“A Bug’s Life”

A Bug's Life

By Jae-Ha Kim
November 23, 1999

A Bug’s Life (NR) Disney Home Video, 1998 Starring: the voices of David Foley, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Hayden Panettiere Director: John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton

Following on the multi-legged heels of Dreamworks’ often dark and somber computer animation debut Antz, A Bug’s Life is Disney’s colorful follow-up to its mega-blockbuster Toy Story. While it doesn’t have the wit or great performances of Toy Story, it’s amusing in its own right and the animation by Pixar is even more astounding. Beautifully drawn and perfectly voiced (by such actors as David Foley, Kevin Spacey, David Hyde Pierce and Phyllis Diller), the story revolves around an ant colony that tries to free itself from the oppression of grasshoppers.

Like Antz, Bug’s Life has plenty of jokes about the enforced conformity of the colony, but it lacks the former’s powerhouse combo of Woody Allen and Sharon Stone. In one scene when falling leaves interrupt the ants’ struggle to carry away bits and pieces of food, younger workers scamper around in confusion. But an old-timer sagely notes, “This is nothing compared to the twig of ’93.”

This is funny stuff, as is the “army” our hero Flik (Foley) assembles to defend his colony. Never mind that the caterpillar, black widow, and other assorted oddities actually are performers from P.T. Flea’s Circus, rather than soldiers. Foley lends a droll air to his character. He knows that he’s just an ant — and a lowly one at that — but he’s convinced that there is a better life out there.

Even the credits are funny. As they role we see animated “outtakes” of missed lines and other goof-ups, which just add to the sense of verisimilitude.

Disney has been criticized for the lack of extra features in most of its DVD releases, but the Collector’s Edition DVD of A Bug’s Life is a marvel. A separate disc traces the entire process of creating the film from the initial sketches and models to casting to the addition of final touches like the sound effects and shading and lighting. Each step of the creative process is explained in detail and illustrated with examples. You can read the entire text of the original proposal or listen to how sounds from household items like flapping paper towels were used to simulate insect noises. An Oscar-winning Pixar short, The Chess Game, which was an early experiment with computer animation, is also included.


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