The Iron Giant (1999): The Most Popular Late ‘90s Classic '90s Animated Film

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Do you sometimes think about how cool the ‘90s classic movies were? Where it is animated series or live comedy shows. This week I have been reminiscing on the good old day when the plot of movies was simple and enjoyable. The days when technology was yet to take over the movie industry.

Yes, am talking of the days of The Iron Giant. The American animated sci-fi film by Warner Bros. caught our attention. Just a year before the turn of the millennium, the movie industry had risen. Mostly with musical movies and classics based on even older moves. Books were made into movies and TV series around this time.

Many critics and moviegoers alike considered The Iron Giant (TIG) to be one of the best-animated films of the ‘90s to early 2000s. The sci-fi take has gained notoriety as a noteworthy accomplishment in the fields of narrative and animated filmmaking. It was a box office bomb when it first came out in 1999. Even though it is around this time that Warner Bros. had bankruptcy issues.

The Rise and Fall of The Iron Giant as a Classic Movie
Let us look at how the Iron Giant became a flop and then rose from the ashes to become a treasured classic movie of the 2000s. Warner Bros. expected The Iron Giant to be a great smash in the summer of ’99. Brad Bird’s directorial debut cost the studio a whopping $50 million, and he went on to make the Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol. This was supposed to b a high-end production that would compete with Walt Disney Studios, the undisputed monarch of animated feature films.

However, when it came time to advertise the film, everything fell apart. Warner Bros. was coming off an animation flop with Quest of Camelot and wasn’t willing to invest a lot of money in another animated project. They didn’t give the production team a release date until April, leaving The Iron Giant with less than four months to plan a marketing campaign.

As a result, The Iron Gian only received a single teaser poster, and tie-ins such as a Burger King toy deal and breakfast cereal never materialized. Because the film had such a small marketing presence, consumers were just unaware that it was coming out. This appeared to be doubly embarrassing for Warner Bros. because test screening yielded extraordinarily high marks.

The Irion Giant’s box office failure is entirely attributable to poor marketing management. It’s regarded as one of the worst marketing blunders in mainstream film history. Because they scrimped and dragged their feet on marketing the film. It debuted at number nine in the box office. Domestically, it didn’t even recoup half of its spending, while outside markets pushed its ultimate total to a little under $32 million.

Warner Bros., on the other hand, had learned their lesson and was not going to repeat it.

The Reason why The Iron Giant re-emerged as a ‘90s Old Classic Film

When Warner Bros. decided to release The Iron Giant on home video, they decided to go out all the stops and do all that they should have done with the theatrical marketing campaign. This helped enhance awareness of the film in all markets but isn’t what established it as a classic.

Critics highly applauded The Iron Giant even before it was released. It has been compared to the works of Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki by Roger Ebert, and he is not exaggerating. The plot twists the conventional “Kid and his dog” structure into a sci-fi narrative about choice, societal paranoia, death, and conflict. It deals with the serious and challenging subject matter, but never dumps it down to the point that kids are patronized.

Despite these mature issues, The Iron Giant is nevertheless lighthearted, humorous, and sincere. Eli Marienthal and Vin Diesel’s staring performances as Hogarth Hughes and the Giant, respectively, are instantly charming. In fact, the entire cast achieves a great blend of ‘cartoonishness’ and sincerity.

What Made The Iron Giant an Excellent Classic?

As a product of pure animation, the making of The Iron Giant was a breathtaking experience. Bird recognized the importance of perfect scale and scope in the animated image, and never misses an opportunity to emphasize just how big the Giant is. The background work is probably the most underappreciated aspect of the film’s animation. The lovely fall hues accentuate the sadness of a scene in the woodland where a deer is slain.
The Iron Giant’s heart, on the other hand, is what made it a classic. The tale of a weaponized robot who instead decides to be a death deterrent is harrowing. The Giant is adamant that he does not wish to be a weapon. This character’s self-sacrifice is one of the most moving scenes in any film, animated or otherwise.

Its conceivable that The Iron Giant would have been a big hit at the box office if it had a normal marketing effort. But it couldn’t find an audience until it was released on home video. Many people have come to appreciate it as time passed because it is such a great movie. Even in 2016, Warner Brs. Committed to releasing a special edition Blu-ray with a revised cut of the movie.

The youthful moviegoers who saw The Iron Giant over two decades ago were profoundly affected. As a result of the first impression, it was heralded as a masterwork that had been mishandled. Fortunately, Warner Bros. realized their mistake and continued to promote the movie throughout time. This backing from both the studio and public has helped to keep the film relevant for today’s generation and culture. Because of that, it was saved from oblivion. As a result, it’s now regarded as one of the most foundational works of American animated cinema.

Brief Background History of The Iron Giant

The Iron Giant is a 1999 American animated Sci-fi action film directed by Brad Bird. It was among his first movies to direct at Warner Bros. feature animation. It’s based on Ted Hughes’ 1968 novel called The Iron Man which was originally titled “The Iron Giant” in the US, with a screenplay by Tim McCanlies, based on a plot concept by Brad Bird. Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., and Cloris Leachman are among the voice actors who appear in the film along with Vin Diesel and M. Emmet Walsh. Hogarth Hughes, a little kid growing up in the 1950s, meets and befriends a massive extraterrestrial robot in this 1957 film set during the Cold War.
It’s Hogarth’s plan to stop the military and a paranoid federal agent from finding and destroying The Giant, with the help of the beatnik artist Dean McCoppin. While the project began as a musical in 1994 with the assistance of Pete Townsend of the Who, it took root once director Bird got on the 1996 and enlisted screenwriter McCanlies to pen the script.

The titular character and various effects were produced utilizing computer-generated imagery, with conventional animation serving as the basis for the animation. In half the time and with a third of the budget, the films’ overworked crew managed to complete it. The Czech Philharmonic was played a scored by Michael Kamen and the film’s actors.

Where It All Started...

The Iron Giant had its world debut on July 31, 1999, at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, and went on general release on August 6th, 1999 in the United States of America. After Quest for Camelot’s mixed critical reception and box office failure the year before, the film underperformed at the box office, grossing $31.3 million worldwide against a production budget of $50 million.

Warner Bros. attributed this underperformance to their unusually poor marketing campaign and skepticism towards animated film production. Despite this, the movie received positive reviews for its plot, animation, and characters, as well as for Aniston, Connick Jr., Diesel, Mahoney, Marienthal, and McDonald’s voice talents.
The movie was nominated for numerous awards and ended up taking home nine of the fifteen Annies that were given to it. The movie gained a cult following after being released on VHS and broadcast on television and is now recognized as a modern animated classic. The movie was released in theaters in 2015 and on home media the year after in an extended, remastered version.

The Storyline of The Iron Giant

A space object crashes in the ocean off the Maine coast during the Cold War, just after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 in October 1957, and subsequently enters the forest near Rockwell.
Nine-year-old Hogarth Hughes examines the thing the following night and discovers a 50-foot-tall extraterrestrial robot trying to consume an electrical substation's transmission lines. It doesn't take long for Hogarth and the Giant to become close friends. A train collides with him and derails when he consumes railroad tracks in its route. Hogarth rescues the Giant and discovers that he can self-repair. In the course of his visit, Hogarth displays comic books featuring the Giant and compares him to the DC Comics superhero Superman.

Kent Mansley, a bigoted US government agent, ends up in Rockwell as a result of the incidents. As a result of his conversations with Hogarth and his widowed mother Annie (Hogarth's father was an American Air Force pilot who was killed in action during the Korean War), he assumes the worst and rents a room from them to keep an eye on him. Hogarth manages to elude Mansley and finds Dean McCoppin, a beatnik artist who owns a junkyard and reluctantly agrees to retain the Giant. Even though Hogarth likes his time with the Giant, after witnessing hunters slaughter a deer, he feels forced to explain death to the Giant.

During the night, the Giant sees himself as one of many extraterrestrial extermination weapons used by Dean, who sees it on television. In order to confirm the Giant's existence, Hogarth summons a U.S. Army unit led by General Rogard to the scrapyard, but Dean (who had been alerted by Hogarth previously) deceive them by pretending that the Giant is one of his artworks.
Rogard, angered by what appears to be a hoax, gathers his troops and prepares to flee after berating Mansley for his behavior. Dean yells at Hogarth for nearly murdering him, and the distraught Giant flees with Hogarth after him. Hogarth chases after the unhappy Giant, who runs away with Hogarth following close behind. As they pursue the Giant, Dean rapidly comes to the realization that the Giant was merely acting in self-defense.

When the Giant arrives, he saves two youngsters who are about to fall from a roof, garnering the gratitude of the residents. While departing Rockwell, Mansley sees the Giant in the town and stops the Army from attacking the Giant after he has picked up Hogarth, forcing the two to flee together. It appears at first that they've eluded detection by utilizing the Giant's flight system, but it is eventually shot down, causing the aircraft to crash into the earth.

Even though Hogarth is knocked out cold, the Giant, believing Hogarth to be dead, unleashes his vengeance on the military in revenge, reforming into a war machine and returning to Rockwell. As conventional weapons prove unsuccessful, Mansley persuades Rogard to arrange a nuclear missile launch from the USS Nautilus. While Dean explains the issue to Rogard, Hogarth awakens and arrives just in time to help calm the Giant.

The Iron Gian Characters and Voice Casts

The Iron Giant

Played by Vin Diesel. The Iron Gian is the main character and is a 50ft. metal-eating robot. Because of his mysterious creation and unknown origin, the Giant instinctively reacts defensively whenever he sees something that may be considered a weapon and quickly sets out to destroy it.

Original plans were for a computer-generated Giant voice, but the directors realized they needed an expressive voice to start with so they enlisted Diesel to play the role instead.

Hogarth Hughes

Hogarth Hughes was played by Eli Marienthal the author of Ted HUGHES. He is portrayed as a 9-year-old boy who is clever, active, and full of curiosity. An animator worked with film footage of Marienthal’s performances, which helped design her facial expressions and acting for the character. Also, Mary Kay Bergman acted as Hogarth’s screaming and sleeping vocals.

Annie Hughes – Acted by Jennifer Aniston. Hogarth’s mother. She is a widow of a military pilot and a diner waitress.

Dean McCoppin – Acted by Harry Connic Jr. He was a beatnik artist and junkyard owner. Bird thought it was appropriate to represent him as a member of the beat.

Foreman Marv Loach – was voiced by James Gammon. He worked at a power station. He used to follow the robot’s trail after it damaged the station. Gammon was also the voice behind Floyd Tobeaux.

Karen Tensedge – was voiced by Leachman Cloris. She was Hogarth’s schoolteacher.

Kent Mansley – Was voiced by Christopher McDonald. He is a paranoid federal agent of the government who was sent to investigate occurrences of the Iron Giant. He works for the Bureau of Unexplained Phenomena.
General Shanon Rogard – Was acted by John Mahoney, was an experienced and level-headed military leader in Washington, D.C.

Earl Stutz – Was voiced by M. Emmet Walsh. He was a sailor and the first person to see the robot.

Additionally, the film’s railway engineer and fireman, played by OIllie Johnston and Frank Tomas, are voiced by the actors. Bird credited Disney’s Nine Old Men animators Johnston and Thomas as influences for his own work, and he paid tribute to them by using their voices, likeness, and even their first names in the movie.

Final Thoughts

From the plot of this movie, it looks very easy to expand it to a sequel or rather to a series. The characters had a lot to share and some potential to be developed into wonderful stories. Plus, The Iron Giant can easily be transformed with the current technology into a good virtual character for the virtual consoles and video games. I would love to have it back on our screens.

What is your thoughts about The Iron Giant?

Did you get a chance to watch it back in the ‘90s?
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