Oh Iron Giant, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
If you’ve never seen The Iron Giant, go now and rent it.
Then buy it.
And love it forevermore.
This is the second film I’m going to gush over from my list of favorite animated films. You can see the whole list here.
Again, I’m not giving a summary of the story. And it’s a given that I love it for the story and the strong characters and stuff. That’s usually why I love the films I love.
Spoiler Alert: I might be giving away a few of the good bits here, so if you haven’t seen it, you’ve been warned.
Here are some of my favorite moments (and other thoughts) of The Iron Giant. With maybe a few lessons thrown in. It was really hard to pick just a few. There so were many more I could have chosen.
Here’s why I love The Iron Giant.
Brad Bird directed it. You know the Simpsons? The Incredibles? Ratatouille? Yeah. That guy. If there’s anyone I’d like to share a beer with and talk about storytelling, this would be the guy.
Nothing about the story bugs me. Really. Nothing. It’s damn near perfect. There’s virtually nothing I’d tweak or change. Wow.
Great ‘reveal’ of the Giant to Hogarth. Hogarth has gone out to the woods to investigate. He’s looking around in the night.
Then the Giant’s head swivels around in the background to reveal his glowing eyes. Our eyes go right to it. Simple, powerful (and a little creepy) at the same time.
The ‘Duck and Cover’ film. Gotta see it and understand the fifties to really appreciate it. Funny as hell and there is reference made to it near the end of the movie. It wasn’t there for nothing.
Great ‘reveal’ of a gag. When people first start storyboarding, the biggest mistake I see is the use of camera movement. They just throw them in all willy-nilly, thinking it was about time to add one.
No. Every camera movement should have a reason.
And one of those reasons is a ‘reveal’. Using a Truck-Out (pull back, zoom out, dolly out, etc) to reveal a gag is one of those times.
Here’s a great one. Kent has gone back to his car with the bitten rifle. He gets in and is about to place the rifle on the seat beside him.
Camera starts to pull out quickly…
To reveal the big bite out of his car. Too great.
Shots tell the story and so can camera movements. Use them to your advantage.
The ‘lost hand’ sequence. Such a great piece of business that doesn’t get tiring to watch. I love how the little wrist bit wags like a tail. Hogarth saying grace while the hand mucks about in the kitchen is priceless.
Then it continues when Kent shows up and Hogarth pushes the hand out the bathroom window. Then his mom opens the door and he’s on the toilet. Funny, fast, visual. Kids and adults can all get a laugh out of it.
The ‘little acting moments’. This is where it shines and feels real. Little bits of dialogue and fun little moments that add depth and flavour and all sorts of storytelling yumminess. Like when Kent is on the phone with the General.
He’s in Hogarth’s kitchen and the General is laughing at him. The camera pans to a goofy potholder (like it’s laughing at him). Kent then turns the potholder around to hide the face. So great. There’s lots of these moments in the film.
When Hogarth asks Dean if the Giant can stay at the scrap yard. Sometimes words are funny.
When the Giant does a cannonball into the lake. Again the details of Dean’s newspaper just adds to the fun.
I wish I could show the whole sequence. When Dean lands (still in his chair) in the road and keeps saying, “Yeah?!” to the guy in the truck. The deadpan look on his face. Acting. Timing. Great.
The deer sequence. Things start to get more serious here. A message starts to emerge.
Death and guns.
And we get a glimpse there may be more to this metal Giant.
It wakes the audience up.
When the Giant almost shoots Hogarth. We’ve just come out of some lighter sequences here. When they fake out the army and all that. Back to some fun when he spins Hogarth in the car. But then it gets serious again. We start to get worried.
When we see the Giant for what he really is. Like in the Lion King, this is when 3D is at its best. This would not have been nearly as awesome if the Giant was hand drawn. The details made us go “Coooooool!” even though emotionally we might have been going “Oh no!!”. Great design work here that we can really geek out over.
“You choose who you want to be. Choose.” – Hogarth to the Giant.
While the Giant was pointing his gun at him. Big moment. And the message of the whole film.
“Soooooopermaaaannnnnnn” – Giant. I challenge you not to choke up at this scene.
Go on. You can’t.
The little bolt. I won’t give away everything here. But if you’ve seen the film, you know what I’m talking about. Hope. Happiness. We know what’s happening because of an earlier sequence.
And no cheesy sequel. Please, for love of all that is well and good in the world, NO cheesy sequel.
It would spoil the perfection that is The Iron Giant.
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