The Rock 'N' Roll Version Of The Iron Giant We Never Got To See

Adaptations, by their very nature, are divisive. Fans and critics alike have debated whether or not a film surpassed the source material it's based on, or if audiences are better off with the original text. "The Hunger Games," "Harry Potter," and "Twilight" all took pop culture by storm; on the other, the "Divergent" franchise came and went without much fanfare. It's rather surprising that "The Iron Giant" has never entered the conversation, as it technically is based on a book; that book, in turn, inspired an entire musical.

"The Iron Giant" draws from "The Iron Man," a short story by Ted Hughes about a boy who discovers a metallic robot. That story, in turn, served as the foundation a 1989 musical by Pete Townsend — best known as a guitarist/singer for the British rock band The Who. Warner Bros. optioned the rights to the musical, with Brad Bird boarding "The Iron Giant" as a director shortly after. Had Bird hewed closer to the musical's roots, the end result would have been a vastly different movie.

We built this movie on rock 'n' roll

Townshend's "Iron Man" featured the singer as Hogarth Hughes, along with an all-star lineup of musical artists such as Nina Simone and blues legend John Lee Hooker. It also doubled as a reunion for The Who, with members Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle making appearances on the soundtrack; the rock band had previously disbanded in 1982. While promoting the film, Townshend said that his previous musicals "Tommy" and "Quadrophenia" served as inspiration for his take on "The Iron Man":

"The story is very similar in a way to Tommy, to Quadrophenia, to a lot of early Who singles, it's about the fear and depravation and isolation of children, particularly of a little boy in this context. I think it's what I always believe lies at the essence of rock and roll."

It's not hard to see why Warner Bros. would pick up the rights to "The Iron Man" — animation and musicals have gone hand in hand since the Disney Renaissance, and the high concept of a rock musical by the Who featuring a giant robot is a great hook. But Bird had other plans for the titular behemoth.

Not quite heavy metal

When Bird came onto the project, he decided to draw from Hughes' original story — entirely bypassing Townshend's musical. However, there were still changes made to the source: The film takes place in the '50s instead of the '60s, it is set in Maine, and the film cuts out a major sequence from the book where the Giant battles an alien monster. Yes, we could have had a monster vs. robot film by Warner Bros. long before Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim" thundered onto the big screen.

The biggest change happened to be the title. In order to avoid confusion with Marvel Comics' Iron Man, Warner Bros. opted to change the title to "The Iron Giant." Ironically, this would be years before the Armored Avenger became a box office sensation and launched one of the biggest film franchises in history. As for Townshend, he didn't take Bird's creative choices as a slight, because he was still compensated for his efforts and even serves as a producer on the film.

"Well, whatever, I got paid," he said.