Do you remember how for a short period in the late 90s there was a load of drama about two animated films about bugs. It was a crazy time to be alive. For years, I believed that I had watched both Antz and A Bug’s Life. However, it has come to my attention that this was a false presumption. I definitely watched Antz because I remember Woody Allen’s voice. Admittedly, I doubt that I knew who Woody Allen was at the time but I probably thought it was funny. I also wouldn’t have known who anyone in A Bug’s Life was either because I was 10 in 1998. Good job I’m watching it now I’m 33. That way I can spend the whole time going “I recognise that voice” as I Google the cast on my phone.
Pixar have come a long way since this film was first though up in 1994. One of the main reason why the team wanted to focus on a bunch of insects was because of how easy it would be to animate. Much like the toys of their previous film Toy Story, would work well with computer animation as it stood at the time. So, they decide to retell the story of The Ant and the Grasshopper, one of Aesop’s fables. In the original story, the grasshopper spends the Summer singing and slacking off whilst the ant spends his time gathering food. Come Winter, the grasshopper is starving and begging the ant for food. The ant criticises the grasshopper for being idle and refuses to help him.
It’s hard to imagine how such a silly film came from something so dark and serious. That must have been some writing process. Thankfully, the story was changed quite dramatically but the bare bones are still there. Instead of the idle grasshopper, we have the bully who demands food from the ant colony. If they don’t, he threatens violence on them. The deal has worked relatively well until a clumsy young ant, Flik, ruins the colony’s offering. While the rest of the ants get to work gathering more food, Flik sets out to find a group of insects to help scare off their tormentor. Unfortunately, a simple misunderstanding causes him to bring back a desperate circus troupe instead of might warriors. Can Flik save the day and protect his friends?
This isn’t exactly the sophisticated Pixar film that we’re now used to. The story is very simple and is pretty childish. It’s all slapstick and silliness. That’s not a bad thing, of course. It’s a good story and has some good characters. This is a light hearted film and is still entertaining now. It has a hint of darkness without pushing things too far and would certainly have been a decent follow-up to their previous hit Toy Story. I wouldn’t say that the characters are quite as memorable as the ones we met in Toy Story but that could just be because we’ve had 3 sequels at this point.
A Bug’s Life is definitely an inventive film and an original story. It’s funny and puts its voice cast to good use. I just think it lacks charm. Something that I might not have thought had I watched it in 98. The problem is that Pixar are just so good nowadays. I mean they were always good and you can see that the animation here was absolutely groundbreaking for the time. What you do miss is the heart and passion that we’ve come to expect.