Follow TV Tropes


Live-Action Cartoon

Go To

Sometimes, a live-action TV show or movie starts doing cartoonish things, such as characters recovering from or remaining immune to something that would normally injure or kill someone, characters getting flattened, or characters engaging in over-the-top cartoon-style violence.

A Live-Action Cartoon relies on tropes commonly found in zany cartoons, although some may use tropes that originate from anime, being somewhat of a live-action equivalent of Animesque. The style was itself inspired by Slapstick, which has inspired several early animated shorts. Watching old silent comedy films you'll notice a lot of elements reminiscent of Looney Tunes or other old-school animation.

Not to be confused with Roger Rabbit Effect, which is when live-action or realistic human characters interact with cartoon characters. For actual live-action cartoons, see Live-Action Adaptation.


    open/close all folders 

  • Ronald McDonald had commercials like these, even having an opening similar to classic animated shorts like Mickey Mouse and Looney Tunes.
  • Kool-Aid commercials in the 1990s depicted a variety of live-action kids in these situations during their wacky wild series.
  • The 1995 Bud Bowl is an offbeat and outlandish series of commercials about a trio of castaways on a "Far Side" Island building a television made of sand to watch the Bud Bowl. The final installment shows one of them (played by Chris Berman) entering the game itself and scoring a victory for Team Budweiser. Then comes the Twist Ending — that same guy was hallucinating the whole thing, justifying the cartoony tone of the whole series as pure delusion.
    Primary castaway: (hugging a tree) I'm going to SeaWorld! (starts Laughing Mad)
    Secondary castaway: (to the third) I dunno man, he's been acting really weird last month or so.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Kung Fu Hustle: Everything operates somewhere between Wuxia-style Wire Fu and Toon Physics. Sing repeatedly suffers Amusing Injuries throughout the film (that he usually deserves), only to be fine in the next scene, and at one point is chased by a Cranky Landlady (who is also a martial arts master) in a scene that looks like something taken right out of a Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner short.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road is a rare non-comedic example. George Miller initially had intentions to make it an animated film at certain points during its insanely long pre-production cycle before finally settling on live-action.
  • The Mask manages to pull zany cartoon humor in live-action quite well. It helps that the main character is played by Jim Carrey and that it's all Justified in-universe: Said character is a fan of old cartoons like the ones by Tex Avery who gets magically empowered into a whimsical Reality Warper. (The sequel Son of the Mask also attempted to do this, with rather underwhelming results.)
  • The two live-action Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf films, I Love Wolffy and I Love Wolffy 2, retain the slapstick comedy that defines the original series, with barely a scratch seen on the characters after Amusing Injuries.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is like a live-action comic book (after all, it is based off a comic book) and a cartoon, with written sound effects, text, and yelled-out lines appearing on-screen, video game elements occurring in the real world, the titular character not showing any injuries or pain from things that would normally injure someone in real life (e.g., thrown hundreds of feet into the air, thrown through walls, repeatedly kicked by stunt doubles, his head being slammed on a table), and more.
  • Shoot 'Em Up is often described as a Darker and Grittier Bugs Bunny cartoon with gunfights galore.
  • Speed Racer fully embraces the camp of the anime it's based on.
  • Sucker Punch would make another good example for this under the film category, being yet another Live-Action film that feels more like an anime than anything else, from the aesthetics — that include Sailor Fuku — and the amusing injuries the girls took and gave like nothing.
  • The Three Stooges is one of the earliest and best examples, made at a time when animated cartoons themselves were still relatively new.
  • The Villain was designed to be a live-action cartoon western. (More specifically, a Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner western..)
  • Played with in Who Framed Roger Rabbit as it’s set in a world where animated characters co-exist with humans and use Toon Physics when interacting in the non-toon world. Likewise, humans can be subjected to toon physics themselves when in or near Toontown. Also might occur in-universe since animated features in this world are made by toons acting in front of a camera. They’re literal live-action cartoons.
  • Zazie dans le Métro: Most of the film, but especially the chase scene between Zazie and the creepy older man, which plays exactly like a live-action version of a Tex Avery cartoon. Zazie produces a stick of dynamite out of nowhere, and an old-fashioned bomb with a wick, both of which she flings at the pedophile. At one point she turns into two different Zazies. She shoots him in the face with a gun, and he gets Ash Face. At another point in the sequence, the pedophile is chasing her through a marketplace, when she repeatedly gets him to stop by...producing cameras out of nowhere and getting the pedophile to stop for photos.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock is filled with wacky, pop-culture cutaway gags, elaborate, over-the-top set-pieces and convoluted storylines, characters that take the Flanderization ball and run with it, surreal jokes and plot points (including a character that is canonically immortal) and an overall extremely manic and fast-paced tone that pins it as one of the most joke-dense sitcoms ever made, live-action or not.
  • The Adventures of Pete & Pete is built around this premise. The whole show has a cozy yet surreal feel to it like something out of a cartoon. For example, Wellsville has a resident superhero, Artie, the Strongest Man In the World, a man who, among other feats, has hit a golf ball 300,003 yards, pushed a house to the left an inch (he wanted to knock it over, but he had strained a muscle earlier while lifting a brassiere emporium), rolled a bowling ball from Wellsville to Canada, skipped a stone on Neptune, left the Wrigley family's gutters clean and spotless by blowing through the drainage pipe (albeit at the cost of said gunk going flying all over the neighborhood), and leaped across the city in a single jump.
  • The 1960s Batman series had comic book sound effects appear on-screen during fights.
  • The Grand Tour did one as a promo, "James May is Alive", in which May goes about his normal day while barely dodging death, including a literal Anvil on Head. After he goes to visit his co-presenters Hammond and Clarkson in hospitalnote , he gets into his car and promptly gets a dumpster dropped on it. His reaction? A deadpan "ow."
  • Green Acres could be considered the Trope Codifier. The series routinely made use of incredibly slapstick and outlandish situations and gags that would otherwise be implausible in the real world (characters being knocked through solid walls, or falling off telephone poles without even getting hurt, for example), not to mention that each character had such Limited Wardrobe that they literally wore the exact same outfits for all six seasons (save for Oliver and Lisa), that it could very well be the poster child for a live-action cartoon.
  • Henry Danger involves very cartoonish characters and events with a lot of slapstick humor.
  • Hogan's Heroes was this in the first season. The show always relied on broad humor, but as the series progressed, the humor became more subdued and sophisticated. The first season, however, really showcased considerable amounts of cartoonishly slapstick humor that the wartime sitcom could almost be offensive; such as Klink jumping out the window from his burning office, expecting to be caught in a blanket flimsily held by Newkirk and Carter, but they walk away at the exact moment Klink jumps.
  • The Disney XD series Kirby Buckets starts off with mundane elements with a kid and his imaginary drawings going on various adventures, during the second season fantasy elements like ghosts, future selves and even screwball elements started to appear, and the final season entitled Warped maximize this trope when it involves Dimension Travel.
  • LazyTown: Lead actor Stefán Karl Stefánsson is essentially the Icelandic equivalent of Jim Carrey, and his character in the show, the sneaky villain Robbie Rotten, is the closest to a living, breathing cartoon character that we'll ever get.
  • Leave It to Beaver is a downplayed example, as the adventurous tones of the plots were appropriately sitcom-oriented for their time, but in hindsight the show feels more like a concept that would have debuted in a cartoon. Having an Embarrassing Nickname of an animal is one thing, but the title character would find himself in many goofy predicaments as a result of being mislead by his friends. Such examples include getting locked in his school principal's office overnight in pursuit of a "spanking machine" (a made-up device his friend Larry said was in there) and getting stuck in a giant soup cup part of a billboard, believing there was real soup in there based on the steam coming from the cup. The show became more realistic in later seasons when Jerry Mathers had hit puberty, with episodes focusing more on Beaver outgrowing childhood toys like his electric trains and overcoming his disgust of girls (somewhat), if not about Wally going through new jobs and dates. Though some later episodes still retained their surrealism, such as "Beaver the Bunny" in which Beaver is required to walk to school in a bunny suit for the school play.
  • Lizzie McGuire not only uses the Roger Rabbit Effect for Lizzie's animated consciousness expressing her true feelings, but also sometimes uses cartoon sound effects in its purely live-action moments. One episode involved a slapstick-laced prank pulled on Lizzie's arch-nemesis Kate where the Alpha Bitch finds live frogs in her locker and has a bucket of beans fall on her.
  • Married... with Children got into this territory at times, with Al especially suffering various bouts of cartoonish violence.

    Web Original 


Mask Transformation

Stanley Ipkiss becomes the Mask.

How well does it match the trope?

4.95 (21 votes)

Example of:

Main / LiveActionCartoon

Media sources: