Plot: In the realm of ants, tradition and conformity are the steadfast rules of life, do as you’re told and do what is best for the colony. While most ants follow this protocol to the letter, one ant seems to always be in trouble of some kind. Flik means well, but he tends to be impulsive and a little naive, eager to help the colony, but his ideas always seem to backfire. As this is the most important time of the year for the ants, Flik wants to help as much as he can, as the ants gather food as part of an annual tradition. The food is given to the grasshoppers as a tribute of sorts, for protection, though the grasshoppers seem to be the only thing the ants need protected from. The last of the food has been prepared and the ants run underground to await the grasshoppers, but Flik accidentally causes an accident that sinks the food to the bottom of a lake. The grasshoppers are irate and demand the food be regathered, which means the ants won’t have enough to survive the winter, but Flik has a plan. The colony allows him to leave and find protectors to fend off the grasshoppers, but in truth, they just want him out of the way while they try to meet the new deadline.
Entertainment Value: This was Pixar’s second feature, inspired by such sources as Seven Samurai and the classic animated short The Ant and the Grasshopper, an epic tale of a small scale world. This one isn’t often discussed with Pixar’s most acclaimed works, but I think it is a well crafted, very fun movie in all aspects. I appreciate that this is the kind of story that only animation can present, a hidden world brought to life on a grand scale and with a fantastic sense of humor, no less. The story here is simple and familiar, but it works well and to me, a big reason for that is how detailed and alive the film’s world is. The sheer volume of subtle, but effective touches and details is remarkable, down to the most minute details, ones that you might not even catch at first, but pick up on when you revisit the movie. This kind of depth within the world is impressive, even by Pixar’s high standard. The humor is warm and driven by the characters, with some nice in-jokes tossed in as well. A deep crew of memorable characters also helps, as the movie is populated with colorful and well developed bugs of all sorts. From the immense and painstaking detail to the vivid, varied characters, the world created for A Bug’s Life is simply an astonishing accomplishment.
As you should be able to tell, I love the visuals in this movie and while Pixar has always progressed and improved in this area, I still think A Bug’s Life holds up well. The animation comes off as a little simplistic at times, but the attention to detail is on par with any animated feature out there. The character designs are fun and distinct, as even the ants are able to feel like separate characters in most cases, not just bland masses of insects. While I like the character designs, the most dynamic aspect of the animation is in the world itself, all the little touches included to make the realm of bugs into this living, breathing space. I especially appreciate that the visual details aren’t just for show, but often have a sense of humor or some inventive element. The cast here is stacked as well, with Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Hayden Panettiere, Denis Leary, Bonnie Hunt, and countless others. This one is filled with colorful, fun characters, but I think Phyllis Diller’s performance is especially fun, as she provides so much humor even in a smaller role. I wouldn’t rank this with Pixar’s best output in terms of cinematic depth, but I do love A Bug’s Life and it is one of my favorite Pixar productions.