Frank Tashlin Frank Tashlin

It was a good weekend for Sonic the Hedgehog. Not only did the hybrid feature open strongly at the box office, it also inspired one of the most entertaining Twitter threads we’ve seen in a while.

Vincent Alexander, a cartoonist and animator from Columbus, Ohio, has compiled a select list of directors who transitioned from animation to live action — just as Sonic’s Jeff Fowler did. Each director is given a brief introduction alongside clips of their work in both mediums. Alexander has a broad command of film history: his directors range from silent-era luminary Charley Bowers to Deadpool’s Tim Miller.

Here are a few choice entries (click on the first to read the thread in order):

Unsurprisingly, many live-action clips in the thread contain animated elements, or at least a bold production design that bespeaks the director’s background in animation. On the whole, Alexander has picked auteurs with distinctive creative visions, such that their animated and live-action clips have noticeably similar sensibilities.

The thread brings to mind a comment made by Steven Spielberg in a 1978 talk, a clip of which we posted on Twitter over the weekend. “I think all [live-action] directors should be animators first,” said Spielberg (who hadn’t directed any animation at that point). He argued that animation requires the director to plan scenes carefully in advance, which is excellent training for any kind of production. Watch the clip below:

Alexander’s list, while wonderfully wide-ranging, doesn’t touch on a growing trend: live-action films that contain plenty of cgi and vfx, yet are directed by people with little or no experience in animation. The risks of this arrangement have been exposed by two recent flops whose cg elements were roundly criticized, Cats (directed by Tom Hooper) and Dolittle (Stephen Gaghan).

What’s more, the list is, ultimately, a subjective selection — so we’ll add three more examples for good measure: the Brothers Quay, who have alternated between avant-garde stop-motion shorts and more overtly narrative live-action features; Isao Takahata, the Studio Ghibli legend whose résumé includes a three-hour live-action documentary about a medieval canal system in Japan; and Brenda Chapman, who co-directed films at Dreamworks and Pixar before making her live-action debut with Come Away (which premiered at Sundance last month).

Have you got any favorite directors who switched from animation to live action (or vice versa)? Let us know in a comment below!

(Image at top, left to right: “Hare Remover” and “Son of Paleface,” both directed by Frank Tashlin.)

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