There was such a magic on the screen in 1995 when the people at Pixar came up with the first fully computer-animated film, Toy Story
. Their second feature film, A Bug's Life
, may miss the bull's-eye but Pixar's target is so lofty, it's hard to find the film anything less than irresistible.
Brighter and more colorful than the other animated insect movie of 1998 (Antz), A Bug's Life is the sweetly told story of Flik (voiced by David Foley), an ant searching for better ways to be a bug. His colony unfortunately revolves around feeding and fearing the local grasshoppers (lead by Hopper, voiced with gleeful menace by Kevin Spacey). When Flik accidentally destroys the seasonal food supply for the grasshoppers he decides to look for help ("We need bigger bugs!"). The ants, led by Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), are eager to dispose of the troublesome Flik. Yet he finds help--a hearty bunch of bug warriors--and brings them back to the colony. Unfortunately they are just traveling performers afraid of conflict.
As with Toy Story, the ensemble of creatures and voices is remarkable and often inspired. Highlights include wiseacre comedian Denis Leary as an un-ladylike ladybug, Joe Ranft as the German-accented caterpillar, David Hyde Pierce as a stick bug, and Michael McShane as a pair of unintelligible pillbugs. The scene-stealer is Atta's squeaky-voiced sister, baby Dot (Hayden Panettiere), who has a big sweet spot for Flik.
More gentle and kid-friendly than Antz, A Bug Life's still has some good suspense and a wonderful demise of the villain. However, the film--a giant worldwide hit--will be remembered for its most creative touch: "outtakes" over the end credits à la many live-action comedy films. These dozen or so scenes (both "editions" of outtakes are contained here) are brilliant and deserve a special place in film history right along with 1998's other most talked-about sequence: the opening Normandy invasion in Saving Private Ryan.
The video also contains Pixar's delightful Oscar-winning short, Geri's Game. Box art varies. --Doug Thomas
Codirector Andrew Stanton warmly calls this collector's edition of A Bug's Life
the "Super Genius" edition (referring to another animated delight, Wile E. Coyote). That's a better title, since this double DVD set is never as stuffy and boring as many collector's editions. On the second disc, which is jam-packed with details on how the movie was made, there isn't a single boring snippet. There must be a creed at Pixar Animation Studios dictating everything must be fun. When Stanton, director John Lasseter, or any technician comes onscreen, there are jokes, camera muggings, and controlled insanity. But there's a method to their madness. For example, the storyboarding process--sketching out the entire picture before cameras roll--isn't just explained; it's storyboarded itself. Another highlight is an early presentation of the film's subject matter that takes on the flavor of a poorly dubbed Japanese film of the '60s. There's also a wonderful process using the DVD format's rarely used angle feature that allows the viewer to go between pencil sketches, color drawings, and the finished project to see how the art progresses to the screen. The film, presented here in both widescreen and recomposed full-frame (the latter also explained on the disc), is the first DVD created by a digital source for the purest presentation possible. Whatever the presentation, this "Super Genius" edition certainly gives one pause to consider what super geniuses the folks at Pixar truly are. --Doug Thomas