A Bug’s Life DVD
While watching “A Bug’s Life,” I kept marveling at how far computer animation has come since “Toy Story.” I remember being impressed by the 64-bit graphics on my computer games, wondering how they could ever improve on the technology. Now computers are capable of making believable dinosaurs, awesome acts of nature, not to mention whole movies like “Toy Story” and “Antz.”
What really struck me about “A Bug’s Life” was the film’s ability to draw me into it’s microscopic world without one iota of hesitation. From it’s intricately designed depictions of nature to it’s funny and adorable characters, “A Bug’s Life” is easy on the eyes and easy to get lost in.
The polar opposite of the more dark and adult “Antz,” “A Bug’s Life” is a cheerful (although at times menacing) concoction that should have no problem connecting with both children and adults. “Toy Story” director John Lasseter returns at the helm of “A Bug’s Life,” and even though this film is not on the same level as “Toy Story,” it more than holds its own. While Woody Allen’s hero ant in “Antz” had to fight an enemy within, “A Bug’s Life” hero ant Flick (voice of Dave Foley) has to summon his courage to fight an enemy from outside the colony. As “A Bug’s Life” begins, the colony is hard at work harvesting food for the impending visit of the dreaded grasshoppers, led by the cruel and literally inhuman Hopper (voice of Kevin Spacey).
As Hopper explains it, there is a hierarchy at work. The ants harvest the food, the grasshoppers eat the food. It’s that whole circle of life thing. Under the supervision of the colony’s queen (Phyllis Diller) and Princess-in-training Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), the ants have spent all Spring gathering food for Hopper’s visit. Flick, always the dreamer, believes that there has to be something better in life for the ants, and spends his time creating inventions to make their job easier.
More often than not, Flick’s inventions cause more harm than good. Flick has gained a reputation among the other ants, so when he accidentally loses the harvest, it comes as no surprise to the rest of the colony. When Hopper and his horde arrive, they’re extremely disappointed by the lack of food, but give the colony until Winter to replace the lost food. That means the ants won’t have time to harvest food for themselves. The colony is angry at Flick, but have no choice.
They must do what Hopper says or else. It’s a menacing moment that really kicks starts the film and the fire under Flick’s butt. Flick realizes that the only way to beat Hopper at his own game is to recruit bigger, meaner bugs to do the ant’s fighting for them. Since everyone else in the colony is eager to see Flick leave, the Queen gives him permission to leave their little “island” and go to the big city. No one expects Flick to succeed, even Flick. His journey to the big city is filled with lots of adventure and plenty of opportunity for the animators to strut their stuff. Once Flick arrives in the city, he encounters a group of circus bugs whose shenanigans suggest that they’re tougher than they really are. The circus bugs, a group of thespians desperate for an audience, mistake Flick’s offer as an opportunity to perform, and gladly accept his invitation.
Flick thinks he’s found the “Magnificent Seven,” the circus bugs think they’ve found a steady gig. They’re both in for a big surprise. Unlike the stark, realistic bugs in “Antz,” the menagerie of “A Bug’s Life” is much more colorful. Lasseter and his team of animators use a palette of colors that are both vibrant and playful, just like the characters. The animated characters are so engaging, that after about ten minutes, you forget that you’re watching computer animated images. Once again, the blending of vocal talent and animation is flawless. Foley, a veteran of “Kids in the Hall” and “News Radio” is adorable as Flick. There’s real earnestness in his voice and animated performance. Spacey is actually quite menacing as Hopper, who delights in being “all that he can be.” His little tirade at a makeshift Mexican bar (set inside the remnants of an old sombrero) is priceless. So is Richard Kind’s Molt, Hopper’s goofy brother who knows how to kiss butt with the best of them. The real fun begins when the circus bugs take center stage. Like a child’s collection of colorful and interesting-looking bugs, the circus bugs come in every shape and size. There’s Slim (David Hyde Pierce at his most obtuse), the walking stick; Heimlich (Joe Ranft), a colorful caterpillar that looks like her walked out of “Alice in Wonderland“; Francis (Denis Leary), the male ladybug with a bug chip on his shoulder; Manny (Jonathan Harris), the preying mantis magician who would use a prayer; his assistant Gypsy (Madeline Kahn), a gypsy moth who works overtime to make Manny look good; Rosie (Bonnie Hunt), a black widow who goes through husbands like crazy; and tuck and roll (Michael McShane), a pair of pill bugs from a foreign language.
They are fun and hammy, and manage to entertain the colony, but are far from the warrior bugs Flick claims them to be. Will the theatrical troupe and the ants manage to rise to the occasion when Hopper returns? The screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Donald McEnery and Bob Shaw is filled with comical and exciting situations, witty, innuendo-filled dialogue and lots of in-jokes. The story, based on an old Aesop fable, moves at a brisk pace. The characters are so well defined that the film maker’s don’t have to waste a lot of time developing their back stories. Randy Newman’s musical score is an adventurous blend of comic and melodramatic notes. Seamlessly edited, meticulously animated, creatively directed and played out on one of the most colorful and imaginative canvases this holiday season, “A Bug’s Life” is the bee’s knees.
VISION: [ X ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind
As the first computer to DVD digital transfer, “A Bug’s Life” is a superior product. The images were so vivid and the colors so bright that I thought I had purchased a new television. There isn’t much to complain about here. The DVD gives you the option of watching the film in it’s original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio or a specially reformatted full-frame version, and both are excellent. You won’t get much better than this. The colors are sensational, the textures realistic. Attention to detail is simply stunning, while the blacks and whites are clean and pure. I didn’t notice any compression artifacts at all.
HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf
Spirited 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track is as animated as the film. Impressive output of low and high ends gives your sound system a real workout. The basses are exemplary, while the middle and high ends sound clean, with no hiss or distortion whatsoever. The ambient noise is especially enticing, and at times so realistic it’s annoying. At first I thought I was getting a hum in my rear speakers, but found out it was the subtle noise of nature like crickets. Now that’s impressive. The stereo split is enviable, putting you right in the middle of the action. Highly impressive.
ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor
Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing.
COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak
Walt Disney Home Video finally gets creative with the content of their DVD of “A Bug’s Life.” Not only do you get the film in it’s original 2.35:1 widescreen version, but a specially formatted full-frame version. What does this mean? Since “A Bug’s Life” was created in a computer, the film makers were able to go back in and reformat character positioning so that they all appear in the frame. While some purists will argue that this violates the integrity of the original product, in my opinion, it sure beats pan-and-scan. If purists have a problem, they can just play the 2:35:1 version. I’m happy that Walt Disney Home Video made both versions available to DVD owners. I’m also thrilled that both sets of the end credits outtakes have been included here. I saw the film in theaters when it first opened, so I was familiar with the first set of outtakes. With the DVD, I can now enjoy both sets, which are equally funny. Woody from “Toy Story” even makes an appearance. The DVD also includes the Academy Award-winning Animated Short Film, “Geri’s Game,” which appeared on the front of the film in theaters. It’s a delightful little tale about a man playing chess against himself. At first it’s kind of odd, but once you get the idea, it’s a gem of an idea fully realized through computer animation. The main and scene access menus are standard issue, while the DVD also features some catalog title recommendations. It would have been nice to have an audio commentary track on the DVD, but at least this is a start.
PROGNOSIS: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal
I couldn’t envision my DVD collection without this impressive effort.
VITALS: $34.95/Rated G/95 Minutes/Color/22 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#16698
ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen
PATIENT: A BUG’S LIFE
BIRTH DATE: 1998
HMO: Walt Disney Home Video