The Art of the Iron Gi­ant

Fi­nally, the film of a boy and his ro­bot gets its own ‘art of’ book. We find out if this ret­ro­spec­tive ex­er­cise was worth the wait

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Seven­teen years after its the­atri­cal re­lease, the film of a boy and his gi­ant alien ro­bot fi­nally gets its own ‘art of’ book. Was it worth the wait?

Re­leased back in 1999, The Iron GI­ant didn’t ex­actly break box of­fice records. But 17 years on, there’s still huge love for it. That’s partly be­cause it was one of the last an­i­mated films of the hand-drawn era, and partly be­cause it built on Ted Hughes’ short story so beau­ti­fully. So it’s high time it got the art book treat­ment.

This gor­geous 148-page, large­for­mat hard­back be­gins with a fore­word by di­rec­tor Brad Bird, who ex­plains how the mak­ing of the film in­volved a long pe­riod of cre­ative ex­plo­ration in­volv­ing “a won­der­ful va­ri­ety of vis­ual ap­proaches.” This was then fol­lowed by a “hur­ried rush of art­work gen­er­ated to quickly nail down a pro­ducible look.” A wide range of in­cred­i­ble art was cre­ated in both pe­ri­ods, and this book brings to­gether the best of both ap­proaches.

Au­thor Ramin Za­hed keeps the text – which in­cludes new in­ter­views with Bird and other key mem­bers of the film’s cre­ative team – short and to the point. This pro­vides am­ple room for fas­ci­nat­ing prepara­tory sketches and evoca­tive con­cept art by the likes of Vic­tor Haboush and Do­minique Louis. We also get to see de­tailed back­grounds and sto­ry­boards, as well as al­ter­na­tive im­ages and plot­lines ul­ti­mately re­jected by the film-mak­ers.

In all, this smor­gas­bord of an art book of­fers a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into the cre­ative process be­hind hand­drawn an­i­ma­tion, and one of its best re­cent show­cases.

The Iron Gi­ant hides in a work­shop, while con­tem­plat­ing a metal snack, in Vic­tor Haboush’s con­cept art.

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