Written by: Andrew Stanton, Donald McEnery, Bob Shaw
Starring: Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Hayden Panettiere, Phyllis Diller
Power truly lies in numbers seeing as no matter how much influence one individual holds, a group of 100 can easily physically take them down. Something that the masses need to remember whenever misrepresentation occurs. This mindset has caused many revolutions, including the one at the inception of the United States. A Bug’s Life brings this same concept down to the insect level in the way it presents the division between ants and grasshoppers.
At a local hill, a colony of ants must gather food for themselves but must also collect for the grasshoppers as tribute in order to not be harmed. Each year the cycle repeats until an inventive but clumsy ant, Flik (Dave Foley) messes up the tribute. Now with the ants having to scramble to collect the food again for the grasshoppers, Flik sets out to bring warriors who can protect the colony.
The often-shared clip of the grasshoppers explaining why they must maintain their control of the ants summarizes exactly what this film wants to instill. The ants outnumber the grasshoppers 100-1, but the perception of violence the grasshoppers can do to the individual has them all scared of the consequences of ignoring the winged-insects’ demands. The parallel to the human world makes itself quite clear in the way the masses feel like they have no control of their lives and a few at the top can guarantee their place through financial influence. This film presents it so well on a level even a child could comprehend, which demonstrates that even with their second film, Pixar knows how to deliver messages palatable to all age groups.
Grasshoppers serve as nothing but a potential nuisance for humans but they represent bullies for these poor ants in the way the camera comes down and focuses on these small insects. It becomes quite believable to see why these insects fear the grasshoppers but Flik’s journey hopes to end this oppression by accruing helpful guardians and it goes about as well as can be expected. Instead, he brings home an acting troupe who believe defending the colony is some sort of play rather than them preparing for battle. This particular troupe includes various insects from a butterfly, caterpillar, ladybug, stick bug, and several others. They catch on fairly quickly as to the misunderstanding but the adulation they receive becomes too much for them to turn down, which serves as such a fun commentary on actors and performers.
As expected with a feature centered on insects, plenty of puns and jokes get expressed, which very much falls into my alley of appreciation. It starts at the very beginning with the ants traversing in their single-file line carrying food. A leaf falls right in front of one of the ants and now they have no clue where to go. Another ant then gently leads them around the leaf to resume their position in the line, which makes for such a cute little sequence that plays on what ants see as the end of the world in their minds. The rest of the film comes jam-packed with enough puns to make anyone laugh at least once or wag their finger to the screen while winking. With plenty of potential, it certainly does not get wasted.
The ultimate threat to these insects remains the dreaded birds and I can see why. Much larger than any of them, they can fly and have enough of an appetite for themselves and their babies. Each time the insects run into a nest essentially serves as a death warrant seeing as a bird will eventually be nearby. The sequences with the birds create some fun sequences but also the horror these situations present to the ants as they are mostly helpless against them. It really puts into perspective how humans perceive animals seeing as we forcibly sit at the top of the animal hierarchy and do not have to constantly worry about another animal hunting us down. Well, that’s if you’re not being hunted down by a debt collector at least, get it?
Due to their coinciding release dates, the comparison must exist between this film and Antz seeing as they both focus on animated ants. While the Dreamworks production carries more weight in its story, the animation utilized in A Bug’s Life stands out much more. Using Pixar’s CG animation allows for these animals to look much better and discernible in their appearance. It appears dated when compared to recent Pixar fare, but for it being in the 1990s it looks absolutely tremendous.
Certainly not one of Pixar’s best but still one to appreciate for being the second film after Toy Story, A Bug’s Life carries a strong allegory and fills it in with bug puns and several fun sequences. In Pixar fashion, it works for all ages by providing entertainment and at least some level of thought-provoking material for anyone to dig into.