This article contains indepth information about the 1999 animated science fiction movie, which was produced by Warner Bos.
Iron Giant is a 1999 animated science fiction film produced by Warner
Bros. Animation, based on the 1968 novel The Iron Man by Ted Hughes. Brad
Bird directed the film, which stars a voice cast of Eli Marienthal as Hogarth
Hughes, as well as Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr., Vin Diesel, Christopher
McDonald and John Mahoney. The film tells the story of a lonely boy raised by
his widowed mother, discovering a giant iron man which fell from space. Hogarth,
with the help of a beatnik named Dean, has to stop a military force and a
federal agent from finding and destroying the Giant. The Iron Giant takes
place during the height of the Cold War (1957).
Development phase for the film started around 1994, though the project finally
started taking root once Bird signed on as director, and Bird's 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 continued on a strenuous
struggle (Bird even enlisted the aid of a group of students from CalArts).
The Iron Giant was released with high critical praise (scoring a 97 percent
approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes), when released by Warner Bros. in the
summer of 1999. It was nominated for 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.
On October 4 1957, a giant metal robot crash-lands just off the coast of
"Rockwell" (Rockland), Maine. In a hurricane, the Giant is seen by a man in a
boat, who narrowly survives by washing up on land by the Rockwell lighthouse.
On October 5, the big metal man eats a television antenna from a house
dangerously close to the woods, the nine year old boy who lives there, Hogarth
Hughes, follows its huge footprints into the dense forest. There, the Giant
becomes entangled in wires at a power station, shocking it. Hogarth shuts off
the power, saving the robot.
On October 6, he finds the robot again, and it follows him to his house. On the
way, the Giant discovers train tracks. He attempts to eat them, but Hogarth
explains that train tracks are off limits. While trying to fix the tracks, an
upcoming train collides with the Giant. Hogarth panics, as the collision caused
the robot to lose its arm and a jaw bolt, but he realizes that the Giant is
assembling itself back together because of an apparent repair signal from its
head. Meanwhile, Kent Mansley, a pompous, self-centered and extremely paranoid
U.S. Government agent, arrives in town to investigate the sightings and stories
amongst the citizens.
Hogarth hides the Giant in his barn, showing him comic books depicting Superman,
another alien visitor who becomes a hero. He also shows him Mad Magazine saying
"funny", he shows him The Spirit saying he's "cool", and tells him he's not like
the villain he sees on the front of a comic book: Atomo the metal menace, a
giant killer robot. Mansley, having investigated the damaged power station and
the train wreck, later arrives at their doorstep to ask if he could use their
telephone to phone General Rogard about the information he collected. Mansley
becomes suspicious of Hogarth after seeing a broken BB gun with Hogarth's name
on it in the woods and whilst returning it, Hogarth has to hide one of the
Giant's hands (which didn't reconnect) from Kent and his mother in his bathroom.
Trying to keep Mansley from discovering the Giant, Hogarth is able to convince a
beatnik metal sculptor named Dean McCoppin to have the Giant stay at his scrap
On October 7, Kent eventually rents a room in the Hughes' house and begins to
constantly plague Hogarth with questions about what he knows about the Giant
before an exasperated Hogarth has to take him to a diner. There, Kent goes on an
angry rant at Hogarth to tell him about the Giant's location, but Hogarth
manages to escape to the scrap yard after Kent rushes to the restroom following
Hogarth lacing his malt with chocolate laxatives. Hogarth and the Giant have fun
together, but later Hogarth explains the concept of life and death and that guns
kill after hunters shoot a deer in the woods. The Giant becomes somewhat
despondent after he learns that all things, even his new friend, will eventually
die, but is comforted when he learns that souls, which give living things life,
Mansley finds Hogarth's camera, which he dropped in the woods. He develops the
photos, and sees a photo of the Giant. He intimidates Hogarth into revealing the
Giant's hiding place by threatening to have him put into care and his mother
charged with criminal neglect. To cover up the interrogation with the illusion
of a nightmare, Mansley puts a chloroform-laced cloth over Hogarth's nose,
knocking him out. Mansley calls General Rogard and convinces him to lead a
brigade to Rockwell. After regaining consciousness, and overhearing of the
military coming to Rockwell, Hogarth attempts to warn Dean and the Giant.
However Mansley, having premeditated Hogarth's thoughts, catches him trying to
leave and has prevented his escape by nailing Hogarth's bedroom window shut.
On October 8, Mansley eventually falls asleep and thinks he has won, only to
find that Hogarth managed to slip out while he was asleep by placing pillows and
his army helmet in his bed. When the army gets to Dean's junkyard, Mansley is
shocked to see that Dean and Hogarth disguised the Giant as a massive iron
statue to throw them off once they got there. Rogard then becomes infuriated
with Mansley for wasting his time and government money for nothing, and the army
and a now fired Mansley leave. After the army leaves, an accident occurs when
the Giant's weapons system nearly vaporizes Hogarth who is pretending to shoot
the Giant with a toy gun, but Dean saves him and angrily explains the Giant is
dangerous. Striken with shame after Dean calls him "a big gun", the Giant runs
off. Dean soon realizes the Giant was acting defensively, and that his weapons
were unintentionally activated in reaction to the toy gun Hogarth was using, and
assists Hogarth to refind the Giant.
The climax ensues when Mansley sees the Giant in town and convinces the military
to attack him. The Giant had just saved two young boys from falling off a
building in the town, making citizens realize he was good, when the army begins
their assault on the robot. In the ensuing pursuit, Hogarth is knocked
unconscious. The Giant, misinterpreting this as death, is overcome by his grief
and anger, and when Mansley leads another attack on him, the Giant decides to
avenge Hogarth and transforms into a heavily armed battle machine, armed with
lethally powerful weapons, and begins to lay waste to the U.S Army vehicles in
retaliation. When Rogard realizes his troops are no match for the weapon-bound
Giant, Mansley suggests using a nuclear missile to destroy it, with the USS
Nautilus equipped to fire. Rogard consents and they plan to lure the Giant away
from the town so as to avoid collateral damage. Hogarth recovers and convinces
the Giant to halt and cease its attack: overwhelmed that its friend is alive and
reminded of the potential tragedy of its attacks, the Giant deactivates its
weapons. Dean confronts Rogard and tells him that the Giant's weapons went
active due to the army's ballistic attacks (which triggered the Giant's defense
mechanism). The Army backs down, allowing the Giant to be pacified and calm to
seemingly return. Mansley however, having become increasingly frustrated and
frantic in trying to convince the General to destroy the Giant, blindly seizes
Rogard's radio transceiver and orders the Nautilus to launch, neglecting to
realize until too late that the Giant is now in the center of Rockwell, and that
the bomb will not only destroy the Giant, but Rockwell and all the citizens,
including himself and the Army. Mansley verbally shuns his patriotism, and makes
a cowardly attempt to save himself, but is quickly stopped and arrested. As the
townspeople of Rockwell await destruction, the Giant, remembering the death of
the deer and Superman's stories of heroism, decides he must sacrifice himself to
save the town by intercepting the missile, and says goodbye in his own way to a
stunned and sorrowful Hogarth. The Giant takes off toward the upper atmosphere.
As he flies near the missile, he recalls Hogarth's words, "you are who you
choose to be." Before he collides with the missile, he utters "Superman" and
closes his eyes with a smile on his face. The Giant collides at full speed with
the missile, which explodes above the atmosphere, apparently destroying the
Giant but sparing the town.
On January 4 1958, a memorial statue has been erected in the Giant's honor. Dean
and Annie appear to be in a relationship, presumed married, and Hogarth has made
some new friends. He is sent a single jaw-screw by Rogard, the only piece of the
Giant recovered from the explosion. In bed that night, Hogarth wakes up and sees
that the screw has disappeared from the box it was kept in. While searching
under his bed for it, he hears a beeping and tapping noise at the window. The
screw is bumping against the glass, apparently attempting to travel somewhere.
Smiling and realizing what the piece's activity means, Hogarth opens the window
and lets it roll away. The movie ends with the Giant's body parts making their
way to the Langjökull glacier in Iceland, summoned there by the repair signal in
the Giant's head, which opens its eyes and smiles as it reassembles itself.
- Eli Marienthal as Hogarth Hughes: an energetic, curious boy with an
active imagination. Hogarth befriends and takes the Giant under his wing,
teaching him to speak and satisfying his appetite for metal objects. Hogarth
hides the giant from his mother, the townspeople and the government. He is
also a grade ahead because he "just does the homework".
- Jennifer Aniston as Annie Hughes: Hogarth's mother is in her early
30s who works hard as a waitress in the local diner. As a single mom, Annie is
somewhat cautious over her son's activities.
- Harry Connick, Jr. as Dean McCoppin: A beatnik artist and junk yard
owner who "sees art where others see junk" and is the same age as Hogarth's
mom. Dean has a laid-back attitude and helps protect the Giant with Hogarth.
He is initially aggravated by the presence of the giant in his junk yard, as
he has to pay him constant attention, to make sure he doesn't eat any of his
- Vin Diesel as The Iron Giant: A 50-foot, metal-eating robot that
enters Hogarth's life and changes everything. With eyes that glow and can
change to red when threatened or angry, parts that transform and reassemble
(and indestructible to virtually anything), he becomes best friend and hero to
Hogarth. While capable of incredible destructive powers (the extensive and
lethal arsenal he is equipped with would suggest his original purpose was not
one of peace), he is rendered benign by damage to his head. Hogarth teaches
him to use his strength for good rather than destruction, proving to the world
that he recognizes the value of life. The Giant reacts defensively if it
recognizes anything as a weapon, immediately attempting to destroy it, but can
- Christopher McDonald as Kent Mansley: the de facto villain of the
film, Mansley is a manipulative, ambitious, arrogant, self-centered and
paranoid 47-year-old government agent sent to investigate the Iron Giant. With
a secret agenda to boost his own career, Kent is simultaneously on Hogarth's
trail to get information. Convinced he has proof of the Iron Giant's existence
and eager to make his reputation, Mansley calls in the military to protect the
townspeople from the threat he perceives in the Giant.
- John Mahoney as General Rogard: Military leader in Washington, D.C.
who strongly dislikes Mansley and his attitude.
Cloris Leachman, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, M. Emmet Walsh and James Gammon
all have cameo appearances.
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,
and in 1993, a stage version was mounted at London’s Old Vic. Des McAnuff, who
had adapted the Tony Award-winning 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.
Towards the end of 1996, while the project was working its way through
development, 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. 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."
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, quoting "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, quoting "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
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."
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 Vin Diesel was hired.
The film is set in the late 1950s, 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 dubious advice on how to survive an atomic explosion.
Writer Tim McCanlies addressed Hogarth's message to the giant, "You are who you
choose to be" played a pivotal role in the film. "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" citing that he wanted to get a sense between right and wrong. In
addition, this turning point was to make the audience feel as if they are an
important part of humanity.
The Iron Giant opened on August 3, 1999 in the United States in 2,179
theaters, accumulating $5,732,614 over its opening weekend. The film went on to
gross $23,159,305 domestically, Analysts at IGN feel 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 ad 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).
Based on 110 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, The Iron Giant
received an overall 97% "Certified Fresh" approval rating (107 of those 110
reviews being determined as positive) and currently garners this rating today
(as of June 2009). With the 30 critics on Rotten Tomatoes' "Cream of the Crop",
which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites,
television and radio programs, still averaging a 97% "Certified Fresh" approval
rating. By comparison, Metacritic calculated an average score of 85 (out of 100)
from the 27 reviews it collected. The film has since then gathered a cult
following. The Nostalgia Critic placed the film as #6 on his list of The Top 11
Underrated Nostalgia Classics.
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 quoted, "[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 quoted, "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."
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 tenth favourite animated film of all
time in a list published in 2008.
In an interview with WorstPreviews.com, Bird announced that there is an "outside
chance" that a limited theatrical rerelease will be planned for sometime in
2009, to mark the film's tenth anniversary.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia
article "The Iron Giant" and is licensed under the
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