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Gillian Anderson
"Both the Iron Giant and Totoro are heroes in these films that have an inherent scariness in them."
Emru Townsend: Did you see The Iron Giant?

Gillian Anderson:Yes.

And what was your take on that?

It was wonderful. I thought it was a really wonderful film. And there's one thing that I felt was a conceptual through-line, in a sense, between Iron Giant and, say, Totoro. Both the Iron Giant and Totoro are heroes in these films that have an inherent scariness in them. And I think that that is something that's new--not necessarily new, but something that we don't really see very much of, that is so important for kids. Because there was still something kind of scary about the Iron Giant, even though you could see his gentleness and you could see all the good aspects of him, there was something a little dangerous about him at the same time. It was the same thing with Totoro, when that girl climbs up onto Totoro's stomach and Totoro's sleeping, and he starts to yawn, and there's that smile, and there's those big sharp teeth and that big mouth. It's terrifying! But at the same time, the kid is not afraid. And I think that the lesson there, the information there, is that there is that duality in life. And that it's not just monsters and good guys, and that things can be scary on the outside and good on the inside. And that whole concept of reading a book by its cover. I think that's an important thing to focus on, and I hope more people start to take advantage of that and use that concept, because in a world where there is so much judgment about exterior appearances, I think it's important for us to see heroes that have an element of danger as well, because we can also interpret that danger as [being] under the umbrella of everything that is scary, and also in terms of physical deformities. Kids [can] learn to see other human beings as well in their life, that maybe on the outside may scare them in some way, and see the goodness that's inside. I think that's where this can take us to.

Does that make sense?

Sure. I find that most Western features, which obviously mostly means Disney, while they pay lip service to the idea that it's what inside that counts, most of the heroes are incredibly good-looking. And if the villains are good-looking, well, the heroes are just better-looking. Yeah, I do kind of have a problem with that.

I know. I mean, we have that in Beauty and the Beast, where Disney tried to do it before, where they have a character who's very selfish and then learns a lesson at a certain point and becomes a person, and stuff like that, that's one thing. But this whole thing that's behind Iron Giant and behind Totoro, it's something deeper.

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A Critical Eye exclusive (November 11, 1999)
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