredibles. Right now we're going to say The Incredibles, but if you ask us again in an hour, we'll probably have switched to The Iron Giant.

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