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Blu-ray Review: A Bug’s Life

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For anyone who has ever wondered just how great a Blu-ray can look and sound, wonder no more – on May 19 Pixar and Disney are realizing A Bug's Life in the high definition format.  Of course, the film, with its wonderful storyline and fantastic computer animation, was impressive before the current Blu-ray release.

Co-directed by John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, the film features the voice of Dave Foley as Flik, an ant who is not content with his lot in life.  Flik fancies himself something of an inventor, but none of his ideas ever seem to pan out.  It’s a problem that gets him and the rest of his colony in serious trouble when a grain harvester destroys the colony’s food offering to a gang of grasshoppers led by Kevin Spacey’s Hopper.

Despondent, Flik is sent away from the colony by Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her mother, the Queen (Phyllis Diller).  Though Flik believes he is being sent away to find warrior bugs to help the ants – and that is what he leaves to do – the colony simply wants to get rid of him for an extended period.

Flik ends up running into a group of terrible circus bugs voiced by David Hyde Pierce, Dennis Leary, and Madeline Kahn among others.  Believing them to be the warriors he is searching for, Flik hires them to help protect the ants from the grasshoppers.  It is a mistake which is soon cleared up, but which leaves the ants without a plan for stopping the grasshopper attack.  However, with a little bit of faith, a lot of luck, and the help of the smallest princess, Dot (Hayden Panettiere), Flik, the circus bugs, and the colony manage to fend off the grasshoppers and keep their food.

A Bug’s Life was only Pixar’s second full-length feature, and just like their first one, Toy Story, and all the ones that follow it, A Bug’s Life not only tells an interesting story in brilliant fashion, it does so with a wit that is all too often missing from films, be they animated or live action. 

With the film, Pixar brilliantly places the viewer into a miniaturized world, giving everyone a bug’s eye view of life and the problems of being small, and the Blu-ray release only enhances that feeling.  The sound design and its execution is absolutely spectacular.  When a rainstorm strikes the colony at the end of the film, the drops pour down around the audience and the thunder booms as one can’t imagine.  The viewer is shocked, amazed, and will end up thrilled not to be a bug if a simple rainstorm sounds that terrifying.

The visuals are just as compelling as the audio – the detail that exists in every frame is wonderful to behold.  From the actual look of each creature to their surroundings, to the objects with which they interact, everything is rendered to exacting standards.  Droplets of liquid contain funhouse mirror-type reflections and distortions.  The amount of effort that went into originally producing the film and getting it ready for Blu-ray is apparent, and one can only marvel at the dizzying array of color, detail, and sound the disc contains.

Watching the film, one can’t help but remember the old tale of the “Grasshopper and the Ants,” which Disney made into a Silly Symphony many years ago.  A Bug’s Life certainly does seem like an updated version of that classic, which one can clearly see by watching the Silly Symphony as it is included on the Blu-ray as a special feature.

Among the special features included are the short, “Geri’s Game” (which was shown before the film during its theatrical run); director audio commentary; some great fake “bloopers;” a filmmaker’s round table; a truly fascinating look at how the sound effects were created; and, perhaps best of all, an animated “first draft” of the film with voice over by Dave Foley.  This first draft is the story as it may have been, and plays out as a series of roughly drawn frames in which the pictures animate, though not in full Pixar CGI glory.  This draft of the film sports an entirely different central character who fails to make the final version of the film entirely, and the inside look it gives the audience into part of the process of scripting such a film.  The Blu-ray release of A Bug’s Life also comes with a digital copy of the film, so that one can take the film with them (though not in high definition). 

Though technology has progressed greatly since the film’s original theatrical release over a decade ago, A Bug’s Life still looks absolutely outstanding.  That, plus the fact that it combines such a great look and feel with a truly engrossing story for young and old alike make it a must-own for anyone who remotely enjoys animated fare.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • http://www.ddmcd.com/movies Dennis McDonald

    The only negative I can think of about A Bug’s Life is that the animation of facial expressions has advanced substantially since this was made. Otherwise it is, as you say, an absolutely wonderful film.