Now, think about this, when I say “Live action” movie, you might think of it as a movie with real actors, filmed on real locations, using live props and costumes. When I refer to an “Animation” movie, you instantly think about either Pixar or Disney. In our film-reality, animated movies are either animated by hand (Lion King, Aladdin etc.), using classic stop-motion techniques (Flåklypa Grand Prix, Wallace & Gromit etc) or done in a computer (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Wall-E, Up etc).
The Terminator, a typical "Live Action" sci-fi/action movie?
"Lion King", a traditional animation movie.
I’ve just come to notice a development within the film industry which I find as the most interesting thing. Think about it, back in the time when optical and practical effects where the thing within the industry, ILM (Industrial Light and Magic, being the real pioneer within this industry) and other effect houses were limited by the fact that their effects had to be integrated with live action shots provided by the film studio. They existed simply due to the fact that the film production company needed them to create special and visual effects to enhance or make a scene work out. Today, with the help of CGI technology, effect houses (such as ILM and Weta) have the rendering capacity to make them able to create any location, animate any character, and create enough footage to make a feature film themselves! Recent films such as Rango, which marks ILM’s first full length feature film debut shows just this. ILM has reached a level of effectiveness and capacity which makes it able to act as an independent film company. And do also think about this, CGI technology has reached a level where characters can be recreated with such realism that they are impossible to tell if they’re fake or not. The only difference between animated films such as Rango and Avatar is simply due to esthetics. If the animators/visual effects people wanted, they could’ve easily changed out all the characters with photo-realistic human characters in Rango. The same thing can be said about The Adventures of Tintin (2011) (Special Visual effects company Weta provided the CG footage).
The technology is there.
So Avatar is a..live-action or an animated movie? Well heck, let's just use the term "Epic Science-Fiction Film" and avoid the categorization.
However, my point is. In today’s sophisticated world of visual effects and CGI-based movie making, there is no longer a sharp line dividing the traditional live action movie from animation. Would you call Avatar a live action movie or an animated movie? Everything with the production of Avatar suggest it should be treated as animation, expect from the use of a few bluescreen shots with live actors, which are minimal compared to the vast amount of CGI-footage throughout the whole movie. Our vocabulary apparently does not follow the rapid development of today’s movie-making.
Now, please excuse me, I have a Live Animationction…oh snap..movie to catch at the cinema. It’s John Carter.