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  • Adaptation Displacement: The film is (very) loosely inspired on the children's book The Iron Man. How loose? Well, there was an alien dragon, for starters, the size of Australia. Not to mention that the iron man doesn't "die" at the end.
  • All Animation Is Disney: Averted. The film is strong enough and unique enough that it easily stands on its own merits, and many consider it one of the, if not the, greatest non-Disney animated films ever.
  • Awesome Art: The traditional animation is some of the best to come out of a non-Disney animated film, but special mention goes to the giant, who, apart from being masterfully animated, had a special software developed for him to give him natural imperfections, helping him blend flawlessly into the 2D art.
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    • The Dream Sequence, completed for the signature edition, was animated by a 2D FX master, Michel Gagne. It is now arguably the most visually impressive part of the film.
  • Cult Classic: Initially doing poorly at the box office, the film is praised to this day as being an underrated masterpiece.
  • Designated Villain: While Kent is a creepy, rude jerkass to everybody (to the point of not even considering the safety of Rockwell's people when demanding that the missile be launched), he certainly isn't wrong about being scared and paranoid of the giant robot, especially since the giant has the capability to kill. Additionally, the story is set during the Cold War when everyone was paranoid of foreign technology, and nobody knew where the giant came from.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Okay, everybody will admit that the Giant transforming into a killing machine with crazy alien weapons is totally badass, but you know... killing machine.
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  • Ear Worm: The "Duck and Cover" song is very catchy. If you hear the full version on the DVD, it will get stuck in your head.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
  • Fanon: It's popular among fans to speculate that Mansley had been Reassigned to Antarctica before the events of the film, considering his high-and-mighty attitude in spite of clearly being in a dead-end government position that nobody takes seriously. And his many, many attitude problems.
  • Genius Bonus: When Hogarth and the Giant go out walking at night, pay attention to the moon in one scene. Just to the right of it, one of the stars can be seen moving. That's Sputnik.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: While Giant was a box office flop in the US that gained a Cult Classic status over time, it is very popular and highly-acclaimed in Japan. One of the ex-presidents of Studio Gainax had this to say about it:
    "Full of nostalgia to modern Americans. It is like My Neighbor Totoro to Japanese."
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  • Harsher in Hindsight: As more and more declassified Cold War documents reveal how close mankind was to unleashing World War 3 upon itself by accident, it may sit uncomfortably with some as Kent gives the order for the bomb to be dropped, quite accidentally and irrationally, in his own relative vicinity.
  • He Really Can Act: Vin Diesel as the Giant. He doesn't get much dialogue, but whenever the Giant speaks with his grunting and groaning, the mood is absolutely spot-on. The DVD features also reveal that less work was needed to create the mechanical sound from Diesel's vocals than you might think.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Dean getting a squirrel in his pants.
    • Also, Kent Mansley saying "Screw our country! I wanna live!" as his final lines in the movie after he unwittingly sent a nuke directly into the town becomes extremely ironic when the President in Shadow the Hedgehog (who's strongly implied to be the same president from Sonic Adventure 2) is redesigned to resemble Mansley.
    • For publicity, Eli Marienthal (Hogarth) did an interview with Scouting magazine Boys' Life. The magazine itself gets a mention in the film as Hogarth is showing his comics to the Giant...although not quite the one they would want.
    Hogarth: The Spirit, very cool...Boys' Life, meh...
    • All-Star Superman ends almost exactly like The Iron Giant, right down to the honorary statue of the hero and the strong hints of the hero being resurrected — which makes Iron Giant's reverent whisper [I choose to be] Superman! both hilarious and heartwarming.
    • Vin Diesel provided the voice for another Gentle Giant, albeit a wooden one this time. Groot's story even mirrors the Heroic Sacrifice and an ending scene that shows the character being revived afterwards. Bonus points in that Doc Kane, the exact same sound engineer who recorded him as the Giant, was used to record Diesel's performance for Groot.
    • In addition, the Superman references becomes ironic as Christopher McDonald, who plays the Big Bad Kent Mansley, had voiced Superman's father Jor-El in Superman: The Animated Series as well as Justice League Unlimited and later a middle-aged Superman in Batman Beyond.
      • Similarly, in the Brazilian dub, Mansley is voiced by Guilherme Briggs, who would later come to voice Superman in almost all of the character's appearances starting in 2001.
    • While the Iron Giant is flying after discovering his foot thrusters he encounters fighter jets that pursue and shoot at him. In order to shake two that are right on his tail, he reverses thrust in midair to "brake" causing the two jets to fly past him and lose visual contact. Nine years later, another Iron Man who uses foot thrusters to fly finds himself pursued and attacked by fighter jets. With two jets on his tail, he also employs a "braking" strategy to get them to fly past him and lose visual contact.
  • Memetic Molester: Some of Kent Mansley's behavior can be seen as creepier than it was meant to be. Special mention goes to the scene where he's watching Hogarth go to bed, which isn't helped by the fact that he crosses his legs in a way that looks suggestive. A scene from an early draft makes his behavior a thousand times worse.
    "Come on, Hogarth. Let's do the happy monkey. You know the one I mean."
  • Memetic Mutation: Dean's facial expressions are remarkably well-animated, such that he's (more specifically, him holding his coffee mug) become a source for reaction images on certain parts of 4chan.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Like a lot of Brad Bird's works, the film has been co-opted by some libertarians as being an anti-government/Objectivist piece of work, all the while ignoring the pro-gun control messages that Bird was really trying to convey. (See What Do You Mean, It's Not Political? below)
  • Misaimed Marketing: One of the only trailers released for the film was a series of out-of-context clips scored to Scorpions' "Rock You Like A Hurricane." It had absolutely nothing to do with what the movie was about, and the crew who worked on the film were horrified.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Mansley steals Hogarth's photos for his own use, interrogates and drugs the boy, threatens to have him taken away from his widowed mother, lies about the boy being killed to provoke a military response, and eventually subverts the chain of command by ordering a nuclear strike. And when he realizes that he's standing on ground zero, he shows that he's a Dirty Coward by screaming "Screw our country, I wanna live", assaulting a soldier, stealing a jeep and trying to flee. At least the Giant stops him and the General gives Mansley what he deserves.
  • Narm Charm: Hogarth's sincere "I love you" to the Giant just before his Heroic Sacrifice. Even people who have poked fun at it won't deny that it still made them weep.
    • The General gives another one with this legendary line in the middle of impending doom:
    General: WHERE'S THE GIANT, MANSLEY?
    • Speaking of Mansley, his Large Ham tendencies lead to a lot of hilariously over-the-top lines.
    Mansley: HOG HUG!? HOGARTH HUGHES!
  • One-Scene Wonder: Legendary Disney animators and Brad Bird's mentors Frank Thomas and Olie Johnston cameoing as the two rail men.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Sacred Cow: Considering how it still, to this day, makes 30-year old men cry tears both manly and not so manly, criticizing this film online is a very bad idea. Do not call this movie bad, do not make fun of the tragic scene with the deer dying, and absolutely do not, repeat, do not, make fun of the Giant's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Signature Scene:
    • Hogarth and the Giant's cannonballs at the lake.
    • The Iron Giant's rampage.
    • "Superman"...
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Friendly giant robots aside, this film is very explicit in its condemnation of nuclear weapons, and of paranoia and xenophobia in general. It also drops the anvil that you are who you choose to be.
  • Spiritual Adaptation
    • It's often considered one to Mitsuteru Yokoyama's Tetsujin 28-go (aka Gigantor), which is also about a boy controlling a giant robot.
    • It could also be considered one to Go Nagai's Mazinger Z (aka Tranzor Z), given the theme of the titular robot being a force for good or a force for evil.
    • It is also considered the best Superman movie in years, to the point that people have compared this movie favorably to Man of Steel, an actual Superman movie which was released over a decade after this movie.
  • Squick: Hogarth's Laxative Prank on Mansley.
  • Trailer Joke Decay: The scene of Hogarth and the Giant making their respective cannonballs into the lake. It was in all of the commercials and has since been quoted and re-enacted by pretty much every kid who saw it to the point of being a Bottom of the Barrel Joke. Fortunately, the joke's actual punchline manages to keep it as one of the funniest scenes in the movie.
  • Values Dissonance: A child walking into an adult man's house alone in the middle of the night and later being left alone with a different grown male stranger, both things viewed very differently today than the time period the film is set in. The fact the interrogation scene with the second stranger is vaguely, if unintentionally, rapacious only makes it worse.
  • Values Resonance: In a day and age where gun control is a much more fiercely debated topic, the film's message about weapons and killing aren't just relevant, they're important.
  • Vindicated by History:
    • The film was universally loved by critics and audiences, but that didn't save the film from bombing at the box office; Warner Bros.' marketing blitz for the home video release led to the film being seen by a wider audience, and now it's considered one of the greatest animated films ever.
    • Helping was Cartoon Network's now infamous Memorial Day marathons. Even when played over and over, back to back, for three days in a row, it still didn't get old.
  • What an Idiot!:
    • Kent Mansley, for not realizing that the giant's current location was where the missile is locked to, and how many lives he doomed in Rockwell.
      • Also for thinking you can simply "duck and cover" into a fallout shelter to survive a nuclear blast, although this was not an uncommon belief in the 1950s. Similarly, his apparent belief that he can outrun a nuclear blast in a goddamn Jeep.
    • The crew from the Nautilus, when they fired the missile without questioning whoever's calling in the radio. They didn't know Kent had taken Rogard's radio and ordered them to fire the missile. Even with the tech of the time, whoever was on the other side of the radio would've been clearly able to tell that Kent's voice was very different from Rogard's and probably would've heard Kent snatching it out of Rogard's hand. note 
    • A minor one occurs with Hogarth when he prepares to go searching for whatever destroyed his home's TV antenna. It wasn't exactly the brightest idea to tape his flashlight to his BB-gun in such a way that it blocks the gun barrel.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: The movie can be interpreted as having either a liberal or libertarian political message. Liberals like the movie for its anti-gun message and critiquing the idyllic 50s as popularized by many conservatives. Conversely, libertarians like the film for having an individualist message, with the titular Iron Giant carving out his own identity outside of being a weapon and for showing government forces and bureaucrats as antagonists seeking to destroy something they don't understand, something spectacular.
  • Woolseyism:
    • At the climax, Mansley says after launching the nuke "Screw our country! I wanna live!" before failing at escaping and getting arrested. In the European Spanish dub, he instead says "¡A la mierda el país, yo quiero vivir!" which translates to "Fuck this country, I wanna live!", making it even more hilarious.
    • In the Norwegian dub, Hogarth saying "Oh my God!" at the dinner table is even funnier as said phrase in Norwegian ("Herregud") is a cuss word (when said a certain way), making Annie's startled expression even more understandable. And then Hogarth says "Satan", which in Norwegian is almost as bad as saying "Fuck". That they were even allowed to keep it is hilarious.

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