Before becoming one of Pixar's most valuable filmmakers, Brad Bird of course worked on The Simpsons but he also made The Iron Giant, an animated feature about a little kid who befriends a giant robot in the 1950's.
Using a mix of 2D hand-drawn and computer animation to bring its characters to life, The Iron Giant was a critical hit and it soon became a beloved modern cult classic. Upon its release, however, it failed at the box-office and didn't come even close to matching its hefty $70M budget. This was due to Warner Bros. underestimating the film following a couple of financial set-backs and not wanting to invest in a proper marketing campaign. The movie eventually found its audience and the fact that it was once a flop is largely forgotten. The sweet, simple story is framed in post-war paranoia with the American government obsessed with competing against the Russians in the space race. When the titular Giant, who is far more adorable than its stature suggests early on, lands on Earth and starts causing growing panic in the small town of Rockwell, sneaky agent Kent Mansley (voiced by Christopher McDonald) makes it his mission to find it and destroy it, whatever its purpose may be.
We follow 9 year-old Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) as he encounters the Iron Giant and even saves its life before getting to know the intimidating yet harmless "monster" who doesn't seem to remember why he's even there. They quickly become friends as Hogarth teaches the Giant to speak and to be a hero like Superman instead of the killing machine he was built to be. As Kent Mansley gets closer to the truth, Hogarth's friendship with the Giant becomes stronger yet also more fragile, much like E.T. and Elliot in E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. This is a great looking film with excellent animation very much on Disney's level and the voice acting is flawless throughout from Harry Connick Jr. as junkyard hipster Dean to the likes of Jennifer Aniston (she plays Hogarth's mother) and Vin Diesel, the latter voicing the Giant's very few lines. The dated look and setting give the film a fun, unique retro feel and the bond between Hogarth and the Giant is genuinely sweet.
The Iron Giant is a kids' movie with a lot of style and a lot of heart, it's also very funny, clever and even a bit of a tearjerker at times. This is one that kids and adults alike can enjoy just as much and I certainly recommend checking it out if you haven't already.