The Iron Giant (Blu-ray) (1999)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 5-Oct-2016

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Audio & Animation-Animation plus Michael Kamen theme
Featurette-The Giant's Dream (55:47) New Bird bio plus making of
Audio Commentary-Feature length both versions
Deleted Scenes-6 scenes plus intros (15:13)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Teddy Newton (5:38)
Featurette-Duck and Cover (2:23)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Voices (13:52)
Featurette-Making Of-The Score (4:49)
Featurette-Making Of-Behind the Armor (17:29)
Featurette-Making Of-Motion Gallery (4:22)
Theatrical Trailer-Two trailers (4:01)
Easter Egg-Letter plus sketches (1:48)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Salt Mines (7:06)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Hand Drawn (1:40)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 89:58
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Brad Bird
Studio
Distributor
Warner Bros Feature
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Vin Diesel
Eli Marienthal
Jennifer Aniston
Harry Connick Jr
Chris Mcdonald
John Mahoney
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $21.95 Music Michael Kamen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Spanish
Korean
Portuguese
Czech
Romanian
Thai
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Iron Giant  has finally been released on Blu-ray in a Signature Edition which adds roughly three minutes to the running time of this much loved "family" classic.

    Originally released in 1999 this animated science fiction comedy-drama came from first time director Brad Bird (Ratatouille). Despite  widespread acclaim from audiences and critics alike, on its first release the movie was a severe financial failure, at least in the US. Blame was generally levelled at Warner Bros for poor marketing of a product in which the powers-to-be  had no faith. Over the years TV showings and the title's appearance on home video have built an enthusiastic fan base for what is now considered to be a classic of movie animation. This Blu-ray release was delayed to allow for the completion of an almost one hour new documentary on the making of the film, and its restoration. This release has been under the personal supervision of Brad Bird.

    The origin of Bird's movie lies in the 1968 children's novel The Iron Man, written by  poet Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death in 1998. Hughes' work became the basis of a Pete Townsend rock opera which eventually made its way from concept album to the stage. The stage work was ultimately bought by Warner Bros who thought it would be an ideal project for Brad Bird, whose previous experience had included Disney projects and The Simpsons. The fledgling director was given an unusual amount of creative control, and Bird, greatly impressed by Hughes' novel, originally wanted to write the screenplay himself. However, he was happy to hand the task to Tim McCanlies after reading this  writers, at the time, unproduced screenplay for Secondhand Lions.

    The great strength of The Iron Giant comes from its themes and its dependence on character. Despite the elements of fantasy and science fiction, this is a character driven plot. The movie opens, telling us we are in 1957. An object from space crashes into The Earth. Sailors, tossed in a storm, sight a huge out-of-this-world "thing". Later the same sailors tell their tale in a diner, overheard by a young boy. This is Hogarth Hughes, voiced by the now retired-from-acting Eli Marienthal (Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen). Hogarth is a nine-year-old boy being raised by his mother, Annie Hughes (Jennifer Aniston), living in Rockwell, a small (fictitious) town in Maine, USA, where Annie works at this local diner. Being October 1957, shortly after the launch of Sputnik, Hogarth is obsessed by comic books and movies depicting "invaders from mars", or any other creature visiting Earth from "outer space". Annie has to work late at the diner this night, and she sends Hogarth home, cautioning him to avoid eating food that might keep him awake and, more importantly, not to watch any scary movies on TV. At home, devouring the forbidden fare, food and TV, Hogarth's TV reception is interrupted. An annoyed Hogarth grabs a flashlight and goes outside to examine the antenna. Exploring further, Hogarth finds and befriends a large metal-eating robot. To entertain his new friend, Hogarth reads comics to  him. The giant robot is impressed by Superman, but disturbed by the negative depiction of  "Atomo the Metal Menace". Hogarth calms him, reassuringly telling him that "you are who you choose to be ". A new arrival in town is U.S. government agent Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald), there to investigate the recent unexplained events and sightings since the night of the storm. Kent rents a room in the Hughes household, in order to keep an eye on Hogarth. To conceal his iron friend, Hogarth moves him to a local junkyard owned by beatnik artist Dean McCoppin (Harry Connick Jr), who is attracted to Annie. When he becomes alarmed by the possibility of an attack by aliens, Kent calls in the military, headed by General Rogard (John Mahoney of TV's Frasier).

    Given this set of characters - just six of them - the outcome is undeniably predictable. However it is the development of character and the shift of emotions that raises The Iron Giant to  considerable heights. Hogarth is a sensitive loner, and from the outset we are drawn into his world by the detail in his efforts to fix his TV antenna problems, problems that lead him to discover the iron robot. Then we have the robot's conflict over his own identity. What will be dominant, the Superman qualities he possesses or those of Atomo the Metal Menace? Compounding this, we have the reassurance from Hogarth that, within one's self lies the ability to choose who or what we are to be. We have the sensitive introduction of death to the scenario, after the unlikely duo witness the death of a deer at the hands of hunters. Even the depiction of a mature attraction between Dean and Annie is surely unusual for an animated feature, enhanced particularly by the voicework of Harry Connick Jr (New in Town). This admirable actor is able to give the two dimensional, animated Dean loads of warmth, charm,  humour and masculinity - guess that's part of the reason that HCJ is such a darned good singer. There is also good work from the remainder of the voice cast, particularly from Jennifer Aniston (Marley & Me) and Vin Diesel (Riddick).

    Regarding those three additional minutes, there are three changes to the original release. At approximately half an hour in  there is a minor change, an alteration to a commercial which appears on Hogarth's black-and-white TV screen. What was once a "Maypo Cereal" ad has been replaced by a promotion for Disney's Tomorrowland. Licensing problems  caused this substitution when the film was originally released, but now that Bird is sheltered by the Disney umbrella the originally planned ad is securely back in place. The two more significant changes are actually two complete scenes. At approximately fifteen minutes into the film there is a scene in the diner between Dean and Annie which fleshes out the relationship between these two key adults in Hogarth's life. However, the most significant new footage is seen approximately fifty-five minutes into the film, just after the poignant moonlit scene between Hogarth and his Iron Giant. After witnessing the violent death of a deer, the boy and the robot have just attempted to verbalise some of the key themes of this meaningful work, the themes of life, killing, death and the existence of a being's soul. Then the boy leaves the robot and heads for home on his bicycle, while his metal friend gazes at the stars musing over Hogarth's parting words : "Souls don't die". The camera pans to the stars. Cut to Dean, dozing in front of his TV, the stars now becoming part of the logo for Tonight Starring Jack Paar. Through Dean's window the iron robot is visible, sleeping in the dark junkyard. Dreaming in his sleep, The Iron Giant experiences flashes of memories and feelings which in turn flash onto Dean's TV screen. Dean stirs, unsure whether he has been dreaming or not. He looks out of the window at the sleeping metal robot and then back to the TV, unsure of what has happened. He turns his head back to the robot, his face questioning. Cut to Hogarth cycling up to his home. This is a dramatic and beautifully executed sequence which relates directly to the sensitive core of this film.

    There are multiple themes in this film, but they are all connected so that the viewing experience becomes incredibly rich and meaningful. The final metaphor of The Iron Giant is  stunningly realized. Sometimes in life we are shot down and broken into pieces. What one must do is pick up the pieces, pull one's self together and move on. These final images and their message linger long after the movie has ended.
    This movie has action, laughs and heart. It looks great, sounds great and this new extended version makes it an even more meaningful and moving experience.
    Most highly recommended.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This single disc Blu-ray comes with the two versions of the film, the original Theatrical Version (86:39) and the extended Signature Edition (89:58).
    The two versions are of equal visual quality, the widescreen framing (2.40:1) often reflecting the era in which the tale is set, the 1950s. Evidently Brad Bird loved that period in the cinema, and even wanted to put the iconic CinemaScope logo on the original poster. He wasn't permitted to do this, but you will see an homage to the groundbreaking anamorphic process in the credits at the conclusion of the movie. From the first to the last frame this is a fabulous looking widescreen experience.
    The Iron Giant is composed of both traditional hand-drawn animation as well as CG elements, notably in the depiction of The Giant. The 1080p image comes from a new scan of the original 35mm elements, scanned and colour corrected under the personal supervision of Brad Bird. The happy end result is that we have on this disc a presentation that is as close as possible to what the creator intended. There is a cinematic quality to the widescreen, finely grained image, but never any loss in detail whether in the brighter scenes, with vibrant, but never oversaturated primaries, or in the so important darker scenes, particularly towards the end of the movie. You will find no visible flaws in this presentation.
   
    The English for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired subtitles were sampled and were excellent, presented in white and centred at the foot of the image.

.

Audio

    There are seven audio tracks : English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 encoded at 48K, as well as French, German Spanish Castellano, Spanish Latino, Portuguese and Thai, all Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 48K.
    The 5.1 English track is excellent. All dialogue, front and centred, is crystal clear, and very much in sync with the animation. Effects are immersive, distributed around the entire sound field without any respite. Quieter dialogue scenes are complemented by subtle ambience, whether interior domestic or diner scenes, with the outdoors scenes alive with the sounds of nature. The action scenes, particularly anything involving the Giant, are as aurally dynamic as any big action flick. And when The Giant walks ... the subwoofer almost bounces across the room. The exciting soundtrack is yet another aspect of this movie that reflects the love of fifties movies that obviously drove Brad Bird - from the widescreen CinemaScope process to the excitement of stereophonic sound.
    There are two aspects to the music of The Iron Giant. Firstly there is the distinctly quirky assortment of pop tracks from the 50s, tracks featuring such diverse talents as Jimmie Rodgers, The Coasters, Mel Torme, and Ray Charles amongst others. This is all good - and appropriate - fun and nicely reproduced throughout. Of much more importance is the beautiful and often majestic score composed by the late great Michael Kamen (Robin Hood : Prince of Thieves). Symphonic in nature, and magnificently played by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the score was recorded in only one week in Prague, and without the use of film cues. Kamen was able to compose without the usual time restrictions, and the result is a rich, emotional experience, beautifully played, recorded and reproduced.
    The soundtrack is yet another reason to love The Iron Giant.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is one of the best collections of extras you will find on any disc. Most were on earlier releases, but there is a brand new almost one hour documentary.

Menu

    The menu screen features animation plus the beautiful Michael Kamen theme. Options are :

        * Play
        * Scene Selection : Signature Edition option : thirty-four chapters
                                      Original Edition option : thirty-four chapters
                                      Selecting brings up an overlay of thumbnailed chapters, six sets each of five scenes, plus additional four scenes.
        * Audio : English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 encoded at 48K
                       French : Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 48K
                       German : Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 48 K
                       Spanish - Castellano : Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 48K
                       Spanish - Latino : Dolby Digital 5.1 endoded at 48K
                       Portuguese : Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 48K
                       Thai : Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 48K

       * Subtitles : English for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired
                          French
                          German for the Hard of Hearing
                          Spanish - Castellano
                          Spanish - Latino
                          Korean
                          Portuguese
                          Czech
                          Romanian
                          Thai

Special Features :
The very good news is that this is an exceptional collection of special features - one of the very best.

Feaurettes :
Unless otherwise indicated all special features are standard definition.

The Giant's Dream  : (55:47)
This is newly made for this release, and is both a biography of Brad Bird as well as a detailed "making of" for the movie itself. We are taken from Bird's childhood obsession with animation, through his apprenticeship at Disney, working on the Simpsons, then with Warner Bros where he first was introduced to this project. We have glimpses of his private life, the influence of his sister's death, his clashes with his producer on The Iron Giant. It all comes across as being very honest - and I suspect that the title of this documentary may refer to the director as well as to his "leading man". This is 1080p material, and presented at varying ratios. The segments that relate to older 1.33:1 material are also presented at that ratio, while we go to 1.78:1 if the available material is widescreen. Connecting animated sequences, single line black and white animated sketches, are all 1.78:1.

Commentary :
The excellent commentary can be played with both versions of the film. The discussion is provided by Brad Bird (Director), Jeffrey Lynch (Head of the Story Department), Steve Markowski (Supervising Animator) and Tony Fucile (Head of Animation). This is the same commentary as appeared on the 2004 Special Edition DVD. In this detailed and mostly constant discussion, Bird and his co-workers discuss and pay tribute to  the contributions of the various animators who worked on the film. Specific story points are discussed as well as plot elements that were abandoned. This is not one of those back-slapping, back scratching commentaries, but it is a serious and thoughtful discussion of the creation of something they are all very proud of.
The Signature Edition commentary has added new contributions from Bird alone. He discusses the commercial switch (29:18), the conversation in the diner between Annie and Dean ( 15:51) and the Giant's Dream (54:46).

Deleted Scenes (Vintage 2003)
: ( 15:13)
Brad Bird introduces six deleted, or ultimately shortened, scenes. Bird indicates why a particular decision was made, eitther to alter or to cut completely. Presented at 4:3, with matted sequences intended for the film, all have completed audio, although "Dean" does not sound like Harry Connick Jr, but survive at different stages of completion. Some are at the storyboard stage, while others are incomplete animation. It is an indication of the control of the production of the movie that there is nothing here that would have been unwanted padding. The scenes are :
Original Opening Sequence (5:38)
Campfire (1:27)
The Drag Race (1:14)
Tired at Breakfast (2:33)
Original Introduction of Hogarth and Annie (2:38) : Here we lose the wonderful moment with a sailor freshly rescued from the storm saying, "It looked at me".
Classroom (1:43) : Bird explains why Cloris Leachman's role is sadly reduced to only one line.

Teddy Newton : The X Factor (Vintage 2003) : (05:38)
Here we meet Teddy Newton, one of the fertile young minds from the Storyboard Departrment who contributed his imagination to the movie. There is a very amusing Storyboard Reel of a sequence Newton proposed to Bird to depict the first date between Annie and Dean.

Duck and Cover Sequence (Vintage 2003)  : (02:23)
Teddy Newton again presenting his first assignment on the movie, the crazy storyboard for the "Duck and Cover" jingle.

The Voices of THE IRON GIANT (Vintage 2003) : (08:15)
The voicing of five of the characters is given very slight treatment here. We do see Vin Diesel, Eli Marienthal and Chris McDonald on screen, but mostly it is comments by Brad Bird and producer Allison Abbate, with animator James Van der Keyl adding a bit more to the comments on the "Kent Mansley"  voicing by Chris McDonald. The characters whose voices are discussed are :
The Iron Giant (2:39) : Brad Bird tells us that he cast Vin Diesel after seeing the actor in Multi-Facial, a 1994 20 minute drama written, directed, produced, scored, as well as starring, the actor.
Hogart Hughes (2:01)
Dean McCoppin (1:11)
Annie Hughes (1:04)
Kent Mansley (1:20)

The Score (Vintage 2003)
: (04:49)
The composer Michael Kamen discusses three sequences from the film. The three sequences are :
The Opening Sequence (1:40)
The Deer (1:28)
Kent and Hogarth (1:41)
This is great film music, and the only regret is that this isn't longer. The composer informs us that he first saw the film with Brad Bird's temp score, using Bernard Herrmann themes. I wish I knew more. Kamen was obviously thrilled to be conducting the Czech Philharmonic in their Prague Concert Hall. The CD of the score for The Iron Giant has become a very expensive collector's piece.

Behind the Armor (Vintage 2003)
: (17:29)
Half a dozen  insights into the production with the talking heads of Brad Bird and others from his young production team.
The Warner Bros Logo (1:10) : Andrew Jimninez (Animatics Department) designs the new Warner Bros Feature Animation Logo.
The Origin of The Giant (2:35) : Early concepts for the design of the giant and the insistence on simplicity.
The |Origin of the Movie (5:10) : Pete Townsend takes his stage musical work to Warner Bros  who include it in projects offered to Brad Bird.
Bringing The Giant to Life (2:10) : Emotion and personality are brought to the design.
Storyboards and Animatics (3:36) : Moving from Storyboarding to  Animatics  - fascinating and  I wish there was more of this.
The Battle Sequence (2:48) : Budget restrictions limit  what could be included in the climactic action sequence.

Motion Gallery (Vintage 2003 )
: (04:22)
Here we have the finished on screen product compared to various developmental drawings and animatics.

"Brad Bird" Trailer
: (01:29)
A very good dramatic trailer, effectively narrated by the director.

Signature Edition Trailer
: (02:32)
Presented at the ratio 1.78:1, and 1080p , we have the trailer for the 2015 re-release.

The Making of THE IRON GIANT (Vintage 1999)
: (22:05)
This was part of the original PR campaign for the film's first release, designed to be shown on the former WB channel. Hosted by Vin Diesel we have interviews with Brad Bird, Jennifer Aniston, Eli Marienthal, Chris McDonald, John Mahoney and Harry Connick, Jr. Obviously aimed at a young audience, this remains an interesting and informative half hour - more like twenty-two minutes without the commercial breaks. The first segment deals with the voices of the characters, with Vin Diesel's major contribution  backed up by those of the other five major voice actors. It is particularly pleasing to get a good look at the young actor who voiced Hogarth,  Eli Marienthal. The next segment of the program deals with the animators, with contributions from various members of the production team, plus producer Allison Abbate. The third segment deals with the sound of the movie, with welcome glimpses of Michael Kamen and the Czech Philharmonic. Finally we have a few snippets from the WB animation vaults which have influenced Brad Bird.

Vintage Easter Eggs (Vintage 2003)
: (01:48)
A January 1998 letter from author Ted Hughes to the producer in which he praises the film's screenplay is followed by a short collection of concept drawings.

The Salt Mines
: (07:06)
From the production team, Andrew Jiminez  takes us to the Kansas salt mines where all of the physical drawings for the film are stored in an underground vault beneath the active salt mine.

Hand Drawn : (01:40)
Bird explains why he remains devoted to hand-drawn animation in an industry which is increasingly dominated by CG imagery.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The local Zone B release appears to be identical to the US release.

 

Summary

    On Blu-ray for the first time this classic of animation deserves to be on every shelf. Exciting, genuinely humorous and meaningful this is a film to be treasured and shared. This revised version even has two new scenes.The picture quality and the sound are perfect and the extras are extensive and excellent. If you love movies, then buy it. If you have kids or grandkids then buy it and share it with them. This is great entertainment, and a  remarkable, beautiful film given the release it deserves.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDOPPO BDP-103AU, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 60UF850T 4K. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE