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ClassicFeature Film

Happy 10th Birthday, The Iron Giant

Iron Giant

The Iron Giant was released ten years ago today–August 6, 1999. Wired magazine celebrates the occasion with a commentary by Scott Thill that contrasts Brad Bird’s thoughtful filmmaking to today’s “dumb” Hollywood efforts like Iron Man and Transformers:

Big guns and fiery explosions have been Hollywood’s status quo for a long time, with mindless violence selling tickets – and a warlike message, which The Iron Giant stands on its head. Hogarth dons the requisite helmet and BB gun after his future pal wrecks the nearby woods, and the boy even salutes himself in a mirror, armed in defense of America against the Sputnik-launching Russians, before galloping off to meet the “enemy.”

But after watching the Iron Giant (voiced by Vin Diesel) scream in pain while caught up in power lines, Hogarth’s compassion is activated as he realizes that his interstellar visitor can communicate. It is something Mansley could realize himself, if he wasn’t so busy pursuing his wargasm. Yet he does not, and that is Bird’s brain at work: Consumed by what philosopher Theodor Adorno once controversially called the “authoritarian personality,” Mansley is possessed by cynicism and a quest for power. He simply cannot conceive a world where robots fall from the sky to do anything other than annihilate America.

  • I remember going to the sneak preview a week early and thinking this was the best animated feature ever; it was so not-like all the others.

    It’s still my gold standard for emotional impact that nothing since has been able to rise to.

    Anyone associated with it should be proud.

  • With the film’s 10th anniversary, I hope several fan would show the film at rentable movie theaters to an audience that either A) failed to really catch a spark with it’s poor marketing campaign back in 1999 or B) “The Sixth Sense” came out the same week and a majority of audiences had made up their mind to see the new movie starring Bruce Willis and “the ‘I see dead people kid”. Also on the same week was “Mystery Men” and “The Thomas Crown Affair”, while “Blair Witch Project” and “Runaway Bride” were already standing strong, so it was obvious that “Iron Giant” was going to get crushed.

    I still remember when the film came out… I never saw it in the theatre though. I was on vacation at the time and had little to no chance of seeing a glimpse of it, outside of it’s small merchandise line-up that was showcased at toy stores, I still remember wanting at a large action figure of the Giant’s alien attack mode (seen near the end of the movie.) I actually bought the original VHS, but failed to have the time to watch that as well. A few years later I finally saw it on TV (in pan-n’-scan) and I actually recorded it off a VHS and watched it over and over, while I still rented the original DVD afterwards completely ignoring my lost official video tape.

    “The Iron Giant” is, without a doubt, Warner Feature Animation’s best animated feature, and, in my opinion, this is I think Brad’s best film (but don’t get me wrong, I love “Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” too!) Here’s to a decade of an alien robot wanting to be Superman!

    BTW, since I reside in British Columbia, I’m hoping that a special screening of this would be one of the films to appear at this years’ Spark Animation.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Happy 10th Anniversary to the crappy Warner Brothers Marketing Department.

  • The only film that can make me cry by just thinking about it. I agree, it’s Mr. Bird’s best film. So very humane and inspirational.

    Happy 10th anniversary!

  • The Iron Giant novella is just as anti-war as the film, if not more, though the story is very different.

    It’s really too bad Iron Giant didn’t do better than it did.

    So average theater goers are like Mansley?

    I’d love to live in a world where people actually like to think while watching a movie instead of simply watching.

  • happy birthday big guy.

  • I love that movie.

  • Wonderful and charming movie but…

    Iron-Man is not a dumb effort !
    And besides, why is comparable with this movie?
    Just because has “Iron” in its title ?

  • Matt

    I saw it in the cinema with my family and a few years back bought the dvd. I remember being read the original book in primary school, that might have helped my enthusiam for it.
    Loved it, it’s a shame it wasn’t pushed back a little to get away of all the other releases at the time, might have fared better.

  • I took my wife opening weekend. I remember being so blown away that I could barely speak. I was working on Atlantis at the time, and felt truly humbled. Iron Giant will always be one of my favorite animated features of all time.

  • AND…..I love the way it looks too!

  • The Iron Giant is one of my favourite movies. Not just favourite animated movies. One of my all-time favourite movies. It has so much heart.

    For fans, and the comments already reflect this, it is a movie that deserved to do so much better than it did.

    But the great thing about the Iron Giant is that it is a pretty timeless piece. It can (and likely will) be discovered by generation after generation where other movies just fade from existence (ever notice how nobody ever mentions Osmosis Jones? It’s like it never happened. I quite liked it actually…).

    The Iron Giant also has the honour of being one of the only movies to make me cry like a baby. I have to warn people in advance that I’m a big girl’s blouse before we watch it.

    A beautiful story, beautifully made.

    Happy birthday Mr.Giant.

  • Paul B

    “dumb” Hollywood efforts Like Iron Man and Transformers.

    Transformers no doubt; but I enjoyed Iron Man and I thought it was one of the better Hollywood films. Ditto with Rafa.
    But on topic I remember seeing trailers for “The Iron Giant” when I was younger and I heard so much good from this film. But the trailer just didn’t cut it for me; perhaps poor media as you brought up.

    … I only eventually watched it back in 2007 after finally getting a chance and I regret never seeing it when it first arrived in cinemas. It was beautiful; and this is the perfect example in which 2d and 3d work together in peace.

  • The “Duck and Cover” sequence alone is worth the admission: a masterpeice in the middle of a masterpeice.

    By the way, I found a $5.00 DVD of it at Best Buy 2 days ago. Amazing.

  • Kate

    I remember when the movie first came out, I had no idea what it was about based off the trailers, and it took about seven years later for me to see it when I picked a VHS up for $3 at a clearance sale. I figured it was something I should get around to seeing after all the great reviews my friends had given it. So I went home, popped it in the VCR, and an hour and a half later, my shirt sleeves were soaked I was crying so hard.

    A few years later, it’s still one of my favorite movies ever. On my way to work today, “No Following” came on shuffle and that music still makes me cry like a little kid. This is Warner Brothers’ best animated movie and one of the best movies they’ve ever made. It deserves a re-release in theaters at the very least and a hell of a lot more respect.

  • “Iron Giant” is a cinema landmark. It’s incredibly funny without resorting to crude jokes or pop reference gags; therefore it’s a timeless tale. It’s packed with action but perfectly balanced with emotion. It’s intended for kids but without insulting their intelligence, therefore even adults can understand it.

    That’s why I don’t care if “Iron Giant” wasn’t a huge commercial success during its original release.

    How many American houses have ‘Casablanca’ included in their DVD collection?

  • No Atomo. I Superman!

  • Such a brillaint film and one that is high, high, high on my list of true heartfelt favorites! I love sharing it with people who never experienced it in the cinemas nor on video. To a person, male or female, when “superman” is uttered in the climactic scene there is never a dry eye! Truly an incredible film and incredible job from Brad and everyone involved in the film. (and having Frank and Ollie in it truly sets it apart from other such “inside honors” from other films out there!)

    I would personally love to say thank you to everyone involved from the very bottom of my heart for this marvelous and brillant film!

    Thank you all for 10 years of animation joy and beauty and the happiest of birthdays big guy!

    Here’s to many many more years of sharing your glory, humor and humanity to future generations, not just with your beautiful animation and story and voice cast and music score and more…but also with your most important message!

  • Chris J.

    Definitely one of the all-time great Marketing blunders. Even with stiff competition – no one was interested in seeing a “kids movie” about a big robot who finds out he can fly – which is all the ads made it out to be.

    I have to wonder if Brad Bird ever cut some ads for Iron Giant and did they ever see the light of day? I’d be interested to see how HE would have promoted the movie in 30 seconds.

  • Scott

    Great film. Terrific animation direction and designs by Tony Fucile, and beautiful Art Direction by the great Alan Bodner. The acting is top notch, as is the writing and direction by Mr. Bird.

  • Gary Pearson

    I think the reputation of the film which has grown and grown over the years, has reached a point where a re-release in theatres would work. Get on that, somebody.

  • Scott

    Also nice to know that it’s one of Steven Speilberg’s favorite films of all time.

  • I adore Iron Giant and all, but is Wired regularly in the business of publishing GCSE grade essays that that pass listing a films intentions, as being analysis?
    Maybe I just don’t like Wired because of that thing they did that one time.

  • Rob

    This movie came out when I was in art school. Me and my friends were and are still jazzed on it. And it still makes me cry. “Superman.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBlweHRITsA

  • Please, Iron Man was a lot less dumb than most Hollywood efforts. But I don’t see the comparison either. That’s like comparing The Shawshank Redemption with Fly Me to the Moon. Different styles, different audiences.

  • Congratulations to IRON GIANT – one of the classics!

    (And, for the record, I personally thought IRON MAN was one of the best films I’d seen last year. Substitute G.I. JOE in Amid’s post and I think you get the idea.)

  • RE-RELEASE! RE-RELEASE!! You see, if Warner Bros. were smart, this is what they should have done! Great movie Mr. Brad man! “Mind if I…eh?”

  • I miss the days when Cartoon Network would run The Iron Giant for 24 hours straight on Thanksgiving.

  • This film’s trailer had me tearing up. Not just because it looked poignant, either. Because I knew what it meant for all involved at that point in time. I had the same reaction to seeing the original trailers for “Pinocchio” and “Snow White” in theaters when I was a teenager in the 7-years-release days.

    After seeing the first teaser posters at bus stops along Alameda, I predicted to anyone who’d listen that it would be a huge hit. It was fully as good as it was cracked up to be, but it just got blindsided by several factors out of its control. I was and still am shocked at its reception moneywise, couldn’t fathom it.

    I happened to run into Brad shortly before he moved up north. After congratulating him for a great accomplishment told him that when I saw Iron Giant “I cried”. With perfect timing he replied wryly “So did I”.

    Ten years on its still great and a happy reflection of the talents of everyone on its crew.

  • @Chris J.

    Brad Bird showed his cut of a trailer at an Iron Giant Panel at the World Animation Celebration (2001 I think).

    It was charming although I don’t recall much of it. I don’t think it was the missing element that would have saved the movie.

    He also showed some gag footage of the Giant singing a Broadway showtune and talked about fending off various influences wanting Iron Giant to be more like other animated features of the time.

  • Matt Sullivan

    I LOVE The iron Giant. It’s tied with Raiders of the Lost Ark for my favorite film.

    I remember going to a preview screening if IG and when it was over I realized right then that the film was doomed. I can’t explain it. I just knew it was too good to be successful, if that makes any sense.

  • Happy 10th Anniversary, Iron Giant!

    I remember seeing this film in theaters that very weekend 10 years ago with my sister, a friend of hers, and my two nephews. We all loved it! The climax is indeed a tearjerker.

    We also noticed the influences of GIGANTOR and GIANT ROBO (JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT)! Even fans of Japanese robots, tokusatsu or anime, thought this was an incredible film, and the Giant himself was a very well-conceived character.

  • Usually, I’m weeping because the film is so bad. In the case of “Iron Giant” it was because it was so good.

    I rushed to the Warner Bros. Store (remember those?) to purchase the toy. The bozo employees didn’t even know what the hell I was talking about. Finally, the morons dug the Iron Giant out of their store room in the back.

    No wonder they went broke.

  • Floyd, you’re right! The WB stores were indeed still in operation at the time of the release and I flew to the one here in New Orleans prior to, during and after the film’s release. Except for a few tshirts in only kids sizes, a couple of baseball caps, some plush of every size including a beanie baby size, the various plastic “boxed action figures” and of course the limited edition sericels…there wasn’t a lot of good stuff out there for the avid lover of the film and collector of every age demographic! Just spot specifics that certainly could have been improved by more! Sure, there could be a statement made that they had low end kids things, middle road and higher end collectibles. But there was certainly a lot lacking IMHO. It was a groundbreaking feature film and it felt as though they were scared of it rather than embrace and support it! Though I must admit I was elated that they released not one but 2 soundtracks for the film. That was great!!!

    Now, for those who haven’t seen it…check out this great IG site with tons of scanned artwork, designs, info as well as nearly every item created for merchandise for IG! (Including the great film cast stuff!) It’s a joy to behold all of what is out there for this incredible film!

  • I’m sorry, but Iron Giant didn’t deliver the goods for me. Brad’s a talented and likable man, and the film has many, many virtues, but the story he chose to tell is predictable and prosaic. It’s social commentary rather than science fiction.

    What we desperately need to see in animation now is imagination and verve. We don’t have to worry about heart because mainstream feature animation people seem to have that in abundance. What we need now is creative fire.

  • Doug

    This is one of the greatest animated films of all time, IMO. I’m surprised by the number of people I’ve met who have never seen it, but if anyone doesn’t understand why it never got much support, he/she has only to read these lines from Chris Hedges’ “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning”: “. . . As long as we find in patriotism and the exuberance of war our fulfillment, we will never understand those who do battle against us, or how we are perceived by them, or finally those who do battle for us and how we should respond to it all. We will never discover who we are. We will fail to confront the capacity we all have for violence. And we will court our own extermination . . . By easily branding those who fight us as the barbarians, we, like them, refuse to acknowledge our own culpability.” (p. 180)

  • Edmund

    Had Warners marketed “The Iron Giant” correctly, the far right would have been ticked that a childrens animated film portrayed warmongering as kind of a bad thing.

  • Anyone here part of the IG Messageboards back in the day? I was one of the few who visited & commented on an almost daily basis to those boards, reading up from various crew members about the making of the film back when the movie just came out. It was fascinating for a lowly animator like me at the time to get that close to the action. I even printed up some of the conversations so I could read ’em later on. It added a great dimension to my overall experience with The Iron Giant, one of the best films of all time. It would’ve been wonderful to see a special 10 year anniversary sort of thing on DVD, but based off of WB’s past (in)action on the promoting of the film, I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

    Oh, and by the way — we saw lots of flack on the boards from various NRA supporters. Someone had tipped them about the movie and we had scores of pro-gun ‘enthusiasts’ flooding the messageboards saying how wrong the film was in portraying hunters in a negative light. Thankfully, that spell didn’t last long.

    Mr. Brad Bird & IG crew, thank you for making one of the most heartfelt films of all time. THANK YOU.

  • Really Edmund? Where did that remark come from?

    I found The Iron Giant in the cheap bin at Wal-Mart the other day, I had to get it. I’d have to say Ratatouille is my favorite Brad Bird film, but this comes close. I’m gonna start lending it to people to get the word out.

  • Sylvain

    IG is my favorite film from Brad Bird and one of my favorite animated film of all time. I hope there will be more mainstream animated films with a direct, politically-charged message. It does risk losing half of the US population (which half depends on the content), but attempts to reach everyone usually end up with an empty message. I know there was Happy Feet that succeeded but it’s Australian so it doesn’t count :)

  • Maya

    It’s so satisfying reading so many positive comments about this film. I’ve been pushing it on my non-animation friends for years. Even though it didn’t do well at the box office, i’m sure the people that worked on it feel awesome about the work they did and the final product they were a part of. What incredible story-telling, perfect use of 2D and 3D together, and appealing design. I guess i’ll celebrate the anniversary by watching it for the 32nd time. And buying a third copy.

  • Hey to Ward! Great to see you here on the IG thread! :-D

    Yes indeed, I was a part of the old IG Boards and remember you and your input fondly! It was a great place and despite the negative flacks, was a wonderful way to share info, ideas and hopes for the film, before, during and after it’s release.

    I had just started getting accustomed to my very first computer and the film was coming out in a few months and I simply had to have any and all info and images to be had from the film. The positive on those IG boards far outshined the negative in every aspect. (And all I can say is that those who supported the film could for the most part type correctly.) ;-D

  • Eddie Estes

    Iron Giant is one of my favorite movies political message or not.
    I do get tired of those in Hollywierd that don’t understand middle America truing to say we are all this way or that.

    We in flyover country do not like war. We do realize that there is a time for it and it is necessary at times like WW2. If we didn’t fight then I imagine most of the world would be speaking German and there would not be very many Jews left.

    Movies with a message can be made and would be far more successful without the filmmakers insulting modt of the potential audience.

  • messy

    I think it’s a great film, but there’s one very annoying aspect of it. the “villain”, Mansley, is absolutely right. Had the giant not been damaged, it would have gone on a rampage and destroyed the world.

    I just hate it when the bad guys are right.

  • Sylvain

    I didn’t mean half the states, I meant half the population, scattered all over, people with contrasting political and ethical opinions. You touch any political, ethical or religious subject, half agree, half disagree. You lose a big chunk of the potential ticket sale.

    I didn’t think IG was about “guns should be regulated”, it was about the cold war, xenophobia, distrust, warmongering, war propaganda. Mansley launched a nuclear warhead on his own country, that would have killed millions, because he feared the robot, and because he wanted to win at all cost. No, he was not “right”.

    My point of view about the cold war is different because I’m not american, but I invite everyone to watch a documentary narrated by McNamara himself, called “Fog of War”. He explains how close they were from destroying the entire world, his finger on the big red button, and you’ll see how much they nailed it right in Iron Giant.

  • One of the finest animated films made.

    Thanks, Brad Bird, and all of the talented individuals who brought it to us.

    No thanks, lousy warner marketing.