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As the normal process of making visual media involves live action, the term itself is usually superfluous, but it makes an important distinction in situations in which one might normally expect animation, as in a Pixar film, a video game, or when the work is adapted from an animated cartoon, such as Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones, 101 Dalmatians films, or The Tick television program.
The phrase "live action" also occurs within an animation context to refer to non-animated characters: in a live-action/animated film such as Space Jam, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, or Mary Poppins in which humans and cartoons co-exist, "live-action" characters are the "real" actors, such as Bob Hoskins and Julie Andrews, as opposed to the animated "actors", such as Roger Rabbit himself.
As use of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in films has become a major trend, some critics, such as Mark Langer, have discussed the relationship and overlap between live action and animation. New films that use computer-generated special effects can not be compared to live action films using cartoon characters because of the perceived realism of both styles combined.