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A Bug's Life (1998)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/19/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/23/2009

Throughout its history, Hollywood has seen more than its share of success stories. But, has anyone had a better streak than Pixar? The computer generate animation specialists have released nine feature films thus far, and have enjoyed nine hits, both financially and critically. And their upcoming tenth release, Up, looks as if it will continue this trend. In addition, their animated shorts have won many awards. When there is a discussion of Pixar's movies, the usual suspects like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles are discussed. For some reason, the studios second feature, A Bug's Life, doesn't get as much credit as it should. Perhaps the new Blu-ray Disc release of the film will help to rectify this.

A Bug's Life takes place in an anthill which resides under a large tree. As the story begins, we see the ants vigorously gathering food and placing it in a large pile while the anxious Princess Atta (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) watches. An industrious, yet accident-prone ant named Flik (voiced by Dave Foley), has invented a machine to harvest the food faster, but Princess Atta dismisses him. The ants finish their pile and scurry into their anthill. We then learn that the ants have been gathering the food for a gang of mean grasshoppers, lead by the evil Hopper (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Unfortunately, Flik's invention has knocked all of the food into a stream and now it's gone. Enraged, Hopper gives the ants one more chance and leaves. Flik suggests that should find "warrior bugs" to help the colony fight the grasshoppers. Assuming that this plan won't work, Princess Atta gives her blessing. Flik stumbles across a circus troupe -- consisting of Manny the praying mantis (voiced by Jonathan Harris), Rosie the spider (voiced by Bonnie Hunt), Gypsy the moth (voiced by Madeline Kahn), Francis the ladybug (voiced by Denis Leary), Slim the walking stick (voiced by David Hyde Pierce), Dim the rhino beetle (voiced by Brad Garrett) and Tuck & Roll the pill bugs (voiced by Michael McShane) -- and mistakes them for warriors. Needing a gig, the circus bugs go with Flik, planning to eat and run. However, they can resist the admiration they receive from the colony and soon everyone is preparing to fight the grasshoppers.

Seriously, where's the love for A Bug's Life? Is it because Dreamworks' Antz was released around the same time and people get them confused? I don't see how that could happen, as A Bug's Life is a colorful fun film, while Antz was...brown. Given how fascinated the movie-going public was by Toy Story, they should have been equally enthused by A Bug's Life. Granted the film did bring in over $160 million in the U.S. alone, but for some reason, it hasn't remained the in collective conscious.

While Toy Story is an undeniable classic, the story is a bit pedestrian - who hasn't wondered if toys walk and talk when no one is around? With A Bug's Life, we get a more original tale. Are ants and grasshoppers natural enemies in real life? I honestly don't know, but it makes for a good story. A Bug's Life also gives us a ton of great characters. To this day, Flik remains one of my favorite Pixar creations. He is the epitome of the hero who is doomed to failure, but this never crushes his spirit. Dave Foley brings both heart and humor to the role and Flik is responsible for some very funny moments in the movie. Sure, the "let's band together against a common enemy" plot isn't breaking much new ground, but the story is very well-structured and never boring. Director John Lasseter has proven once again that he knows how to spin a yarn.

Story aside, A Bug's Life is worth seeing for the animation alone. Along with Finding Nemo, this remains one of Pixar's most colorful movies and the animation here is simply gorgeous. Sure, the ants are blue and purple and while that has nothing at all to do with reality, it adds another shade to this film. The level of detail in the animation is incredible and one must remember that this was done at a time when the animators didn't have the computing power which they do today.

I hate to sound like a A Bug's Life cheerleader, but I've always wanted this film to get the respect which it deserves. It was made at a time when Pixar still understood that quality is better than quantity and the film's 95-minute running time is perfect. The animation is great, the characters are fun, there's a genuinely scary villain, and there are some classic humorous moments in the film. A Bug's Life can carry ten times its own weight in entertainment.

A Bug's Life ruins your picnic on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image here is simply beautiful, as the picture is incredibly sharp and clear. There is no grain and no defects from the source material. (This is a digital-to-digital transfer.) The colors look amazing and literally pop off of the screen at times. The level of detail is great, as is the picture's depth. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track provides great stereo effects which are nicely detailed and show good separation. The surround sound effects are excellent and draw the viewer into the action scenes. For a "family film", the subwoofer effects are great, with booming bass in some scenes. (Simply check out the Dot rescue scene to get an idea of how good this track is.)

The A Bug's Life Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features, most of which appeared on the original 2-disc DVD release. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from John Lasseter, Andrew Staton, and Lee Unkrich. The Disc contains the short "Geri's Game" (5 minutes), which played in theaters with A Bug's Life. "Filmmakers' Roundtable" (21 minutes) offers a modern discussion from Lasseter, Stanton, Darla Anderson, and Kevin Reher who reflect on the film. "A Bug's Life - The First Draft" (10 minutes" is s series of animated storyboards narrated by Dave Foley which show us the film's original story (without Flik!). "Grasshopper and the Ants" (8 minutes) is a classic cartoon from 1934. "Pre-production" (33 minutes), "Production" (27 minutes), and "Sound Design" (13 minutes) gives us a very detailed look at the making of the movie. "Design" offers still galleries for characters, locations, and concept art. "Release" contains trailers, posters, and a mock interview with the "cast". Finally, we have two sets of OUTTAKES.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long