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In film, theatre and video, live-action refers to works that are acted out by human actors, as opposed to by animation. As it is the norm, the term 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 The Flintstones or Josie and the Pussycats films, or The Tick television program. Use of puppets in films such as The Dark Crystal is also considered to be live-action, provided that stop-motion is not used to animate them.

The term is also used within the animation world to refer to non-cartoon characters: in a live-action/animated film such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit 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.

Live-action can also mean that a film or a show is adapted from comics. Adaptations from comics include live-action film versions of Marvel Comics' Spider-Man and X-Men, DC Comics' Superman and Batman, or manga such as Death Note and Great Teacher Onizuka.

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