News reports inform us that Brad Bird will be directing a live-action feature soon after Ratatouille is locked down and released. That will make Mr. Bird the latest in a long line of animation artists and directors who have departed animation for the glories of live actors, sound stages and the big bucks that often accompany flicks that contain actual people...
This afternoon, I got to musing about how many cartoon tyros have abandoned the cramped confines of a Termite Terrace or a warehouse in Glendale to spread their wings in what much of Hollywood considers the "real" movie industry: Tom Cruise and Clint Eastwood and Nicholas Cage. Wide screens and casts of thousands. It's been going on like, forever:
Leon Schlesinger animator and director Frank Tashlin found a bigger, brighter career directing Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis and Jayne Mansfield instead of Porky Pig.
Disney traffic boy and story man Stirling Silliphant left animation -- and then a publicity job at Disney -- to write for the Mickey Mouse Club, television series like Route 66 and finally movies and novels, copping an Oscar for Best Screenplay for In the Heat of the Night.
Animator David Swift worked in Ward Kimball's unit at Disney until World War II came along. Swift then went off to war in the South Pacific and returned as a decorate pilot. Thereafter, he wrote for television (most famously Mr. Peepers and then directed a string of motion pictures. (most famously The Parent Trap.)
Tim Burton, frustrated in his lower-level animation job at the Mouse House, found his way into live-action shorts and then full-length features. Seems to have made a career of it.
Animation director Jerry Rees (The Brave Little Toaster) directed The Marrying Man with Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger for Disney.
Animator Rob Minkoff, after hitting a grand slam with the animated feature Lion King, turned his attention to several live-action features (Of course, he's now returning to his roots with an animated project -- Mr. Peabody and Sherman -- at DreamWorks.
Mark Dindal (Chicken Little, Emperor's New Groove, Cats Don't Dance) has left Disney and animated features for a run at live action projects.
I'm sure there are others I'm missing, (many board artists, for instance, have moved from animation to live-action and back again) but those are the names that jump out at me. Brad B. is just the latest in a long line of 'toon creators who have climbed over the fence to the green pastures of real-life movies.