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The Giant Talks
Strong choices had been made with regard to the appearances of the characters and the specifics of their world

Strong choices had been made with regard to the appearances of the characters and the specifics of their world. Director Bird had equally strong views about the voices that would aid in bringing the characters to life.

He says, "I am not a huge fan of designing characters to have the look of the celebrity voicing it. I feel that's a very limited way of thinking. I prefer to approach the whole issue by asking, 'Who is the character and how does that character look?' Then I find a voice to suit the character. I mean, Homer Simpson looks nothing like Dan Castellaneta, who voices him. I like to find a voice that compliments the design of the character."

Bird continues, "I look for actors with distinctive voices. In live-action films, actors can use their whole bodies to convey who they are. The challenge here is to make sure all of the nuances of character can come through with just the voice. That serves the animation as well. It you want the best out of your artists, you want to give them a soundtrack that's inspiring. You also don't want to hamstring the animators into any kind of visual acting-you want them to invent stuff to go with the voice. So the voice should inspire the animator, and the better the voice, the better the animation."

Filmmakers chose Jennifer Aniston, television's Rachel on the long-running Nielsen hit "Friends" and star of several feature films, as the independent Annie Hughes. "She's a play on the usual 1950s mom," says Abbate. "We updated her. She's single, working, young and attractive. She's far from your usual Donna Reed-type 'mom.'"

"The thing I liked about Annie and this project," observes Aniston, "is that it's not at all what's expected. She's more like a mom from the 70s than the 50s. She's very strong, like a mother tiger protecting her son, Hogarth. She's funny and really spunky, in that great kind of Laura Petrie way. There's also a tremendous heart to the story. I'm really happy to have been involved in the film."

Grammy-winning musician and actor Harry Connick, Jr. was cast to voice the role of Dean McCoppen, a beatnik sculptor who owns a junkyard that serves as the giant's temporary home. Abbate comments, "Dean is a outsider in this small, somewhat conservative town. Harry Connick was the perfect choice-he just exudes that cool cat kind of beatnik mentality. Plus, he has that southern drawl so he sounds like he's an outsider."

"I had an idea immediately who Dean was," says Connick. "I grew up in the South surrounded by guys who see the world in different way. Artists, jazz musicians, crazy guys in New Orleans. I had a blast working on this project."

For Hogarth, Bird wanted a fresh young voice with a quality different from most child actors. "Hogarth needed to be innocent, but tough enough to be on his own most of the time. Hogarth has lost his father, plus he's too smart for the kids his own age, so he's developed a great imaginary world of his own making. He's always on the lookout for nuclear monsters or invaders from outer space, but he's also constantly rescuing animals who need a home."

Eli Marienthal, a then 12-year-old theatrical actor with several television and feature credits, filled the role of Hogarth. He says, "I think Hogarth lives in an imaginary world, so when the giant comes along, he's sort of fulfilling Hogarth's fantasy. I really think it's more a story about friendship than just a

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