The Difference Between Directing Live Action and Animation, According to Andrew Stanton and Tim Miller


The question “What is the difference between directing animation and directing live action?” was requested via video by none other than Willem Dafoe. Dafoe has worked with Stanton before, voicing Gill in “Finding Nemo” and playing Green Martian warlord Tars Tarkas in “John Carter.” Appropriately, Stanton was the first to answer:

“[Directing in animation] does it in slow motion: it’s still the same decision-making, but separated by meetings between months, so the five things you’d say on set in an hour happen over a month in five different meetings. So the collective power that you have to have to have a vision and then follow that note is at this level of weird madness. But fundamentally, you always have to figure out where I’m going to put the camera, what’s going to happen in frame, what’s the motivation, what’s the marks.”

Even from an outside perspective, Stanton’s words make a lot of sense. In animation, the director constructs each element of the scene wholesale, whereas in live-action they are at the mercy of a litany of real-world factors. Reality doesn’t always cooperate, but this lack of control can also lead to greater creativity.


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