The Iron Giant
|The Iron Giant|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brad Bird|
|Produced by||Pete Townshend
|Screenplay by||Tim McCanlies
Karey Kirkpatrick (uncredited)
|Story by||Brad Bird|
|Based on||The Iron Man
by Ted Hughes
|Music by||Michael Kamen|
|Edited by||Darren T. Holmes|
|Warner Bros. Feature Animation|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Running time||87 minutes|
The Iron Giant is a 1999 American animated science fiction film using both traditional animation and computer animation, produced by Warner Bros. Animation, and based on the 1968 novel The Iron Man by Ted Hughes. The film was directed by Brad Bird, scripted by Tim McCanlies, and stars Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr., Vin Diesel, Eli Marienthal, Christopher McDonald, and John Mahoney.
The film is about a lonely boy named Hogarth raised by his mother (the widow of an Air Force pilot), who discovers an iron giant who fell from space. With the help of a beatnik named Dean, they have to stop the U.S. military and a federal agent from finding and destroying the Giant. The Iron Giant takes place in October 1957 in the American state of Maine during the height of the Cold War.
The film's development phase began around 1994, though the project finally started taking root once Bird signed on as director, and his hiring of Tim McCanlies to write the screenplay in 1996. The script was given approval by Ted Hughes, author of the original novel, and production struggled through difficulties (Bird even enlisted the aid of a group of students from CalArts). The Iron Giant was released by Warner Bros. in the summer of 1999 and received high critical praise. It was nominated for several awards that most notably included the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Nebula Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The film was a Box office bomb, making only $31.3 million worldwide against a budget of between $50 million and $70 million.
In 1957, after the launch of Sputnik, a giant robot from outer space crashes into the ocean near the coast of Rockwell, Maine, and wanders onto the mainland and into the forest. Nine-year-old Hogarth Hughes follows the trail of destruction through the forest left by the robot, and finds it electrocuted by the power cables of an electrical substation. Hogarth frees it, and befriends it. The Iron Giant, which has lost its memory, accompanies Hogarth back to the house where he lives with his widowed mother Annie. When they come to a railroad the Giant tries to sustain its energy by eating the rails. Hearing the sound of an oncoming train, Hogarth tells the Giant to repair the tracks. But it takes too long, and the train collides with the Giant, breaking it to pieces. Hogarth hides the damaged robot in their barn, and soon discovers that the parts of the robot reassemble and repair themselves.
Later that night, Hogarth returns with a stack of comic books to read to the Giant. The Giant is impressed with Superman, but distressed when he discovers a comic about an evil robot named 'Atomo the Metal Menace'. In response, Hogarth reassures the Giant, "You are who you choose to be". Eventually, Hogarth is forced to address the issue of death with the Giant when they admire a stag in the forest and then find it shot by hunters.
Alerted by the fisherman who saw the giant crash into the sea, U.S. government agent Kent Mansley discovers evidence of the Giant, and decides to continue his inquiries. Finding a BB gun that Hogarth left near the substation, Mansley takes up a room for rent at Hogarth's home and secretly follows the boy around hoping to learn more. He is paranoid about any foreign invasion, and alerts the U.S. Army to the possible presence of the Giant. Worried that they will get caught, Hogarth evades Mansley by taking the Giant to beatnik artist Dean McCoppin, who passes off the robot as one of his works of scrap-metal art when Mansley and Lieutenant General Shannon Rogard investigate. Once Mansley and Rogard are gone, Hogarth plays with the Giant using a toy gun, which prompts the Giant to activate its own weapons. Dean saves Hogarth and angrily commands the Giant to leave, but Hogarth, believing the Giant never meant to harm him, gives chase. Dean then realizes the Giant was only reacting defensively against the gun. He catches up with Hogarth on his motorbike and they chase after the Giant as he reaches the town.
In Rockwell, the Giant saves two boys from falling to their deaths, to the cheers of bewildered citizen witnesses, and Giant tells Hogarth that he chooses not to be a gun. Unfortunately, the army summoned by Mansley see the Giant and shoot at it. The Giant flees with Hogarth and finds the ability to fly, but is shot down by a missile fired from an F-86. After crashing to earth, the Giant thinks the unconscious Hogarth is dead; enraged, it activates its massive arsenal of energy weapons and attacks the Army, who are no match for his advanced weapons. Mansley deceives Rogard by telling him the robot killed Hogarth, then suggests they lure the Giant out to sea where it can be destroyed with a nuclear ballistic missile from the USS Nautilus. Hogarth wakes up and pacifies the Giant, soothing him to deactivate his weapons. Meanwhile, Dean tells Rogard the Giant never killed anyone, and Hogarth reappears with the Giant, proving Mansley lied. When General Rogard radios to call off the Nautilus, Mansley breaks in and orders the missile to launch. Rogard then tells Mansley the missile is aimed at the Giant, i.e. the town, so it will vaporize not only the Giant, but everyone in Rockwell as well. When Hogarth tells the Giant the missile will annihilate the town, the Giant flies off to intercept it, smiling to himself that he is now like Superman. The Giant collides with the missile and disintegrates in a massive explosion high in the atmosphere.
Some time later, Annie and Dean start a relationship, and Dean sculpted to honoring the Giant in the name of the whole town. Hogarth receives a souvenir from General Rogard, a small bolt, the only piece of the Giant ever found. That night, Hogarth hears a familiar beeping coming from the bolt, which is trying to go somewhere to reassemble. He opens the window to let the bolt out. Meanwhile on the Langjökull glacier in Iceland, various broken parts of the robot approach the snowdrift where the head rests, as the Iron Giant wakes up and smiles.
- Eli Marienthal as Hogarth Hughes, an energetic and curious boy with an active imagination.
- Jennifer Aniston as Annie Hughes, a widow and Hogarth's single mother.
- Harry Connick, Jr. as Dean McCoppin, a beatnik artist and junkyard owner.
- Vin Diesel as The Iron Giant, a fifty-foot, metal-eating robot. The Giant involuntarily reacts defensively if it recognizes anything as a weapon, immediately attempting to destroy it. The specific creator of the giant is never revealed. In a deleted scene, he has a brief vision similar robots destroying a different planet. Peter Cullen was considered to do the voice.
- Christopher McDonald as Kent Mansley, an arrogant, ambitious and paranoid government agent sent to investigate sightings of the Iron Giant. The logo on his official government car says he is from the "Bureau of Unexplained Phenomena."
- John Mahoney as General Shannon Rogard, the military leader in Washington, D.C. who strongly dislikes Mansley.
- M. Emmet Walsh as Earl Stutz, a sailor and the first man to see the robot.
- James Gammon as Marv Loach, a foreman who follows the robot's trail after it destroys the power station.
- Cloris Leachman as Mrs. Tensedge, Hogarth's schoolteacher.
In 1986, rock musician Pete Townshend became interested in writing "a modern song-cycle in the manner of Tommy", and chose Ted Hughes' The Iron Man as his subject. Three years later, The Iron Man: A Musical album was released. The same year Pete Townshend produced a short film set to the album single "A Friend is a Friend" featuring The Iron Man in a mix of stop frame animation and live action directed by Matt Forrest. In 1993, a stage version was mounted at London’s Old Vic. Des McAnuff, who had adapted Tommy with Townshend for the stage, believed that The Iron Man could translate to the screen, and the project was ultimately acquired by Warner Bros.
In late 1996, while developing the project on its way through, the studio saw the film as a perfect vehicle for Brad Bird, who at the time was working for Turner Feature Animation. Turner Entertainment had recently merged with Warner Bros. parent company Time Warner, and Bird was allowed to transfer to the Warner Bros. Animation studio to direct The Iron Giant. After reading the original Iron Man book by Hughes, Bird was impressed with the mythology of the story and in addition, was given an unusual amount of creative control by Warner Bros. This creative control involved introducing two new characters not present in the original book: Dean and Kent. Bird's pitch to Warner Bros. was based around the idea "What if a gun had a soul?" Bird decided to have the story set to take place in the 1950s as he felt the time period "presented a wholesome surface, yet beneath the wholesome surface was this incredible paranoia. We were all going to die in a freak-out."
The financial failure of Warner Bros.' previous animated effort, Quest for Camelot, whose cost overruns and production nightmares made the company reconsider their commitment to feature animation, helped shape The Iron Giant's production considerably. In a 2003 interview, writer Tim McCanlies recalled "Quest for Camelot did so badly that everybody backed away from animation and fired people. Suddenly we had no executive anymore on Iron Giant, which was great because Brad got to make his movie. Because nobody was watching." Bird, who regarded Camelot as "trying to emulate the Disney style," attributed the creative freedom on The Iron Giant to the bad experience of Quest for Camelot, stating: "I caught them at a very strange time, and in many ways a fortuitous time." By the time The Iron Giant entered production, Warner Bros. informed the staff that there would be a smaller budget as well as time-frame to get the film completed. Although the production was watched closely, Bird commented "They did leave us alone if we kept it in control and showed them we were producing the film responsibly and getting it done on time and doing stuff that was good." Bird regarded the tradeoff as having "one-third of the money of a Disney or DreamWorks film, and half of the production schedule," but the payoff as having more creative freedom, describing the film as "fully-made by the animation team; I don't think any other studio can say that to the level that we can."
Tim McCanlies was hired to write the script, though Bird was somewhat displeased with having another writer on board, as he himself wanted to write the screenplay. He later changed his mind after reading McCanlies' unproduced screenplay for Secondhand Lions. In Bird's original story treatment, America and the USSR were at war at the end, with the Giant dying. McCanlies decided to have a brief scene displaying his survival, stating, "You can't kill E.T. and then not bring him back." McCanlies finished the script within two months, and was surprised once Bird convinced the studio not to use Townshend's songs. Townshend did not care either way, saying "Well, whatever, I got paid." McCanlies was given a three-month schedule to complete a script, and it was by way of the film's tight schedule that Warner Bros. "didn't have time to mess with us" as McCanlies said. Hughes himself was sent a copy of McCanlies' script and sent a letter back, saying how pleased he was with the version. In the letter, Hughes stated, "I want to tell you how much I like what Brad Bird has done. He’s made something all of a piece, with terrific sinister gathering momentum and the ending came to me as a glorious piece of amazement. He’s made a terrific dramatic situation out of the way he’s developed The Iron Giant. I can’t stop thinking about it."
Bird opted to produce The Iron Giant entirely in the widescreen CinemaScope format, but was warned against doing so by his advisers. Bird felt it was appropriate to use the format, as many films from the late 1950s were produced in such widescreen formats, and was eventually allowed to produce the feature in the wide 2.39:1 CinemaScope aspect ratio  It was decided to animate the Giant using computer-generated imagery as the various animators working on the film found it hard "drawing a metal object in a fluid-like manner." A new computer program was created for this task, while the art of Norman Rockwell, Edward Hopper and N.C. Wyeth inspired the design. Bird brought in students from CalArts to assist in minor animation work due to the film's busy schedule. The Giant's voice was originally to be electronically modulated but the filmmakers decided they "needed a deep, resonant and expressive voice to start with", and were about to hire Peter Cullen, due to his history with voice acting robot characters, but due to Cullen's unavailability at the time, Vin Diesel was hired instead. Cullen did some voice-over work for the film's theatrical trailer. Teddy Newton, a storyboard artist, played an important role in shaping the film's story. Newton's first assignment on staff involved being asked by Bird to create a film within a film to reflect the "hygiene-type movies that everyone saw when the bomb scare was happening."
Newton came to the conclusion that a musical number would be the catchiest alternative, and the "Duck and Cover sequence" came to become one of the crew members' favorites of the film. Nicknamed "The X-Factor" by story department head Jeffery Lynch, the producers gave him artistic freedom on various pieces of the film's script.
The score for the film was composed and conducted by Michael Kamen. Bird's original temp score, "a collection of Bernard Hermann cues from 50's and 60's sci-fi films," initially scared Kamen. Believing the sound of the orchestra is important to the feeling of the film, Kamen "decided to comb eastern Europe for an "old-fashioned" sounding orchestra and went to Prague to hear Vladimir Ashkenazy conduct the Czech Philharmonic in Strauss's An Alpine Symphony." Eventually, the Czech Philharmonic was the orchestra used for the film's score, with Bird describing the symphony orchestra as "an amazing collection of musicians." The score for The Iron Giant was recorded in a rather unconventional manner, compared to most films: recorded over one week at the Rudolfinum in Prague, the music was recorded without conventional uses of syncing the music, in a method Kamen described in a 1999 interview as "[being able to] play the music as if it were a piece of classical repertoire." Kamen's score for The Iron Giant won the Annie Award for Music in an Animated Feature Production on November 6, 1999.
The film is set in 1957 during a period of the Cold War characterized by escalation in tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1957, Sputnik was launched, raising the possibility of nuclear attack from space. Anti-communism and the potential threat of nuclear destruction cultivated an atmosphere of fear and paranoia which also led to a proliferation of films about alien invasion. In one scene, Hogarth's class is seen watching an animated film named Atomic Holocaust, based on Duck and Cover, an actual film that offered advice on how to survive if the USSR bombed the USA. The film also has an anti-gun message in it. When the Iron Giant sees a deer get killed by hunters, the Iron Giant notices two rifles discarded by the deer's body. The Iron Giant's eyes turn red showing hostility to any gun. It is repeated throughout the film, "Guns kill." and "You're not a gun." Despite the anti-war and anti-gun themes, the film avoids demonizing the military, and presents General Rogard as an essentially rational and sympathetic figure, in contrast to the power-hungry civilian Mansley. Hogarth's message to the giant, "You are who you choose to be", played a pivotal role in the film. Writer Tim McCanlies commented that "At a certain point, there are deciding moments when we pick who we want to be. And that plays out for the rest of your life." McCanlies said that movies can provide viewers with a sense of right and wrong, and expressed a wish that the movie would "make us feel like we're all part of humanity [which] is something we need to feel." 
|"We had toy people and all of that kind of material ready to go, but all of that takes a year! Burger King and the like wanted to be involved. In April we showed them the movie, and we were on time. They said, "You'll never be ready on time." No, we were ready on time. We showed it to them in April and they said, "We'll put it out in a couple of months." That's a major studio, they have 30 movies a year, and they just throw them off the dock and see if they either sink or swim, because they've got the next one in right behind it. After they saw the reviews they [Warner Bros.] were a little shamefaced."|
|— Writer Tim McCanlies on Warner Bros.' marketing approach|
The Iron Giant opened on August 6, 1999 in the United States in 2,179 theaters, ranking at No. 9 accumulating $5,732,614 over its opening weekend. The film went on to gross $23,159,305 domestically and $8,174,612 internationally to make a total of $31,333,917 worldwide, making it a Box office bomb. In an interview with IGN, Brad Bird stated that it was "a mis-marketing campaign of epic proportions at the hands of Warner Bros., they simply didn't realize what they had on their hands." Tim McCanlies said, "I wish that Warner had known how to release it."
Lorenzo di Bonaventura, president of Warner Bros. at the time, explained, "People always say to me, 'Why don't you make smarter family movies?' The lesson is, Every time you do, you get slaughtered." Stung by criticism that it mounted an ineffective marketing campaign for its theatrical release, Warner Bros. revamped its advertising strategy for the video release of the film, including tie-ins with Honey Nut Cheerios, AOL and General Motors and secured the backing of three U.S. congressmen (Ed Markey, Mark Foley and Howard Berman).
Despite failing at the box office, The Iron Giant received universal critical acclaim from critics; based on 123 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, The Iron Giant received an overall 97% "Certified Fresh" approval rating, with an average score of 8.1/10. The consensus reads: "Engaging, endearing, affecting and charmingly retro, The Iron Giant tackles touchy subjects and complex relationships with a steady hand and beautiful animation direction from Brad Bird." Metacritic calculated an average score of 85 (out of 100) from the 27 reviews it collected, which indicates "Universal Acclaim". The film has since then gathered a cult following. The cable television network Cartoon Network showed the film annually on Thanksgiving for 24 hours straight in the early 2000s.
Roger Ebert very much liked the Cold War setting, feeling "that's the decade when science fiction seemed most preoccupied with nuclear holocaust and invaders from outer space." In addition he was impressed with parallels seen in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and wrote, "[The Iron Giant] is not just a cute romp but an involving story that has something to say." In response to the E.T. parallels, Bird said, "E.T. doesn't go kicking ass. He doesn't make the Army pay. Certainly you risk having your hip credentials taken away if you want to evoke anything sad or genuinely heartfelt." IGN extolled the film in a 2004 review as "the best non-Disney animated film".
Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle agreed that the storytelling was far superior to other animated films, and cited the characters as plausible and noted the richness of moral themes. Jeff Millar of the Houston Chronicle agreed with the basic techniques as well, and concluded the voice cast being excelled with a great script by Tim McCanlies.
The Hugo Awards nominated The Iron Giant for Best Dramatic Presentation, while the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America honored Brad Bird and Tim McCanlies with the Nebula Award nomination. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts gave the film a Children's Award as Best Feature Film. In addition The Iron Giant won nine Annie Awards and was nominated for another six categories, with another nomination for Best Home Video Release at The Saturn Awards. IGN ranked The Iron Giant as the fifth favorite animated film of all time in a list published in 2010.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipients and nominees||Result|
|Annie Awards||November 6, 1999||Best Animated Feature Film||Allison Abbate, Des McAnuff, and John Walker
Warner Bros. Pictures; Warner Bros. Feature Animation
|Outstanding Individual Achievement in Effects Animation||Allen Foster|
|Outstanding Individual Achievement in Character Animation||Jim Van der Keyl|
|Outstanding Individual Achievement for Directing in an Animated Feature Production||Brad Bird||Won|
|Outstanding Individual Achievement for Music in an Animated Feature Production||Michael Kamen|
|Outstanding Individual Achievement for Production Design in an Animated Feature Production||Alan Bodner|
|Outstanding Individual Achievement in Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production||Mark Andrews||Won|
|Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production||Eli Marienthal
For playing "Hogarth Hughes".
|Outstanding Individual Achievement for Writing in an Animated Feature Production||Tim McCanlies (screenplay) and Brad Bird (story)|
|BAFTA Children's Award||April 9, 2000||Best Feature Film||Brad Bird, Allison Abbate, Des McAnuff, and Tim McCanlies|
|Florida Film Critics Circle||January 9, 2000||Best Animated Film||Brad Bird||Won|
|Genesis Awards||March 18, 2000||Best Feature Film - Animated|
|Hugo Award||September 2, 2000||Best Dramatic Presentation||Brad Bird (screen story and directed by), Tim McCanlies (screenplay by), and Ted Hughes (based on the book The Iron Man by)||Nominated|
|Las Vegas Film Critics Society||January 18, 2000||Best Animated Film||Won|
|Los Angeles Film Critics Association||January 20, 2000||Best Animated Film||Brad Bird|
|Motion Picture Sound Editors Awards||March 25, 2000||Best Sound Editing - Animated Feature|
|Best Sound Editing - Music - Animation||Nominated|
|New York Film Critics Circle||January 10, 2000||Best Animated Film||2nd place|
|Santa Fe Film Critics Circle Awards||January 9, 2000||Best Animated Film||Won|
|Saturn Awards||June 6, 2000||Best Home Video Release||Nominated|
|Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America||May 20, 2000||Best Script||Brad Bird and Tim McCanlies|
|Young Artist Awards||March 19, 2000||Best Family Feature Film - Animated|
|Best Performance in a Voice-Over (TV or Feature Film) - Young Actor||Eli Marienthal||Won|
The Iron Giant was released on DVD and VHS on November 23, 1999. The Special Edition DVD was released on November 16, 2004. In 2014, Brad Bird went to Warner Bros. to talk about the possibility of releasing The Iron Giant on Blu-Ray. "WB & I have been talking. But they want a bare bones disc. I want better," Bird said on his Twitter account. He also said that fans can log on to their Twitter accounts and post a tweet on the Twitter homepage of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, demanding a Collector's Edition Blu-Ray for the film.
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- Rob Blackwelder (July 19, 1999). "A "Giant" Among Animators". SplicedWire. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
- Black, Lewis (2003-09-19). "More McCanlies, Texas". The Austin Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2010-08-12. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
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- Sragow, Michael (1999-08-05). "Iron Without Irony". Salon Media Group. Archived from the original on 2010-08-12. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
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- Brad Bird, Jeffery Lynch, et al. (2004). The Iron Giant Special Edition. Special Features: Teddy Newton "The X-Factor" (DVD). Warner Home Video.
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- Presenters: Vin Diesel and Brad Bird (August 1, 1999). "The Making of: The Iron Giant". 22:07 minutes in. The WB. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0299020/.
- Patricia Biederman (November 8, 1999). "Giant Towers Over Its Rivals". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
- Otto, Jeff (2004-11-04). "Interview: Brad Bird". IGN. Archived from the original on 2010-08-12. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
- Irwin, Lew (1999-08-30). "The Iron Giant Produces A Thud". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
- Irwin, Lew (1999-11-23). "Warner Revamps Ad Campaign For The Iron Giant". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
- "The Iron Giant Lands on Capital Hill". Time Warner. November 4, 1999. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
- "The Iron Giant (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
- "Iron Giant, The (1999): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
- Patrizio, Andy (2004-11-02). "The Iron Giant: Special Edition - DVD Review at IGN". IGN. Archived from the original on 2010-08-12. Retrieved 2010-06-24.
- Ebert, Roger (1999-08-06). "The Iron Giant review". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 2010-08-12. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
- Stack, Peter (1999-08-06). "'Giant' Towers Above Most Kid Adventures". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2010-08-12. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
- Millar, Jeff (2004-04-30). "The Iron Giant". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-01-14.[dead link]
- "Hugo Awards: 2000". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
- "Nebula Award: 2000". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
- "BAFTA Awards: 2000". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
- "Annie Awards: 1999". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
- "The Saturn Awards: 2000". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
- "Top 25 Animated Movies of All Time". IGN. 2010-06-24. Retrieved 2010-09-06.
- AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
- "Animation World News - Some Additional Announcements About The Iron Giant DVD.". Animation World Magazine (4.8). November 1999. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
- "Iron Giant SE Delayed". IGN. July 22, 2004. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
- Lussier, Germain (April 23, 2014). "Brad Bird Fighting For Iron Giant Blu-ray". Slash Film. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
- Further reading
- Hughes, Ted (3 March 2005). The Iron Man (Paperback). Reprinting of novel on which this film is based. Faber Children's Books. ISBN 0571226124.
- Hughes, Ted; Moser, Barry (31 August 1995). The Iron Woman (Hardcover). Sequel to The Iron Man. Amazon Remainders Account. ISBN 0803717962.
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