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Blu-ray Review: A Bug’s Life

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Written by Senora Bicho

Released in 1998, A Bug’s Life was Pixar’s second animated feature. The film had high expectations after the huge success of Toy Story. While I think that Toy Story is the better film, A Bug’s Life tells an imaginative story that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

A Bug’s Life is a cross between Aesop's fable "The Ant and the Grasshopper” and The Seven Samurai-based comedy The Three Amigos. The ants spend their time working hard harvesting food for the lazy grasshoppers. One of the ants in the colony, Flik (Dave Foley), building inventions designed to make the work easier. However, his latest causes the destruction of the entire harvest. The leader of the grasshopper pack, Hopper (Kevin Spacey), gives the ants until the end of the season to come up with their food or else. Flik decides to leave the colony to help find warrior bugs that can take on the grasshoppers. During his visit to the big city, he mistakes a band of circus bugs looking for work for the warriors that he is looking for. The circus bugs believe that Flik is hiring them for dinner theater and follow him back to the colony. Once the truth is discovered, they band together to try and outwit and defeat the grasshoppers.

What helps Pixar films stand apart from other animated features is the depth of their characters and the strength of their stories and A Bug’s Life is no exception. The vocal talents of Foley and Spacey lead the way along with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Hyde Pearce, Madeline Kahn, and Phyllis Diller just to name a few. Denis Leary gets a special mention as the perfectly cast angry ladybug who always gets mistaken for a female.

In addition to this strong foundation, the animation looks fantastic presented in 1080p High Definition with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The blades of grass and all other aspects of nature look so realistic it is hard to believe, at times, it is animation. The bugs really come to life on screen with vivid colors and lifelike movement. The detail and clarity are stunning, no doubt helped by the having a digital-to-digital transfer of the source.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio earns the word “master” with this soundtrack. The team has created an immersive experience for the viewer, whether the characters are in the country or the city. The subwoofer becomes invaluable during the thunderous sounds of storm clouds and grasshopper swarms. And yet with all that goes on in the sound mix, the dialogue is always clear and understandable.

There are a couple of new bonus features in the Blu-ray collection. “Filmmakers’ Roundtable” offers a discussion between director John Lasseter, co-director Andrew Stanton and producers Darla Anderson and Kevin Reher on the making of the film. “A Bug’s Life – The First Draft” is an animated storyboard version of the original story narrated by Foley. A digital version of the film is also included.

Several extras that had been previously released are re-visited. There is an audio commentary by Lasseter, Stanton and supervising film editor Lee Unkrich. “Geri’s Game” is an entertaining Academy Award-winning short from 1997. “A Walt Disney Silly Symphony: Grasshopper and the Ants” is a 1934 cartoon that provided inspiration for the filmmakers. In-depth information on pre-production, design, production, sound design, and release is available for the biggest fan. Outtakes are usually silly and a waste of time but here you have truly creative and hysterical moments. The outtakes were originally shown during the end credits of the film but were so popular that additional ones were added with new prints during its extended release.

I already owned the original DVD release. After watching the Blu-ray version I popped the old one in to see if there was that much of a difference and there is. The colors are much more vivid and the picture is crisper. The sound is also more impressive. A Bug’s Life is meant to be seen on Blu-ray and warrants an upgrade. A free movie ticket for Pixar’s Up is included as extra incentive to add this to your collection.

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