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35 Things We Learned from Brad Bird’s ‘The Iron Giant’ Commentary

Be honest. It got a little dusty in your room reading that and thinking of The Iron Giant.
The Iron Giant
Warner Bros.
By  · Published on December 11th, 2009

Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, we spend time with Brad Bird’s commentary for his beloved animated classic from 1999, The Iron Giant.

Be honest. It got a little dusty in your room reading that and thinking of The Iron Giant (1999). You teared up a bit. It’s okay. It happens to all of us. I’m sure it even happens to writer/director Brad Bird when he goes back and watches this animated classic from 1999. Well, that’s one of the things we’re about to find out here with the commentary track for this very film.

And, with Bird’s years at Pixar and his first, live-action feature, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, what better time do go back and see precisely what he, along with some of his top-notch animation team, has to say about The Iron Giant? So strap your boosters on, don’t be a gun, and enjoy what all we learned from the commentary track for The Iron Giant.

“You stay. I go. No following.”


The Iron Giant (1999)

Commentators: Brad Bird (writer, director), Jeffrey Lynch (story department head), Steve Markowski (designer for the Giant), Tony Fucile (head of animation)

Best in Commentary

“The Giant was animated by Andrew Brownlow and Mike Swofford.” – Brad Bird

“Storyboarded by Kevin O’Brien. A tough one.” – Jeffrey Lynch

“This creates another tough dilemma, because now that you’ve seen the destructive ability of this giant, it’s very easy to think of him as not being the Giant any more.” – Jeffrey Lynch

Final Thoughts

The Iron Giant is such a classic, it pains me to say this commentary isn’t an equal work of genius. There are great anecdotes about the voice acting, but much of the commentary falls into one of two categories. It’s either Bird talking us through specific scenes, telling us what is going on, what it works out with the information being delivered, and how it fits in with the themes of the film, or it’s name dropping.

Yes, I know those first two examples of Best in Commentary are NOT the best this commentary has to offer, but it’s certainly representative. Much of The Iron Giant commentary revolves around who animated what and the commentators throwing out names of people who worked on the film. That’s all well and good. I understand wanting to give credit to the people you worked with on a film, but the commentary here gets bogged down with “Richard Baneham animated this” or “John Bermudes animated that”. In fact, one of the last things Bird mentions on the commentary is how there were so many people he wasn’t able to name individually but that they’re listed in the end credits. Yes, in the end credits, not on the commentary track. Okay, cynicism aside, the film remains a wonderful classic, and it’s good to know great film makers like Brad Bird are moving onward and upward in the industry. I know that’s not about the commentary, but I didn’t want to end on a sour note.


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