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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