on December 26, 1999
In Short: So you're wondering, is this 2 DVD set worth $49.99? Read on...
Original Film Review, Written On The Film's Opening Weekend:
The second of the Fall's animated insect projects wasn't nearly as appealing to me as the first. "A Bug's Life" boasts outstanding animation, but a lackluster and predictable plot. Possibly I just felt that way as an adult and maybe it's just my cynical nature, but I doubt I wouldn't have found this film just as predictable when I was younger.
That said, all that's left is to sit back and marvel at the animation put together by the same group that put together "Toy Story" a couple of years ago, Pixar. There's definitely a sense of wonder, terror and awe in the animation in scenes like when a bird comes into the ant colony for an attack, or when one of the ants rides a dandelion spore across a great divide. There's one major difference here in the animation from "Antz", it's that the animation here is rounded and safe, much like the plot and story; in "Antz", structures had interesting shapes and edges; you never knew what to expect next from the film.
This film has great moments, like when the ants can't figure out how to get around a leaf that has fallen in front of them(although I didn't quite get that, since I would think the ants could see over the leaf, but I guess I was putting too much thought into it.) As many great visual moments as the film has, I just couldn't help feel that it's trapped by the Disney formula of one unlikely hero rising above "it all" to save the day. That's definitely nothing new to filmmaking, but there's a certain Disney plot line that makes everything that's about to happen fairly obvious to an adult before they set foot in the theater.
The story is set around Flik, a young inventor ant who is voiced by Dave Foley(TV's "Newsradio"). That's where the film loses bite; "Antz" had an edgy, funny lead in Z(Woody Allen), Foley doesn't bring any of the wit and cynicism that his television character holds. Julia Louis Dreyfuss, who voices Princess Atta, the ant, isn't nearly as funny or sassy as Sharon Stone's ant princess in "Antz". The one character who does turn out quite well is Hopper, the king of the Tyrant grasshoppers, who is voiced by Kevin Spacey, who provides a perfect dose of menace in his voice to make the character interesting.
The film starts out with the ant colony collecting food for the grasshoppers, like usual. In an unfortunate mistake, Flik spills all the food. The grasshoppers, led by Hopper, demand that the ants provide twice the food by the end of Summer; not content to walk away, Flik sets out to find bigger insects in the insect city to help the colony fight back against the grasshopper menace; who he finds are, unknown to him, a band of circus insects, who, in turn, don't know that they're being hired to fight in a war against the grasshoppers.
Again, the animation is wonderful and, to be honest, although it's more safe feeling than "Antz", "A Bug's Life" does do a better job at providing the scope of this miniature world, from the leaves and grass to the stones and ant tunnels. The only thing I didn't quite care for was the way the ants are animated here; they looked more real to me in "Antz", here they look meant to sell a thousand Disney toys. I did like the fact that the film is in the wide 2.35:1 ratio, making the wide spaces of the grassy colony and the insect city more fascinating to watch.
In conclusion, "A Bugs Life" will provide families with a good time for a few hours and actually, maybe I just didn't quite care for this film because I'm simply not its intended audience. The legions of kids seemed to like the film and, in reality, the majority of kids will likely enjoy this film; adults may find it just okay. I'm not sure if either will find it as enjoyable or as funny as Pixar's previous film, "Toy Story", though.
VIDEO: Goregous 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that is a direct-digital transfer and I really can't think of a disc that has more impressive image quality. As good as "Prince Of Egypt"is, this anamorphic transfer turns out to be just a touch better. Images are absolutely razor sharp throughout the presentation, and detail is absolutely outstanding. There is also a depth and dimension to this image that is remarkable. Don't get me started on the colors; you have to see them to believe how stunning they look. Colors are absolutely vibrant and even breathtaking during this movie. They also look a little bit stronger than one the image quality that was included with the previous, movie-only edition.
There are absolutely no flaws to speak of during this presentation. No shimmer, nothing in the way of artifacts like that at all. If you're looking for a disc that shows off the capabilities of DVD in terms of picture quality, there really isn't anything more perfect than this.
SOUND:Fascinating detail in the sounds of the ants creeping up the stalks of grass in the begining of the film. The sound is not only agressive and full of wonderful effects, but it has a playfulness about it that's incredibly fun to listen to. It's all in the details, though and there are plenty here. Like "Antz", the environment and ambient noise seems to be built with phenomenal attention to even the littlest of details. The sounds of little ants running about is rendered wonderfully and throughout all of it, there's even some nice touches of bass, especially when a bird attacks the insect colony. Dialogue is clear, clean and is integrated nicely. Randy Newman's score sounds wonderful as well. A very pleasing presentation by Disney. What's really amazing on this DVD is the additional sound tracks that you can listen to. On the full frame edition, you can listen to a seperate track that is an isolated effects track, where there is no dialogue or music, but you hear every single sound effect and where it's placed in the sound field. This additional effects track is in Dolby Digital 5.1 and included on the full screen version. On the widescreen version, the extra track is a 2.0 isolated score. I wish the FX track was with the widescreen and the score was with the full-screen, but oh well. What I'll also complain about is that the audio can't be changed with the remote.
MENUS:: Phenomenal animated menus during the disc for the film itself, but even more stunning animation greets you when you first turn on the 2nd DVD, as you're lead through the ant tunnels into the Pixar screening room where you're given an introduction by the director and three other members of the "Bug's Life" crew. Some of the sub-menus are not animated, but most of the main ones are, at least slightly.
EXTRAS:. Commentary: This is a commentary track from director John Lasseter, editor Lee Unkrich and co-director Andrew Stanton. The trio mainly talk about the inspirations behind the research that the crew did for how their film was going to take a look into the world of an insect. Like the commentary from "Antz", the filmmakers start talking a little bit about the science aspects of the world of bugs, but they cut that topic off and thankfully, focus more about the technical and story aspects of the movie. I didn't find it overall as informative or entertaining as the "Antz" commentary, but there are plenty of cool details and tidbits offered up throughout. I just felt that this commentary talked more about the story than the technical details.
The three are quite funny as well, talking about making the character of Flik a big geek, then going on to mention that "we didn't have to do too much research for that." The group talks a lot about the ideas for Flik and the concepts that they had not only for the character, but how he would interact with the rest of the characters in the story. In terms of story and plot talk, the more interesting details are about what we didn't see , as the animators talk about coming up with story details that didn't make it into the final picture or talking about the process of coming up with the story, as they talk quite a bit about how scenes were thought out and built. If the commentators are going to talk about the story more than the details, I'd rather hear about the meetings behind-the-scenes where the concepts were thought out or what didn't make it into the final plot rather than talking about just what is going on on-screen or what the characters are thinking. It's not a bad commentary by any means, but I lost interest through some parts of the discussion.
DVD TWO: THE EXTRA FEATURES The additional features on this disc are broken down into sections of the animation process. I'm going to go into detail about what each section contains. This second DVD has a running time of 107 minutes.
PRE-PRODUCTION: "Fleabie" Reel: There is an introduction to this additional feature, where the crew talks about how they came up with this film that showed a strage little character named Fleabie taking the tour of the animation stu