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IRON GIANT

A Rock And A Hard Place
The title character of the film, however, is made of metal, which posed an interesting challenge for the artists

The title character of the film, however, is made of metal, which posed an interesting challenge for the artists. Bird comments, "It is difficult for a human to draw a big, solid metallic object. Animators excel at drawing movement and living, fluid objects. The giant originates from a different world, so we chose to create the giant using computer animation, CGI, which would give him the mass and solidity and also give the impression that it's from a different place. The separation between the 2D-animation and the CGI is something that helped establish the fish-out-of-water facet of the story."

Filmmakers took great care, however, to bring the giant into Hogarth's world, not wanting the character to appear so foreign that it would not mesh into the scenes in and around Rockwell, Maine in 1957. Bird explains, "I gave the crew sort of an edict-imagine that this is 1940 during the golden age of animation. How would you draw something like this by hand? So we simplified the character's shapes and also analyzed the qualities of hand-drawn animation versus computer animation, ultimately looking for ways to meld the two."

Animators knew that computer-generated lines are exact and lines rendered by hand are imperfect. ("We took months to create a computer program that actually wobbles the lines of the giant a bit-just enough so that it feels hand-drawn," adds Bird.) Existing special software was also extended and modified to accomplish a myriad of things-aiding in shading of the giant, varying the lightening and darkening of some frames and altering grain patterns-to affect the giant's realistic inclusion in his strange new (and classically animated) world.

The first sketches of the giant were completed by Joe Johnston, who then worked with Bird and production designer Mark Whiting and supervising CGI animator Steve Markowski. Whiting shaped the giant's look to match the bucolic landscapes he had meticulously designed for the film; Markowski brought the giant to life with movement. The giant designers also incorporated visual references from period sci-fi films, such as "The Day the Earth Stood Still," in creating their "homage" to the giant robots of the post-nuclear horror films.

"But there is also an innocence to the giant," counters Abbate. "His design is very simple and clean. We wanted him to appear almost like a baby at the beginning of the film. He's a little bit like all of us-we all start out not knowing who we are, where we come from or why we're here and we all have to choose our life path."

Someone else who contributed to the realization of the giant was artistic coordinator Scott Johnston, who drew on his extensive experience in computer graphics to help Bird and his staff of artistic supervisors solve the problems inherent in mixing classic animation with CGI.

"We wanted the giant to be an alien presence," offers Johnston. "We also wanted to keep the rigidity of his form, yet allow him to be able to express a wide range of emotions. He has a simple jaw shape that can't really bend into a smile or a frown, but he has other ways of expressing thoughts and ideas through physical movements."

Early in the production, the filmmakers and staff had traveled to Maine to absorb the feel of the film's setting. Abbate comments, "Brad liked Maine for its innocence, and we chose the time period because it was an era before people became jaded. Maine is rugged and beautifu

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