DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton
Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Hyde Pierce
Writing Credits:
John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft, Don McEnery, Bob Shaw

An epic of miniature proportions.

Journey inside the miniature world of bugs for bigger-than-life fun and adventure under every leaf! Crawling with imaginative characters, hilarous laughs and colorful, lifelike computer animation, Disney and Pixar's A Bug's Life will delight everyone - young and old alike!

Box Office:
$45 million.
Opening Weekend
$33.258 million on 2686 screens.
Domestic Gross
$162.792 million.

Rated G

Widescreen 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 5/19/2009

• Audio Commentary with Director John Lasseter, Co-Director/Co-Writer Andrew Stanton, and Supervising Film Editor Lee Unkrich
• Introductions from Director John Lasseter and Others
Geri’s Game Short
• “Filmmaker’s Roundtable” Featurette
• “A Bug’s Life - The First Draft” Featurette
The Grasshopper and the Ants Classic Short
• “Fleabie” Presentation Reel
• “Story and Editorial” Featurette
• Storyboard-to-Film Comparisons
• Abandoned Sequences
• “Research” Featurette
• Still Galleries
• “Behind the Scenes of A Bug’s Life” Featurette
• Progression Demonstration
• “Sound Design” Featurette
• Trailers
• Posters
• Character Interviews
• Outtakes
• “The Story Behind the Outtakes” Featurette
• Digital Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

A Bug's Life [Blu-Ray] (1998)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 20, 2009)

We live in such a cruel, harsh competitive world. Our society always has to divide issues into "either/or." Whenever two movies come out that have similar themes, discussions never deal with what people thought of one or the other; it's always "which one's better" and the arguments that ensue. Bicker bicker bicker - why can't we all just get along?

Such was the case in the fall of 1998 when we saw two computer-animated films that told the stories of misfit ants. Dreamworks' Antz hit first in early October, and Disney's A Bug's Life followed about eight weeks later at Thanksgiving. Few people seem willing to simply discuss the various merits of each film on its own; battle lines must be drawn - each viewer has to pick which one he or she prefers.

I've seen both movies – multiple times, actually. As such, I'm in a position to take a stand, to buck societal pressure and simply discuss A Bug's Life as though Antz didn't even exist. That'd sure prove that I'm an individual who doesn't need to follow trends and the so-called "usual" way of doing things, wouldn’t it?

But it wouldn't be as much fun. As such, I'm going to jump right in and pick sides: in the battle of the bugs, A Bug's Life wins, and it wins hands-down - no competition here at all.

Now, that's not to say that Antz isn't a pretty good movie. Initially I found it disappointing, but it's grown on me to a certain degree. At this point I think it's an entertaining and satisfying little film, though not anything particularly special.

However, I think A Bug's Life surpasses Antz in virtually every way. I was kind of surprised that I liked it as much as I did as quickly as I did. I'm a firm believer in the power of expectations; usually, the better you think a film will be, the less you enjoy it, and vice versa. My friends know better than to even bother to ask me what I thought of any long-anticipated movies until I've had the chance to see them again because my initial impressions rarely end up resembling my ultimate thoughts.

Back in 1999, I really looked forward to Life so I was fairly surprised how much I enjoyed it on opening night. I found it to be a thoroughly entertaining experience; it was one of those movies that takes you on such a fun ride that it reminds you why you love the art form so much.

I also quickly learned that Life held up very well to repeated viewings. I saw it again about two weeks later and still thought it was terrific. I ended up watching it yet again a week later because some theaters were running it as a double feature with a preview showing of Mighty Joe Young. I wasn’t all that eager to see Life again so soon, but this apparent bargain was too much for me to miss. Two movies I don't really want to see? So what - it's a good deal!

So I went to this double feature and guess what? I still really enjoyed Life. In fact, my third viewing of Life in less than a month remained more entertaining than my first time through clunky Mighty Joe Young.

As such, if I'd ever had any doubts about my future enjoyment of Life, they disappeared that night. I think Life is as entertaining and imaginative a film as almost any from the Disney archives.

One of the main distinctions those who preferred Antz to Life made was that they felt the former was more "sophisticated" and "adult" than the latter. That's a load of crap. The supposed "mature nature" of Antz generally was supported by its smattering of mild profanity, a gory (for a cartoon) battle scene, and its casting; Woody Allen and Sharon Stone versus Dave Foley and Julia Louis-Dreyfus? Oh, clearly Antz is for the adults but Life is just wacky fun for the kiddies!

Antz is the "darker" film, but that doesn't make it more sophisticated. Antz is a movie I watched and I thought that something's amusing or clever, but it rarely made me laugh. During Life, I not only saw much more clever and amusing material, but I actually laughed too! That's a fairly important distinction.

I also really felt that Life packed a lot more into its 95 minutes. It's one of those movies that should offer something new on every viewing because so many small touches are stuck in the mix. I'm sure it's a film that would benefit from some still-frame viewing to see all the visual details.

Speaking of visuals, Antz looked good but Life looked great. Computer animation came along way in the three years after Toy Story, and that fact showed up on the screen. Put simply, the movie's art frequently appeared quite real. While the insect characters were treated in stylized "cartoon" ways, the rest of the environment was supposed to look genuine, and it did; scenes of dandelions and birds established that. Even with the massive growth in computer animation since 1999, the visual remain solid.

I also feel that Life provided better animation and more creative characters than its competitor. Antz suffered from a limited palette; nearly all of its characters were ants - we briefly saw some flies and wasps - and they all looked an awful lot alike. While it's true that the ants in Life also resemble each other to a strong degree, the film gets spiced up by the fact that not all - or even half - of the main characters are ants. We also have grasshoppers, spiders, a flea, pill bugs, a walking stick, a ladybug, a caterpillar, a moth, a praying mantis, and various others. This added variety clearly helps make Life a much more visually stimulating experience.

Overall, I just felt that Life seemed to be a more inventive and exciting experience that did Antz. As far as voice acting goes, I'd call it largely a draw. Many critics harped on Dave Foley's performance as Flik because he doesn't come across with as distinctive a personality as does Woody Allen. I find such comments to be rather unfair since Foley hasn't had nearly decades to become embedded in the societal consciousness to the degree of Allen. You hear Allen's voice and that's a shorthand for the character; we already know lots about the personality right off the bat. Foley had to work from scratch, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, since it's nice to hear someone who isn't just playing themselves.

Some critics also felt Louis-Dreyfus didn't display the strength and vivacity clear from her many years on Seinfeld. That's probably true, but she didn't have much to work with in the character of Princess Atta. Atta's basically a reactionary character; she served to expedite various bits of business but she didn't have a lot to do. Nonetheless, I thought she worked out well.

As in most Disney movies, much of the charm and entertainment comes from the supporting characters. Disney usually likes its leads to be fairly bland - the better for viewers to see themselves in their situations - but tends to create much of the humor or drama from the supporting cast. Life is no different, and the secondary bugs are usually very entertaining. Easily best of the bunch are Hungarian (?) pill bugs Tuck and Roll (both voiced by Michael McShane) who steal the show with their nonsensical bickering. I also loved John Ratzenberger's PT Flea if for no other reason that the little "plink" sound effect used whenever he hops around.

The list goes on. Kevin Spacey's great as the villain Hopper; he plays both the dramatic and the comedic aspects of the role with his usual deft touch. Denis Leary spoofs his usual act as ladybug Francis and David Hyde Pierce provides a nice turn as walking stick Slim. I could keep going, but my hands are getting tired.

I’ll end with this: I still enjoy A Bug’s Life as much as I did in 1999. The film holds up very well and remains a constant delight. I won’t say Life is my favorite Disney movie – but I also won’t say it isn’t.

The DVD Grades: Picture A+/ Audio A/ Bonus A

A Bug’s Life appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. In a word: wow!

Sharpness appeared absolutely immaculate. No matter how wide the shots became, they always seemed crisp and perfectly detailed. Not the slightest hint of softness ever marred the presentation. I witnessed no examples of jaggies or shimmering, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. Of course, since Life came straight from the original digital files, no source flaws appeared; this was a super-clean presentation.

Life offered a natural palette that came across exceedingly well on this disc. The colors were consistently bright and vibrant, and they displayed absolutely no flaws whatsoever. The hues looked brilliant and dynamic and really enhanced the visuals. Black levels also appeared dense and deep, and shadow detail was flawless. For example, look at the shots in the underground nest; they seemed perfectly depicted. A Bug’s Life gave us a truly amazing visual presentation.

While not quite as strong as the picture, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of A Bug’s Life also seemed terrific. . The mix presented an excellent soundstage. The front three channels were especially active, with solid spatial orientation and smooth panning between speakers. The rear speakers got a nice workout, especially in many of the scenes in which bugs flew; they zipped around from front to rear and right to left effectively and convincingly.

The track also featured some nice use of directional dialogue, as speech popped up in appropriate locations throughout the movie. The mix really created a nicely smooth and integrated sense of environment.

Audio quality appeared very positive. Dialogue remained distinct and natural and suffered from no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Randy Newman’s excellent score was warm and rich, as the music showed fine dimensionality and dynamics. The effects also came across as concise and accurate. They presented clean highs and some terrific lows; bass response was consistently tight and powerful without any distortion. All in all, the audio of A Bug’s Life seemed quite impressive.

How did the picture and sound quality of this Blu-ray compare to those of the Special Edition DVD? Both showed improvements. The audio of the two releases seemed fairly similar, but I thought the lossless DTS track was just a bit smoother and more dynamic. It took a good thing and made it even better.

For a DVD, Life looked flawless. Of course, “flawless” within the constraints of DVD’s resolution doesn’t stand up to “flawless” on Blu-ray. The Life DVD remains amazing for that format, but it can’t touch the sheer perfection of this Blu-ray. The detail you’ll find here becomes stunning and makes the DVD seem fuzzy by comparison.

In terms of extras, the Blu-ray mixes elements from the prior SE DVD with new components. If a component is written in blue, that indicates it’s exclusive to the Blu-ray Disc.

First up comes an audio commentary from director John Lasseter, codirector/cowriter Andrew Stanton, and supervising film editor Lee Unkrich. All three sat together for this running, screen-specific piece. Back when I first reviewed this set in 1999, I griped a bit because I thought the guys devoted too much time to praise for the movie. In retrospect, I was too harsh. Yes, they did seem happy with the product and they let us know that, but I’ve heard many more gushing tracks over the last 10 years; the filmmakers don’t go overboard in the happy talk department.

They do offer an amazing amount of information about the creation of the film, however. Lasseter dominates the piece, but the other two get in a lot of material as well. Virtually every facet of the production receives attention here. They chat about story and character challenges as well as the various technical domains. The commentary never slows for a moment as they fill it with terrific details and notes. Overall, the track seems lively and very informative, so fans should get a kick out of it.

For this “10th Anniversary Edition” of A Bug’s Life, Lasseter provides a new introduction. He chats for one minute, 10 seconds as he tells us a few factoids about the film and Blu-ray. It’s not substantial, but it’s a decent lead-in to the movie. Two shorts pop up here. The four-minute and 54-second Geri's Game preceded the theatrical presentation of Life back in 1998. It's a cute little cartoon, but nothing special in my opinion; unlike Life itself, I quickly tired of it when I saw the movie three times theatrically.

We also get a “classic short”: 1934’s “Silly Symphony” The Grasshopper and the Ants. This eight-minute and 27-second cartoon tells the classic parable of the lazy grasshopper and the industrious ants. It offers an entertaining piece.

We can watch this one with or without a 35-second intro from Lasseter and Stanton. They let us know that the short influenced Life and offer a few laughs, too. Their comments indicate that this cartoon was a part of the original 1999 2-DVD Life release. I don’t recall that, so either it was an Easter egg I never found or it didn’t actually make the cut 10 years ago.

Next come two new components. Filmmaker’s Roundtable reunites Lasseter, Stanton, producer Darla Anderson and co-producer Kevin Rehar to discuss Life. During this 20-minute and 58-second piece, they chat about various challenges involved in the production, story development, cast, and some memories related to the Bug’s Life experience.

The majority of “Roundtable” sticks with anecdotes. Lasseter and Stantion cover most of the material, and they remain chatty and engaging. We find quite a few amusing stories in this fun piece.

A Bug’s Life – The First Draft runs 10 minutes, 18 seconds as it shows a re-enactment of the film’s initial version. Actor Dave Foley narrates as we watch semi-animated art. The basic story remains the same, but quite a few differences exist between this edition and the final film. I think it’s cool that we can examine an early take of the material, and the fancy presentation makes this component even more winning. (Note that this feature replaces a similar but less elaborate extra on the original DVD.)

By the way, another introduction appears here. Lasseter provides a 33-second lead-in that tells us a little about what we’ll see. It’s a good way to take us into the piece.

Actually, let me just get this out of the way: the vast majority of the programs on this disc come with introductions. Rather than get into a potentially tedious discussion of each one, just assume that they’re all useful.

Preproduction breaks into five areas. Fleabie shows us a somewhat tongue-in-cheek three-minute and 21-second video shot by the folks at Pixar to show the Disney bigwigs the progress they were making on the film (then called "Bugs"). It's "hosted" by a puppet named Fleabie who tours the Pixar studios and observes different aspects of the production. It's not tremendously amusing, but it's cute nonetheless and serves as a cool historical token.

Next comes Story and Editorial. This piece helps demonstrate to viewers what storyboards are, and it shows how they generally are used at Pixar by letting us observe the creative process. The program lasts four minutes, 43 seconds. One of Joe Ranft's circus scenes is discussed and altered as we watch from a literal "fly on the wall" position. Cool!

One scene from the completed picture is offered for a storyboard to film comparison; we see "Dot's Rescue” in this three-minute, 55-second clip. Actually, we go through the scene in three ways: storyreel, final render, and split-screen comparison. It was interesting to see what stayed the same and what changed for the final film. (Not much, in the latter case, but it's still fun.)

Two abandoned sequences are presented. These aren't the same as deleted scenes; as the filmmakers explain, most segments created for animated films gets used because they’re so expensive to make. As such, story reels are utilized to create a crude facsimile of the way the final scenes would appear; it lets the filmmakers get a good idea how a segment would work without costing too much. Story reels film somewhat kinetic versions of the storyboards and accompany them with dialogue and effects.

The first unused sequence is called "original museum opening" and shows a prologue that was considered for the film; it lasts 104 seconds. The other is a scene in "PT's Office" that was replaced with his simple "You're fired" line in the final film. Originally there was a whole segment in which he went over the issue with the circus bugs; the clip runs 99 seconds. The absence of the museum scene is no loss, but the office segment might have worked; it has some funny stuff in it. Still, PT's proclamation as he simmers in the final film fares awfully well, too, so I won't second-guess them.

A short research documentary comes next. In the five-minute and 24-second clip, filmmakers use a tiny "bug cam" to film the world from what seemed to be an insect's perspective; this segment shows us some of the results and includes narration. I really liked this part; it's amazing to see how strongly the video influenced the production decisions, and it helped me appreciate what a fantastic job they did with the animation. It's a very fun featurette.

Design consists almost entirely of still frames, and there are 607 screens worth of information. These appear as thumbnails, which makes it easy to skip through them. Unlike the original DVD, you don’t have to advance through scores of images to find the one you want, as each screen holds a maximum of nine thumbnails. This is a nice improvement from the old DVD.

The main design section covers the characters themselves. Subheadings address "The Colony," "Grasshopper Gang," "The Circus," and "Miscellaneous Characters." The number of drawings per character ranges from a low of four (for both Molt) to a high of 46 (for “City Bugs”). All in all, the character drawings take up 343 of the frames.

The individual sketches cover a wide gamut of types. Some are early designs, whereas many show various moods and expressions of the characters. We also see the technical drawings made of the characters that are used to ensure consistency between animators. Most of the individual character sections end by showing that bug's maquette. This section is very interesting and lets us see how the designs develop.

"Locations" is the next area in this section, and it examines "Ant Island," "The City," "Circus Tent & Wagon," and "Hopper's Hangout." The “Ant Island” section dominates this piece, with 46 of its 123 drawings coming from that area - which makes sense, since it's the main "location". I didn't find these drawings to be as interesting as those of the characters, but they're compelling nonetheless.

Finally, the design section concludes with "Concept Art" and "Color Scripts." The former area offers 63 drawings that were used to conceptualize various aspects of the film, whereas the latter covers 78 screens and is a little more difficult to explain. Essentially, color scripts seem to be very small pieces of art that show the director of photography the ways colors should look in various scenes. These remain good to see.

Next up is the Production area, which covers the actual creation of the film. One disappointment here is the Behind the Scenes of A Bug's Life featurette. We get a three-minute, 30-second puff piece. Admittedly, it does cover all the main aspects of production, but it does so in a way that lacks any form of depth. It's worth a look but not great.

Another featurette addresses Voice Casting. This four-minute, 15-second video is also fairly brief and glib, though it's more interesting simply because it sticks to just one area of production. We see some interview snippets with the voice actors and a few shots from the recording sessions. As with the previous featurette, it's fun and entertaining but too short.

Next up is a clip called Early Tests. This five-minute, 25-second video shows some animation tests done early in production. These were used to make sure the film was on the right track and helped the filmmakers determine how they wanted to do things. These seem interesting.

The Progression Demonstration shows us the steps computer animation goes through to reach the final product. It covers four stages, from first to last: 1) A storyreel, which offers a rough approximation of how the finished product should look and move; 2) Layout, which creates very crude and awkward computer animation to "block" the scene and get it started; 3) Animation, when the characters are fully animated and the scene is done except for the finishing touches, which occur in 4) Shaders and lighting, the portion where all the "fine points" are added to create a realistic and full image. The two-minute and 12-second "flaming death" scene is used to demonstrate these stages, and it’s compelling viewing.

One apparently negative change from the DVD: as far as I can tell, you can no longer use the “angle” feature to skip from one stage to another. My Blu-ray player let me choose any of the four angles, but the material onscreen never changed. Maybe others can make that on-the-fly method work, but I can’t.

Next we move to a Sound Design featurette, which includes a demonstration from sound designer Gary Rydstrom of how the movement noises for each of the characters were created. This video runs 13 minutes and nine seconds. We don't see much of Rydstrom, but we hear the original recordings accompanied by a black screen, which is followed by the final mix that includes those sounds. It's quite delightful and fascinating to discover how the different noises were assembled (and I get to hear more of PT's distinctive "plinking").

Release covers publicity issues in regard to the film. Posters/Ad Campaigns includes a mere five images, down from the 16 on the original DVD. Why the omissions? I don’t know, but it’s a disappointment.

We also observe two theatrical trailers. The second one is probably the best known: it starts with the Who's "Baba O'Riley" and shows a compendium of scenes from the film. The first trailer is more obscure and also more interesting: it's a very long shot of the main bugs - shown in normal bug size, from a human point of view - and not much happens until ...well, I'll let you see it. I don't think I ever saw this one in the theaters, and it's very entertaining; I love to see trailers that don't just collect shots from the film.

Character Interviews offers a 95-second video was to be used for international promotion. It shows us a remote "interview" between a broadcaster and four "actors" (Flik, Hopper, Heimlich and Francis). It's a lot of fun and is quite clever.

One curious note: while Dave Foley and Joe Ranft clearly reprised their roles as Flik and Heimlich, I'm not so sure that Kevin Spacey and Denis Leary did the voices of Hopper and Francis for this piece. Hopper sounded pretty accurate - though a few spots made me wonder - but Francis didn’t sound at all like Leary.

After this we move to the Outtakes section. This presents both reels of the hilarious "outtakes" from the end of the film - because of their popularity, a second version of these scenes was attached to the film three weeks after its initial release. I loved these clips not because they were inherently funny but because they lampooned the insipid nature of "bloopers;" those goofs and flubs have been done to death and they’re rarely amusing anymore. I thought these false outtakes made for a wicked commentary on how stupid and inane the genre naturally is. The first batch lasts two minutes, 33 seconds, and the alternate ones run two minutes, 32 seconds.

We also get a three-minute and 49-second featurette called The Story Behind the Outtakes. This addresses why the filmmakers created them and offers some shots of the actors. As usual, it's too short, but it's a neat little addition.

A few ads open the disc. We get promos for Up, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Monsters, Inc. and Blu-ray Discs. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with clips for Race to Witch Mountain, Disney Movie Rewards, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure and Disney parks.

Finally, a second disc provides a Digital Copy of A Bug’s Life. This allows you to easily transfer the flick to your computer or portable viewing device. It doesn’t do anything for me, but your mileage may vary, as they say.

One of my favorite Disney films, A Bug’s Life continues to delight and entertain 10 years after it first arrived. It’s cute, charming and consistently inventive. The Blu-ray provides absolutely amazing picture quality with excellent sound and an extensive roster of extras. This is a top-notch release that earns my firm recommendation – and that goes for owners of the DVD release, as the stunning picture quality makes the Blu-ray a worthy upgrade.

To rate this film visit the 2003 Collector's Edition review of the A BUG'S LIFE

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main