The animated Iron Giant is a loose adaptation of Ted Hughes' children's fable, The Iron Man.It would be difficult to make a full-length feature from Hughes' story. Rather than just flesh out The Iron Man, director and co-writer Brad Bird uses it for inspiration. He takes the boy (Hogarth, voiced by Eli Marienthal), the mysterious metal giant (voiced by Vin Diesel), their King Kong friendship and some of Hughes' themes - tolerance, self-sacrifice. By changing the setting to Rockwell, Maine, in 1958 (during the Cold War), Bird can also make the pacifist message explicit. There's a great scene where Hogarth, who's earlier been "hunting" with a toy rifle, explains to the giant the consequences of using a gun irresponsibly.
The Iron Giant boasts a terrific voice cast including Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr, Cloris Leachman and Mary Kay Bergman (from South Park). The Warner Bros animation is simple and effective, but the giant (consistent with the illustrations in Hughes' book) is a magnificent (re)creation.
By giving his film a more conventional, adult authority-figure villain, Bird lessens the strange power - and poetry - of the original. The most memorable moments of the film come directly from the book - Hogarth presenting the giant with a scrap metal yard, and all the food it could wish for; the giant reassembling itself, with each hand a scurrying crab-spider collecting the scattered limbs.It's churlish to gripe too much about The Iron Giant. This is a solid, fun film with a worthwhile message.