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100%

When one ant decides to stand up against the bully grasshoppers with a group of circus bugs, hilarity ensues.

 

A colony of ants has been accustomed to gathering food for themselves and their bullies, the grasshoppers, for years. When an ant, Flik ( Dave Foley), who clearly thinks outside of the box comes along and starts messing things up for the ants and grasshoppers, Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) sends Flik away on a mission to find warriors to help save the colony from the wrath of the grasshoppers. Flik eventually comes across a group of bugs (unbeknownst to him that they are circus bugs) and brings them back to the colony  They all start devising a plan to scare away the grasshoppers when they find out the truth, and send them away, Flik included, for betraying them. Just as they leave, the grasshoppers come back for the final confrontation. One of the younger ants sneaks away and finds the group of exiled circus bugs and brings them back to help. Everything goes down at the ant colony and the ants and circus bugs end up defeating the evil grasshoppers and send them running away screaming. The ants and circus bugs then live happily ever after.

This was the second PIXAR film in their lineup of never-ending masterpieces, so it had to live up to its big brother’s standards. While it was a really fascinating film, it did not scratch the Toy Story ground work already laid for it. In truth, A Bug’s Life was still an incredible film. The animation bar for PIXAR was beginning to be set, since it was the second of their feature films. There were a whole host of impressive things the animators did with this film. One of the biggest things to come from A Bug’s Life was all of the textures. Almost everything looked how it should in real life in regards to its texture, such as the dirt the bugs lived on, the grasshoppers’ exoskeletons, even the bird’s feathers. The colors and shapes were a lot more vivid and diverse in this film, which helped the progress. Also, with it being set outside on a hill instead of inside of a bedroom, the animators were forced to figure out how the natural light sources would work within the film.

One of the most interesting things about this film was the uncanny dynamic and interactions between characters.  The fact that they had a plethora of entomologic creatures, and how they all moved and acted as if these bugs were actually real humanoid characters added a new and attracting element to the film. Apparently the designers took away two legs from the ants and added two to the grasshoppers, just to make things easier to work with for the ants, and to make the grasshoppers seem more intimidating. As amazing as the characters were visually, they would have been nothing without the incredibly talented cast that filled the vocal void. Is there anything funnier than the very masculine-voiced Dennis Leary playing a male ladybug? How about the lovely and hilarious late Madeline Kahn playing a beautiful gypsy moth? Or even David Hyde Pierce as a walking stick? All of these famous, mostly comedic actors who played circus bugs added so much more character and life to the film itself.

A relatively simple thing brings this film down in its quality, and it may have had to do with circumstance instead of actual devotion and effort. It is rumored that an employee at PIXAR had become unhappy during the late Toy Story and early “bug movie” days, so much so that they left the company and went to work at DreamWorks Animation.  DreamWorks Animation ended up working on a bug related animated film at the same time as PIXAR, and releasing theirs earlier as well. This may have caused the teams at PIXAR to rush the production of the film, thus lowering the quality of particular things. The one short coming of the film that stands out is the writing. If the story is stripped to the core, all that is left is a character who leaves a village under attack to find soldiers to help save it. Does this story sound familiar? Yes; it is the same story as Seven Samurai (Kurosawa) and The Magnificent Seven (Sturges), which essentially was the “American” version of Seven Samurai. This repeat of an already famous story made it apparent that the effort in the writing department was a little lacking. That may also explain the upping of their game with their cast and visuals. At the same time as the development of A Bug’s Life was the production of Toy Story 2, which meant that PIXAR’s efforts were also focused elsewhere. Between Antz and A Bug’s Life, one wins on visuals and the other wins on story, but they both are worth viewing. With A Bug’s Life lacking originality in its story, it loses its re-watch value that animated films rely upon so heavily. Most PIXAR films are ones that can and should be watched and enjoyed time and time again, but A Bug’s Life ranks low on that list. The next truly original PIXAR film would not be for another few years to come.

A Bug’s Life ends up as an okay film, but okay for PIXAR is actually a poor statement. Over the years, they have produced the top notch animated films that are loved worldwide, so A Bug’s Life being only okay means that it pales in comparison to the other PIXAR animated masterpieces.

 

Directed By: John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton

Written By: John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton

Produced By:  Darla K. Anderson and Kevin Reher

Starring: Dave Foley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Dennis Leary, David Hyde Pierce, Joe Ranft, Bonnie Hunt, Kevin Spacey, Madeline Kahn, Richard Kind, and Jonathan Harris

Distributed By: Disney/PIXAR

Release Date: November 25, 1998

Run time: 95 minutes

Rated: G

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