‘The Iron Giant’ Original Ending Revealed by Brad Bird

By October 1, 2015
The Iron Giant Featured Image

When you go back and watch Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant now, it’s not hard to see why the movie has become so beloved over the years since its original 1999 theatrical release. Aside from the movie’s gorgeous animation and aesthetic, the relationship that develops between Hogarth and the Giant throughout the film is one of, in my opinion, the greatest non-romantic relationships ever told onscreen and sits right up there with E.T. and Elliot for me.

As fans go back to into theatres to see The Iron Giant: Signature Edition too over the weekend, it’s difficult to imagine the movie’s story being any different. Everything that happens throughout the film’s run time feels organic and real. Whether it be how Hogarth’s relationship with the others around him changes, or the last scene of the Giant being put back together in the ice – it all just works.

During a recent interview with Collider though, Bird revealed what the original ending for the film was going to be, and how he came up with some of the elements that make theatrical ending so special. When asked why he decided to bring the Giant back at the end of the film, he responded with the following:

“That was all –I actually wanted him not to come back initially and Tim McCanlies who wrote the first draft of the script said, “Are you crazy? Do you know how many kids you’re gonna crush if you don’t?” and then I though. “Well, that’s true whether you believe in God or don’t. There’s certainly no proof that God does exist, and a lot of people imagine that there is life beyond this one, that there might have been a life before this one and there might be a life after this one” and so I didn’t mind suggesting that in its own weird way. But I got convinced very early on that that was a better way to end the film and that it was properly set up. I think you could make a case for it in nature too, nature is always reconstituting itself too and busting apart and coming back together, so it seemed to me like it would be a good decision.


But what wasn’t there until later in the writing process was him –When I wrote the part of the Giant flying up to meet it, it felt like it needed some little thing and I thought of Hogarth saying “You are who you choose to be” and then the Superman thing came to me and I remember the moment. There was only one other person at the studio that weekend, it was Jeff Lynch who was the head of storyboarding, he was in another room and I was writing and at that moment when I had that idea I hesitated, and I hesitated for the reason that you always hesitate when something is emotional, is you don’t wanna be caught at being emotional because you’re kind of hanging your heart out there and you don’t wanna seem like you’re trying to get people. But it made me emotional when I thought of it so I went, “What the hell” and I wrote the superman thing. And I’m glad I did because every time we screened it within the studio at that point, people cracked up, we’d have 30 people in a room and just showed it on the editing machine and people would choke up and I thought, “Wow something’s working here”.

Coming from someone who absolutely loves that Superman pose at the end – this was a fascinating read, that also gave some nice insight into how the film was made, and Bird’s creative process in his projects. While it’s easy to see the poetic reasons behind why he might not have initially wanted the Giant to come back at the end, the amount of childhood joy and whimsy that plays such a large role throughout the movie, including the ending, makes it so that I wouldn’t want it any other way.

That same carefree attitude has echoed throughout the entirety of Bird’s career too, and it’s nice to be able to go back and watch The Iron Giant again, even if just to see where one of the most beloved filmmakers working today began.

The Iron Giant: Signature Edition will return to theatres one more time on October 4th.

Make sure to keep checking back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.

Alex Welch

Alex Welch

Alex dreams of meeting a girl with a yellow umbrella, and spends too much time* staring at a movie screen. His vocabulary consists mostly of movie quotes and 80s song lyrics. *Debatable