Brad Bird introduces The Giant's Dream: The Making of the Iron Giant.
... The documentary spends a good deal of time examining how “The Iron Giant” succeeded in making a moving, human story about a robot and a small boy contemplating the meaning of life. Citing “the best test scores” Warner Bros. had seen since the mid-’80s and widespread support from critics, “The Giant’s Dream” successfully balances the good and bad of the film; and deftly explains how a film quickly seen as a flop could develop into a relevant tale for modern audiences, especially in light of recent gun-related tragedies.
Insights abound throughout the feature-length documentary — soon to be available on a new Blu-ray edition of “The Iron Giant” — and it’s notable the feature includes no talking heads. Voiceover accompanies original animation, behind-the-scenes footage and a few interviews conducted during the film’s original release. ...
I remember when Warner Bros. Feature Animation started making Iron Giant. The division was in trouble. It had released Space Jam (a hit) and Quest For Camelot (decidedly not a hit) and there had been management changes. The company did not give Iron Giant a large budget, but a dedicated crew turned out a superior movie.
The downside was, Giant didn't perform at the box office. A lot of the animation community was not happy about this, and there was anger at Warner Bros for botching the release, but maybe the feature was out of synch for its time. Audiences were flocking to CG animated features and ignoring CG's older, hand-drawn cousins. (It didn't help that many of the 2-D features released at the end of the nineties were not as strong as the specimens from the front of the decade.)
So let's conjecture idly.
If The Iron Giant had been made as a CG feature in 1999, with the same designers, actors, and story beats, how would have it performed? More than likely very well.