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A Bug's Life (1998) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
ImagePixar has had an interesting history, especially when it comes to Disney.  Originally a computer graphics company, Pixar began working in animation to make some extra money.  After some commercial success, they entered into an agreement with Disney.  It was a three-movie deal.  The first animated feature was "Toy Story" in 1995.  The second film turned out to be "A Bug's Life" in 1998.

"A Bug's Life" is usually marked as the failure of the Pixar company, especially when compared with movies like "The Incredibles" and "Finding Nemo."  Still, it is hard to fault the film.  Its animation is flawless and the story is still engaging.  But, yes, it does lag at times.  I still wouldn't call it a failure though.  After all, it did gross $162 million at the box office, nearly four-times what was the production budget.  This doesn't include the home video sales, which were also impressive.

"A Bug's Life" has great characters and some terrific voice talent.  Bonnie Hunt voices Rosie, a black widow widow.  She came back to Pixar to voice Sally, the Porsche in "Cars."  Julia Louis-Dreyfus voices the high-strung Princess Atta.  Kevin Spacey rages as the voice of the Hopper, the leader of the grasshoppers.  You may not be aware, but now teen sensation Hayden Panettiere, only eight years of age in 1998, was the voice of Princess Dot.  Other cast member voices include Phyllis Diller, Richard Kind, David Hyde Pierce, Dave Foley, John Ratzenberger and Dennis Leary.

The story of "A Bug;s Life" is centered on the ant colony of Ant Island.  Flik (Dave Foley) is a misfit ant that has a ton of inventions that tend to get in the way.  Hopper and his grasshopper gang threaten the entire ant population.  Each season the ants must offer a sacrifice of food to the grasshoppers.  When Flik inadvertently destroys this offering just moments before Hopper shows up, he is sent away so as to not interfere again.

Flik heads for the big bug city where he longs to find a team of warrior bugs.  He mistakes a bunch of circus bugs for warriors, and the circus bugs mistake Flik for a talent scout.  Flik returns with the bugs to Ant Island where the entire ant colony devises a way to get rid of Hopper forever.  They build a huge fake bird to scare Hopper away.

When the truth about the bugs really being circus bugs comes to light, the any colony panics.  Flik is cast out forever and the ants scramble to try and meet Hoppers demands in the last seconds.  When Hopper shows up, he is outraged that the ants have disobeyed him.  While the ants search for every last piece of food, Dot sets off to get Flik to come back as Hopper plans to smush Dot's mother, the Queen Ant.

Flik and the bugs return to Ant Island just in time and with a little circus performance, the bugs are able to save the Queen Ant.  Meanwhile Flik and Dot get the bird ready to fly.  All hell breaks loose and Hopper meets his demise. "A Bug's Life" is not the perfect story, but it is simple and entertaining.  What will really capture the little ones' attention is the production value of the film.  As you would expect with a Pixar animation, the image is fantastic.

"A Bug's Life" comes to Blu-ray with a 2.35:1 aspect ration and an MPEG-4 AVC encode.  The only thing that comes to mind when thinking about the visual quality of this film is, stunning.  I cannot hype this video quality enough.  It is a digital animation, but it retains more of the analog feel than some of the more recent animations such as, "Bolt."  The colors just pop right off the screen.  It is as close to 3-D as a 2-D image will ever come.  The most incredible aspect of the image is the detail.  For the first time when watching this film, I felt like I was actually in "A Bug's Life."  The details on the rocks, blades of grass and leaves are simply astounding.  The vibrant colors are complemented with supple black levels.  Corrections and faults such as edge enhancement, digital noise reduction, banding, and artifacting don't even cross your mind when watching this film.  The image is flawless.

It only makes sense to match perfect video with perfect audio.  And boy do they come oh so close to giving us that.  Most would consider this a five-star rating, but as an audio professional I have to nitpick here.  Disney-Pixar gives us a DTS-HD 5.1 audio track on this Blu-ray.  One of the most notable aspects of this lossless track over the standard Dolby Digital track is the increase in dynamic range.  The fly bys of the grasshoppers is simply thundering.  Pixar is known for sound design that could possible frighten the little children, just think of the shark in "Finding Nemo."  The attack of the grasshoppers and the bird are almost heart stopping.  The audio track is completely immersive and enveloping for its entirety.  Subtle ambience permeates throughout the surround channels.  This is where my problem with the audio track lies.  The ambience and music suffers from the split field phenomena.  Unless you are sitting in the sweet spot, the ambience and music can sometimes shift positions.  If you lean forward the music and ambience with disappear from the rear channels and vice versa.  This also plays to the precedence effect that is oh so hard to get away from.  Other than that nitpick, the audio track is perfect.

"A Bug's Life" comes to Blu-ray with all the special features from the 2003 Collector's Edition DVD.  In addition, the Blu-ray contains some exclusive content.  First there is a very informative and engaging audio commentary with the director, producer and editor of "A Bug's Life."  This is supplemented by the first of the two exclusive Blu-ray features, "Filmmakers' Round Table."  This feature allows the filmmakers to expand on their first audio commentary.  It actually adds a lot to the understanding of the production of the film.  The second exclusive Blu-ray feature is "'A Bug's Life' – The First Draft."  This feature contains a collection of storyboards and a narration by Dave Foley.  There is a section of original featurettes that encompass the pre-production process including: casting, storyboards, editing, deleted sequences and animation tests.  There are various photo galleries, mainly of conceptual art.  "Geri's Game" is a short-film.  "Grasshoppers and the Ants" is a 1934 Disney animation.  The Blu-ray disc also contains outtakes, publicity stills and materials and BD-Live functionality.

The Blu-ray package also comes with a Digital Copy of the film and a coupon for a free movie to ticket to the upcoming release of "Up."

"A Bug's Life" is an entertaining and engaging film.  It isn't their best, but it is certainly worthy of a place among your collection.  The video and audio quality should be enough of a reason to pick this film up the day it is released.  Two thumbs way up.  "I'm a cute wittle butterfly and from way up here you all look like wittle ants."

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