The Iron Giant (1999): Signature Edition [Blu-Ray]

irongiantA few years ago, Warner Bros. announced plans to give “The Iron Giant” a new Blu-Ray release, and merely was content with stuffing the DVD port over to Blu. Director Brad Bird was not happy with the announcement and asked fans to demand so much better as “The Iron Giant” deserved a lot better than a mere DVD transfer. I was one of those fans that tweeted and asked Warner Bros. to give “The Iron Giant” much better treatment than a simple transfer. I’m happy a shortly after, Warner has allowed consumers the option of two special deluxe editions of “The Iron Giant,” and Brad Bird is able to give fans a bang up edition that is pretty much the ultimate realization of his masterpiece. Not only is director Bird able to deliver his film in High Definition, but he manages to add a few small scenes here and there to inject more nuance and character depth. These alterations work in favor of “The Iron Giant” adding a bit more dimension and length for folks that always hoped for an extended edition.

The new scenes don’t really change “The Iron Giant” so much as they improve on an already perfect film. “The Iron Giant” is a very loose adaptation of “The Iron Man” by Ted Hughes, set in the fictional town of Rockwell Maine, in 1957 after the Soviets launched Sputnik, elevating cold war tensions. Along with tension, paranoia thickened the social consciousness, prompting many in the US to prepare for potential nuclear strikes and another world war. Nine year old Hogarth Hughes is a lonely child with a love for science fiction and horror, whose mom works hours to make ends meet. This leaves Hogarth with his imagination and his own devices. By chance Hogarth comes across the giant robot in the words on night, and flees in horror. Deciding to go back, he meets the iron giant, and realizes it’s a somewhat harmless behemoth suffering from an odd amnesia thanks to a dent on its head.

After learning the iron giant is anything but a menace, Hogarth and his new friend form a tight bond that revolves around learning about the world, forming a deep connection, and bonding over their similar love for boyish antics including horse play and comic books; Especially Superman, with whom the Iron Giant is fond of. But as the local government catches on to the giant’s presence, including slimy government agent Kent Mansley, Hogarth struggles to keep the giant hidden along with his new friend, local junkyard owner Dean. The heart of “The Iron Giant” is in the rich friendship between Iron Giant and Hogarth, where in the new world view of the giant allows Hogarth to gain a fond sense of his own world that he never knew existed. Despite being initially introduced as something of an isolated child, Hogarth is much wiser and savvier than he seems, and his bonding with the giant allows the pair to learn new things about themselves and this world.

Much of the dynamic is touching and spectacular from a trip to the swimming hole, to the giant’s first encounter with violence which prompts him to try and comprehend the concept of death. This comes in to play much later in the narrative when in the climax the giant grows something of a consciousness and realization that every being on Earth holds the power of life and death in their hands. The animation is still sharp and ingenious, paired with top notch voice work by the entire cast, including Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr, Christopher MacDonald, and Vin Diesel, respectively. Vin Diesel’s turn as the titular Iron Giant is simplistic and minimalistic, yet shockingly emotional through the very end. “The Iron Giant” is a masterpiece of contemporary animation and one I never tire of experiencing.

There is a wealth of extras on the Signature Edition of “The Iron Giant,” the new release of which comes in two editions. There’s “The Giant’s Dream” an hour long new and exhaustive documentary that chronicles of the life of director Brad Bird, his work on The Simpsons, and a detailed creation of The Iron Giant in to animated film form. There are looks at rough sketches, test footage, and interviews, along with a narration by Bird, a series of animators, producer Allison Abbate and various executives. “The Giant’s Dream” is a well done and surprisingly honest look at the development of the film, including conflicts within the studio and among the animators about Bird’s unique vision for such a remarkable film. There’s a commentary with Director Brad Bird, Head of Animation Tony Fucile, Story Department Head Jeff Lynch and Animation Supervisor Steven Markowski.

It’s the same one from the 2004 DVD release, and has been updated to fit the newly added scenes. There are fifteen minutes of deleted scenes with an optional introduction by Brad Bird from 2003, which includes longer takes on some scenes and some cut moments that don’t necessary add much. Among the other vintage features, there’s the five minute “Teddy Newton: The X Factor” which looks at the film crew member’s distinct look at the various story elements. “Duck and Cover Sequence” is a nice two minute look at the short film features in the film, and an eight minute look at the voices of The Iron Giant. The only actor who appears to speak is Vin Diesel. There’s a five minute look at the score from the late Michael Kamen, who focuses on three key moments in the film. There’s “Behind the Armor” a seventeen minute series of short featurettes discussing various elements of the production, including how the movie was born out of musician Pete Townshend’s efforts to make a musical based on the original book.

There’s a motion gallery to allow a film to concept sketch comparison, there’s the original trailer narrated by Brad Bird, and a Signature Edition Trailer for the theatrical re-release from 2015. There’s the twenty two minute “The Making of The Iron Giant” as hosted by Vin Diesel. This originally appeared on TV, which I fondly remember watching on the now defunct WB Channel in America and is a fun sneak peek at the movie with various interviews. There are vintage Easter Eggs including a letter by the author of the original book praising the screenplay and various drawings and animatics. “The Salt Mines” is a seven minute visit with crew member Andrew Jimenez who visits the Hutchinson Facility in Kansas where the physical drawings and sketches are stored in an underground vault under an active salt mine. Finally, there’s the one minute “Hand Drawn” which explains why director Brad Bird loves and is devoted to hand drawn animation to this day.