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Young At Heart

As a means of paying homage to the generations of animators who inspired Bird and assisted him in his career, the filmmakers enlisted the help of two classic animation veterans-Victor Haboush and Ray Aragon. Producer Abbate says, "Victor and Ray really helped us in the early stages of visual development, especially when we visited Maine and began to adopt the style of our story. They were an inspiration. In some ways, Victor and Ray also helped us bring Dean to life-both were these incredibly creative guys who were artists and 'cool cats' in the 50s."

The director was also intent on actively involving current students at Cal Arts on the film. While staffing, Bird saved spots for several students to work as rough in-between artists (who take animators' key character poses and execute all drawings in between to complete action on segments of the film). Bird hired four animators who had worked together on an animated short at school. Later, impressed with the group's skills, the director offered to let the four animate an entire sequence of "The Iron Giant"-fittingly, a scene in a classroom.

He says, "We had a very young crew and they were completely on fire, and I have to say we really used that. I wouldn't have given it to them if I didn't think they could handle it. The Cal Arts students animated their sequence and then returned to school. There were quite a few stories like that on this film where what we lacked in experience, we more than made up for with passion and enthusiasm."

Allison Abbate comments, "Everyone was really motivated to keep to our tight schedule. I actually think that not having an extended period of development helped us in a way. There is less wasted time because the artists have an investment in their sequences and they work together to solve problems immediately as they arise. Having Brad at the helm kept us all very clear about the vision. It was exhausting and it was great."

(Actor Diesel notes, "Brad directs like a conductor. He literally gets all of the notes by waving his hand.")

One of the advantages of animation over live-action is, as Abbate points out, "getting to see your movie long before it's going to be finished." Periodically throughout production, the filmmakers assembled the film and looked at it, analyzing everything from story points to character continuity. The film, like any artist's vision, went through periods of change and growth; some segments were extended, others, eliminated.

"We were given an amazing opportunity to work with this story," reflects the director, "and now, in a way, we get to pass our version on, just as Ted passed it on to his children."

Warner Bros. Presents "The Iron Giant," starring the voices of Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr., Vin Diesel, James Gammon, Cloris Leachman, Christopher McDonald, John Mahoney, Eli Marienthal and M. Emmet Walsh. The music is by Michael Kamen. It is executive produced by Pete Townshend. The screen story is by Brad Bird and the screenplay is by Tim McCanlies, based on the book, The Iron Man, by Ted Hughes. The film is produced by Allison Abbate and Des McAnuff. "The Iron Giant" is directed by Brad Bird. It is distributed by Warner Bros., A Time Warner Entertainment Company.


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