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Animated Characters Perfectly Played by Real Actors in Live-Action Remakes

Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for years.

Bringing beloved animated characters to life can sometimes be a daunting task, and in Hollywood it can either be a major hit or miss. When done right, fans are treated to seeing their favorite cartoons brought to life on the big screen. Let's take a look at some animated characters perfectly portrayed by real actors in live-action remakes.

Matthew Lilliard as Shaggy Rogers

The casting done for the box office hit Scooby-Doo (2002) was absolutely perfect. Each character in the live-action film completely captured the essence of their animated counterparts. Arguably the greatest embodiment in the movie came from Matthew Lilliard, who took on the role of the lovable and goofy Shaggy Rogers. Not only did he physically resemble the character with his stature and long shaggy (pun intended) hair, but his speaking voice was on-point. It's no wonder Lilliard has voiced the character since the late Casey Kasem retired from the role in 2009.

John Goodman as Fred Flintstone

Yabba dabba doo! For 1994's The Flintstones, John Goodman took on the titular character Fred Flintstone in the live-action film. Though the actor initially felt "sandbagged" into the role, he still had fun bringing the classic cartoon to life.

John Candy, Jim Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd were all considered for the role, but were ultimately deemed too skinny and a fat suit too inappropriate to be used. Goodman's bravado and physique helped the character translate to the big screen, and though not well-received by critics, it was a financial success.

Lily Collins as Snow White

Skin as white as snow? Check. Hair as dark as the night? Check. A penchant for poisoned apples? Double check. Lily Collins took on the iconic role of Snow White for 2012's fantasy film Mirror Mirror, starring opposite Julia Roberts as the evil queen. In an interview, Collins revealed that her casting happened within 24 hours after reading for director Tarsem Singh. The actress perfectly embodied the beloved fairy tale heroine, and the film was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Daphne Blake

It's quite clear that the casting director for 2002's Scooby-Doo definitely had the magic touch. Each character in the film was brought to life perfectly, especially Sarah Michelle Gellar as everyone's favorite damsel-in-distress Daphne Blake. The actress had her sass and charm down pat, and she sure knew how to rock that purple mini-number. For the film, Gellar teamed up with her real-life husband Freddie Prinze Jr., who starred as Fred Jones. She would go on to win Choice Movie Actress-Comedy at the Teen Choice Awards.

Robin Williams as Popeye

He really is Popeye the Sailor Man! The late and great Robin Williams truly nailed the role of the iconic cartoon character in 1980's Popeye. The musical comedy film follows the muscular man as he arrives in the town of Sweethaven. Though Dustin Hoffman was originally attached to the role, comedic genius Robin Williams ultimately took on the character and gave a memorable and exciting performance. The film was Williams' first starring role in a movie, and his portrayal was lauded by critics and fans alike.

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent

For the 2014 fantasy film Maleficent, Disney decided to go in a new direction and tell the tale of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the eponymous antagonist. Angelina Jolie had been attached early on to portray the self-proclaimed "mistress of all-evil," as she had loved the character when she was a little girl. The actress once expressed, "I was really moved by the script from first reading. It was like uncovering a great mystery." The film was a box-office hit and went on to gross a whopping $758.5 million. Jolie's performance and appearance were praised by critics, and the film was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

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Brendan Fraser as George of the Jungle

Based on the short-lived animated television series of the same name, 1997's George of the Jungle swung into theaters and became a box-office hit, grossing $174.4 million worldwide. Brendan Fraser took on the titular role and the success of the film was followed by other blockbusters for the actor, The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001). The zany and comical character was perfectly captured by Fraser, and George's physicality and good nature helped to further make the film a success.

Linda Cardellini as Velma Dinkley

Freaks and Geeks alum Linda Cardellini took on the sweet and slightly nerdy Velma Dinkley in the live-action film Scooby-Doo. Not only was her styling on point (orange sweater, blunt bangs and bold black glasses and all), but her whole demeanor and attitude brought the character to life. Cardellini gave the character wit and sensitivity, making the portrayal fun for audiences to watch and enjoy. The two Scooby-Doo films only further helped propel the star's Hollywood career.

Glenn Close as Cruella de Vil

Taking on the role of an iconic and equally evil villain would indeed be a daunting task for anyone, but seasoned actress Glenn Close was up for the challenge. She starred as the glamorously devilish Cruella de Vil in the 1996 film 101 Dalmatians. Close's frightening portrayal of the Disney villain was applauded by moviegoers and critics alike, and she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The film also went on to gross an impressive $320.7 million at the box office and spawned a follow-up sequel with Close returning.

Shelly Duvall as Olive Oyl

Robin Williams was perfectly cast as Popeye in the 1980 film of the same name, and it was extremely important his lady-love Olive Oyl was equally well cast. Both Lily Tomlin and Saturday Night Live alum Gilda Radner were initially considered, but Shelly Duvall stepped up in the role of the lanky damsel in distress. The actress not only physically resembled the character, but her mannerisms and attitude wonderfully matched Olive Oyl. Both she and Williams made quite the duo on the big screen, with many praising their performances.

Mia Wasikowska as Alice

Tim Burton's 2010 dark fantasy film Alice in Wonderland brought the beloved animated film to life, with stunning visuals and stellar performances. Australian actress Mia Wasikowska starred as the titular character, and perfectly captured Alice's curiosity and headstrong personality. Not only did Wasikowska physically resemble the fair and blonde Alice, but she also brought a fresh and vibrant take to the character. On her casting, director Tim Burton once said, "We wanted somebody who's hard to put into words, but just had a gravity to her, an internal life, something that you can see the wheels turning...That's why I picked her." The film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction.

Lily James as Cinderella

Playing the iconic and beloved Disney princess Cinderella would indeed be some pretty big shoes (or in this case glass slippers) to fill. For the live-action version of the fairy tale film, it was extremely important that the right actress was cast as the kind and lovely Cinderella. Among the contenders for the role were Emma Watson, Alicia Vikander, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, but it was Downton Abbey star Lily James who ultimately won the coveted role. The 2015 film was a critical and box office hit, grossing an impressive $542.4 million worldwide and receiving numerous accolades.

Luke Evans as Gaston

"No one's slick as Gaston, no one's quick as Gaston, no one's neck's as incredibly thick as Gaston's!" With a description of that caliber, casting a live-action version of the character Gaston would seem like quite the challenge. For 2017's Beauty and the Beast, talented Welsh actor Luke Evans took on the strapping role of the narcissistic and arrogant hunter. He brought the larger-than-life villain to the big screen perfectly in a feat not easy to achieve. The actor won Choice Villain at the Teen Choice Awards, and the film would go on to earn a massive $1.264 billion worldwide at the box office.

Freddie Prinze Jr. as Fred Jones

Rounding out the perfect casting choices for 2002's Scooby-Doo is Freddie Prinze Jr. as the Mystery Gang leader Fred Jones. The actor was able to star alongside real-life wife Sarah Michelle Gellar, and the film is the first time Fred and Daphne were an official couple in the franchise. On his character Prinze Jr. once said, "He always showed more arrogance than everyone else. So in the movie, I took the opportunity to make him as narcissistic and self-loving as possible." The actor did a fantastic job with the role, and the dynamic between all the characters translated extremely well on the big screen.

Neel Sethi as Mowgli

For Jon Favreau's 2016 live-action film The Jungle Book, it was of the utmost importance that the character of Mowgli be wonderfully cast. The search for the perfect Mowgli was extensive, with thousands of children all across the world vying for the role. Casting director Rebecca Williams ultimately chose young newcomer Neel Sethi for the role, expressing how he embodied "the heart, humor, and daring of the character. He's warm and accessible, yet also has an intelligence well beyond his years and impressed us all with his ability to hold his own in any situation." Sethi's performance was well-received and the film went on to earn a whopping $966.6 million worldwide.

Rachel Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, Rosario Dawson as Josie and the Pussycats

First introduced as a teen-humor comic book about a fictional rock band in 1962, Josie and the Pussycats also became an animated series and later feature film. She's All That star Rachel Leigh Cook took on the titular role, while Tara Reid starred as Melody Valentine and Rosario Dawson as Valerie Brown. Each of the actresses perfectly embodied their counterparts, bringing the fun cartoon characters to life with their own unique takes. Though Josie and the Pussycats failed to become a financial hit, the 2001 film has since found success as a cult classic.

Rick Moranis as Barney Rubble

For 1994's The Flintstones, casting directors found their perfect Fred Flintstone in John Goodman, and it was equally important they accurately cast his sidekick Barney Rubble. For the wholesome and kind partner-in-crime, casting directors initially wanted Danny Devito for the role. The actor turned it down, feeling he was too gruff for the character. He instead recommended funny man Rick Moranis, who took on the role and delivered an entertaining performance. The film was one of the last film roles Moranis would take before his acting hiatus.

© 2020 Rachel M Johnson

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