The Iron Giant Premiere: 1999

By Cat Eldridge: Twenty two years ago this weekend, on August 6, The Iron Giant premiered. Directed by Brad Bird who would later be responsible for the Incredibles franchise and two Mission: Impossible films as well, it was produced by Allison Abbate and Des McAnuff.  Bird wrote the story off The Iron Man: A Children’s Story in Five Nights, a SF novel by Ted Hughes. It had a most amazing voice cast of Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Vin Diesel, James Gammon, Cloris Leachman, John Mahoney, Eli Marienthal, Christopher McDonald and M. Emmet Walsh.

Yes, critical reception for it was wonderful. Roger Ebert compared it to the work of acclaimed Japanese artiste Hayao Miyazaki, and nary a negative comment was to found outside of the Washington Post whose reviewer — rather oddly — thought that it had “the annoyance of incredible smugness.” Huh?  Alas, the box office didn’t follow the lead of the majority of critics — it grossed a little over thirty million against its fifty million dollar budget not counting advertising.  

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.” But let it be noted audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do like smart films as it has a rather stellar ninety percent rating. So there. 

If you venture into the toy market, there are some rather cool Iron Giants to be had at prices ranging from almost reasonable to, well, not so reasonable. Here’s one of them here. 

8 thoughts on “The Iron Giant Premiere: 1999

  1. Just a small correction: Brad Bird only directed one Mission: Impossible film, the fourth one: Ghost Protocol.

  2. Iain says Just a small correction: Brad Bird only directed one Mission: Impossible film, the fourth one: Ghost Protocol.

    Huh. Amazing, Wiki got something wrong.

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  4. The Iron Giant is an incredible film (no pun intended). I rewatch it frequently.

    I was really surprised when I heard how poorly it did in the box office.

  5. John Lorentz says The Iron Giant is an incredible film (no pun intended). I rewatch it frequently.

    I was really surprised when I heard how poorly it did in the box office.

    Surprised the Hell out of me when I was putting thus post together as I thought that it as it has the reputation that it was a successful film.

    It has generated some remarkable representations of the Iron Giant in the past few years, some quite reasonably price. I’ll admit that I’m tempted to pick one up myself. Oddly none of them have the child.

  6. I can’t remember laughing harder than at the scene where the Giant does a cannonball into the mountain lake. And just thinking about him saying “Superman” at the end makes me tear up. What a movie.

  7. The Iron Giant only got released through a quirk of Hollywood contracts and bookkeeping. Warner Bros. major experiment in producing original animated features, Quest for Camelot, was hideously expensive and tanked. The studio wanted to cut its losses and hightail it out of the animated feature business. They were going to cancel The Iron Giant entirely. But it turned out to be too expensive to shut the production down; more expensive than letting the picture run its course. So they let it go forward, though pushing the release date back several weeks. The studio had absolutely no expectation anyone would want to see it and drastically cut the publicity, promotion, and advertising budgets. To the point that, even though they had a presence at the San Diego Comic-Con, including a booth selling Warner Bros. merchandise, they did not include the film in its publicity activities and brought no The Iron Giant merchandise to the convention. That same merchandise was on sale at the Warner Bros. retail stores nationwide, including the one half a mile from the San Diego Convention Center. They didn’t think it worth the trouble. They’d just have to cart it all home when it didn’t sell.

  8. Craig Miller says That same merchandise was on sale at the Warner Bros. retail stores nationwide, including the one half a mile from the San Diego Convention Center. They didn’t think it worth the trouble. They’d just have to cart it all home when it didn’t sell.

    A search of eBay turns up that merchandise. It’s become a rather pricey twenty years on with the twenty inch Ultimate Iron Giant now going for at least three hundred and fifty dollars. It is a rather awesome figure.

    (The same is true for Warner Bro. merchandise. You can find such goodies as the Batman Beyond figure on eBay these days)

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