If this were a better world we were living in, The Iron Giant would be on as many DVD shelves as the cream of Pixar’s crop. After all, it was directed by one “Brad Bird,” a bloke you might have heard about in connection to another animated flick called “The Incredibles.” He’s a ridiculously talented gentlemen, and his Hollywood cred only continues to rise in the wake of his live-action directorial debut, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which earned nearly $700 million worldwide. Yet, in spite of all of that, Bird is still having to haggle with Warner Bros. just to get them to release a decent Blu-ray version of The Iron Giant. To borrow a phrase from Firefly’s Jubal Early, does that seem right to you?
A fan on Twitter asked Bird about when the criminally underseen Iron Giant might get the giant Blu-ray release it deserves. The good news is that Bird is trying to make it happen. The bad news, well:
“@SeriousBug: Any idea when we'll see The Iron Giant on Blu-ray?” WB & I have been talking. But they want a bare bones disc. I want better.
— Brad Bird (@BradBirdA113) April 23, 2014
Warners’ reluctance to give The Iron Giant a quality Blu-ray release is frustrating, but it isn’t surprising. Bird’s Giant may have become a beloved cult classic to many, but it’s been the victim of bad luck pretty much from the start. When it opened in August 1999, The Iron Giant premiered at a brutal ninth place at the box office, and it went on to gross only $23 million domestically (with another $8 million outside the States). I remember seeing The Iron Giant on opening weekend and immediately falling in love…inside a mostly empty theater. It’s hugely depressing even all these years later, but The Iron Giant was the victim of a WB marketing campaign that didn’t seem to have a clue how to promote it, resulting in a critically acclaimed animated classic that far too few people have actually seen.
Based on Ted Hughes’ 1968 novel The Iron Man, Bird’s Iron Giant is set in 1957, after the launch of the Russian Sputnik satellite had turned everyone’s eyes skyward. Young Hogarth Hughes (voiced by Eli Marienthal) finds a giant alien robot lurking in the woods near his home and befriends the enormous metal colossus. Unfortunately, a government agent knows something not of this world crashed into the ocean nearby and becomes convinced that Hogarth knows more than he’s letting on. The Iron Giant is a charming, funny, and genuinely touching tale that everybody on the planet needs to see at least once, and if the emotional finale doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, I’m afraid you and I can’t be friends.
Warners’ plan to give The Iron Giant a bare bones Blu-ray is doubly irritating when you consider that a collection of related bonus features has already been released. The 2004 special edition Iron Giant DVD included deleted scenes, featurettes, and more. It certainly wasn’t a Criterion-level everything-and-the-kitchen-sink set, but it was better than nothing, and you wouldn’t think it would be that difficult to just transfer those bonus features over onto the Blu-ray. That said, I’d love to see an even fancier Blu-ray that includes, say, a commentary from Bird, and given how passionate fans tend to be about The Iron Giant, I have no doubt many of them would happily fork over the cash for a top-quality Blu-ray release.
So, is there anything Iron Giant fans can do to help Bird change Warners’ mind? The director suggests to simply “Let them know; @WBHomeEnt.” You heard the man, folks — let the Warner Bros. harassment campaign commence!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go rewatch the end of the movie and sob huge, undignified sobs all over my keyboard.