- “An epic of miniature proportions.”
The film is loosely inspired by the fable "The Ant and the Grasshopper" and the classic samurai film The Seven Samurai, it is the second Pixar movie and tells the story of an outcast inventor ant named Flik (Dave Foley), who recruits a group of circus bugs he mistakes for warriors when his colony is threatened by a group of grasshoppers.
"Ant Island" is a small area in grassy hills surrounded by a little stream. Every year, a colony of ants is expected to harvest food for a biker-gang-like bunch of greedy grasshoppers. The anxious Princess Atta is being trained by her mother, the Queen to take her place all the while worrying about pleasing the oncoming hoard. Her younger sister, Dot, is tired of being mocked by the other children for being small and unable to fly yet due to her wings being too small. Then there is Flik, is an inventor whose creations usually do more harm than good. While trying out a mechanical harvester, he accidentally hurls a wheat stock onto Atta and rushes over to apologise. Atta tries to reason with the misfit who makes her a telescope for when she's queen and Thorny, a member of the royal council confronts him and tells him to go and pick grain like the other workers. Flik sadly heads back to the wheat forest and Dot follows, saying she is impressed by his inventions. Flik feels discouraged and doubts if he will ever make a difference and Dot expresses her own insecurity, saying she's too little. Flik tries to make his new friend feel better by showing her a metaphor of how like a tiny seed takes time to become a giant tree, we have potential to do great things in time. Suddenly, the alarm to finish harvesting and rush into the anthill sounded and the colony frantically finishes their work and hides in a corridor for when the grasshoppers enjoy their offering in peace. After Flik puts the grain he collected onto the offering stone, he drops his machine which knocks the pile of food into a stream just before the grasshoppers arrive. Flik is about to tell Atta when the grasshoppers bash through the ceiling and drop in. Their leader, Hopper, gives the ants the rest of the season to make good on what they owe, but orders a double ration of food after Flik stands up to him in defense of Dot, who was being threatened to Hopper's Thumper. After the gang leaves, Flik is admonished by the colony's royal council. When Flik suggests that he try to recruit some "warrior bugs" to fight the grasshoppers, Atta allows him to do so, but only to keep him out of the way.
Reaching the insect "city" (made of of garbage and other human objects), Flik enters a bar and spots a troupe of unemployed Circus Bugs whose latest performance had just ended in disaster. They are harassed by a group of flies who have previously been confronted by one of the clowns- a ladybug- after they mistake him for being a female. The three clowns decide to fight back by putting on their "Robin Hood" act, having Flik mistaken them for the tough bugs he was looking for. However, the flies frighten the Circus Bugs into running for the wall and rolling the can. At the same time, they believe him to be a talent scout who wants to book their act. They return to the colony, much to Atta's surprise, and are immediately greeted as heroes who can end the grasshopper threat. After watching a gritty play put on by the ant children, the troupe realize with horror what they are really wanted for. They send Rosie the "Lion Tamer" to tell Flik what they really are and he panics, nonchalantly excusing himself and the troupe to supposedly plan out a strategy to fight off the grasshoppers, which in turn arouses Atta's suspicion.
When Flik and the troupe are far enough from the others, the troupe begins to leave, but Flik begs them to stay, saying that they would never let him live it down if the colony learns of his mistake. Atta brings the Queen and the council over to see what Flik is up to, only to find them being attacked by a hungry bird. Dot, who was also curious about what Flik could be up to, gets caught in the chaos, and Flik and the Circus Bugs band together to save her and escape the birds' reach. Atta begins to think that the troupe may stop the grasshoppers after all and apologizes for being rude to Flik. She gives Flik an idea, and he kisses her on the cheek before bolting off to tell the troupe. The princess starts to find herself falling in love with Flik, and the feeling is mutual. Since Hopper is afraid of birds -due to him almost getting eaten by one years ago, Flik's idea is that the colony and circus bugs would build a life-sized artificial bird to scare the grasshoppers away for good. The plan is presented by the circus bugs, so the royal council believes the "warriors" came up with the idea. When the bird is finished, it is placed inside a hollow area of the island's tree, and the colony celebrates its awaited victory.
At the grasshopper gang's hideout, Hopper's brother Molt is coaxed by a couple of skeptical grasshoppers into telling their leader that it would be best not to go to the island since they have more than enough food stored and the rainy season is near. Hopper reminds him and the gang that if they do not keep the ants living in fear, the ants might use their superior numbers ("a hundred to one," he estimates) to run the grasshoppers out of the colony for good. The gang sets out for the island to collect their due. During the party back at Ant Island, circus ringmaster P.T. Flea arrives looking for his missing performers and exposes the truth. The colony is devastated, believing the bird turned out to be a waste of time. Upset at Flik's deception, Atta orders him exiled from the colony, while the other ants hide the bird to pretend it never happened and rush to collect whatever food they can for Hopper. They are unable to meet the double quota he set, and when the gang arrives, Hopper takes over the anthill and forces the ants to bring him all the food on the island.
While Dot leads The Blueberries to their hidden clubhouse for safety, she overhears the gang's plans to kill the Queen once they have all the food, and after a tangle with Thumper, she sprouts her wings and catches up with Flik and the troupe. She persuades them to return and put the bird plan into action, with help from her and the rest of The Blueberry scouts. However, Flik is entirely discouraged and says the colony was right about him. He is shaken out of this doubt when Dot reminds him of his seed to tree metaphor. Back at the island, Flik instructs the troupe to distract the grasshoppers with a show while he and the blueberries climb up to the bird. Manny the magnificent and his lovely assistant, Gypsy put on a magic act to sneak the queen away so she wouldn't be there to get squished by Hopper. Then, the bird launches from out of the tree, supported by a cable- and swoops over the bunch, causing panic as the ants and Circus Bugs create fake wounds with berry juice. The plan goes greatly until P.T. intervenes and sets the model on fire with lighter fluid to stop its terror. Enraged at Flik's attempt to fight back, Hopper sends Thumper to beat him and talks down to the ants. Flik manages to stand up and rally the other ants, saying that the grasshoppers depend on the extorted food for their own survival. The entire colony swarms against the gang, forcing all except Hopper to leave. They shove him into a circus cannon to shoot him away, but the rains arrive and cause the ants to retreat into the anthill. Hopper shoots himself out of the cannon, grabs Flik, and flies off, intent on killing him. Atta rescues Flik and the two lure Hopper towards the bird's nest. Hopper corners Flik and starts strangling him, revealing his intention of returning to the colony with more grasshoppers. Flik is saved when the bird appears, picks up Hopper and feeds him to her baby chicks.
The following Spring, the colony adopts Flik's harvester to speed up grain collection. Atta becomes the new queen, passes the princess crown to Dot, and chooses Flik as her mate. As the troupe leaves, Slim notices that they've forgotten Heimlich, who emerges from the chrysalis in which he has encased himself. He pops out with a tiny pair of butterfly wings, far too small to lift him off the ground, but he's picked up by Francis and Manny. The Circus Bugs (with Molt acting as a road crew assistant) departs with the colony's thanks. Dot, joined by Queen Atta and Flik (who are shown holding hands), waves goodbye. The shot then pulls out, and "The End" appears on the screen.
- Dave Foley as Flik
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Atta
- Hayden Panettiere as Dot
- David Hyde Pierce as Slim
- Denis Leary as Francis
- Joe Ranft as Heimlich
- Jonathan Harris as Manny
- Madeline Kahn as Gypsy
- Bonnie Hunt as Rosie
- Michael McShane as Tuck and Roll
- Brad Garrett as Dim
- John Ratzenberger as P.T. Flea
- Kevin Spacey as Hopper
- Richard Kind as Molt
- Phyllis Diller as The Queen
- Roddy McDowall as Mr. Soil
- Edie McClurg as Dr. Flora
- Alex Rocco as Thorny
- David Ossman as Cornelius
- Carlos Alazraqui - Loco
- Jack Angel - Thud
- Bob Bergen - Aphie, Male Ants
- Kimberly J. Brown -
- Rodger Bumpass - Mosquito
- Anthony Burch - Ant Boys
- Bill Farmer - Ant #3
- Brad Hill - Grasshopper
- Jess Harnell - Bus Beetle, Snail
- Paul Eiding - Male Ants
- Jessica Evans - Female Ants
- Jeff Pidgeon - Bee, Grasshopper
- Sherry Lynn - Female Ants
- Jan Rabson - Axel
- Russi Taylor - Female Ants
- John Lasseter - Harry the Fly
- Jennifer Darling - Female Ants, Fly Mom
- Rachel Davey
- Debi Derryberry - Baby Maggots
- Sam Gifaldi - Ant Boy #2
- Brendan Hickey - Ants
- Kate Hodges - Female Ants
- Denise Johnson - Bug
- David Lander - Thumper
- Mickie McGowan - Cockroach Waitress, Mosquito Waitress
- Courtland Mead - Ant Boy #1
- Christine Milian - Female Ants
- Kelsey Mulrooney - Female Ants
- Ryan O'Donohue - Ant Boys, Grub
- Phil Proctor - Fly in Circus, Grasshopper Lye Down
- Joe Ranft - Complaining Fly
- Jordan Ranft - Dot's Friend
- Brian M. Rosen - Fly Brothers, Slick, Drinking Fly
- Rebecca Schneider - Female Ants
- Francesca Marie Smith - Female Ants
- Andrew Stanton - Bug Zapper Bug
- Hannah Swanson - Female Ants
- Travis Tedford - Ant Kids
- Ashley Tisdale - Blueberry Ant, Daisy, Lead Blueberry Scout
- Lee Unkrich - Ant #1
- Jordan Warkol - Ant #2
Comparison with Antz
The plotline has several similarities to the DreamWorks' produced Antz, which had been released a month earlier. This was because of Jeffrey Katzenberg forming DreamWorks and previously being kicked out of Disney for feuding in the company around the time A Bug's Life was in development. As a result, DreamWorks started releasing films, which were not only released sometime after a Disney film, but also had similar concepts and settings. Since then, Disney and DreamWorks have remained rivals.
The film was widely acclaimed from both critics and audiences and, was a box office success, grossing $363 million worldwide against its $120 million budget.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 92% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 85 reviews, with an average score of 7.9/10. The critical consensus is "Blending top notch animation with rousing adventure, witty dialogue, and memorable characters, A Bug's Life is another Pixar winner." Another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 77 based on 23 reviews, indicating "Generally favorable reviews."
Todd McCarthy of Variety gave the film a positive review, saying "Lasseter and Pixar broke new technical and aesthetic ground in the animation field with Toy Story, and here they surpass it in both scope and complexity of movement while telling a story that overlaps Antz in numerous ways." James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "A Bug's Life, like Toy Story, develops protagonists we can root for, and places them in the midst of a fast-moving, energetic adventure." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "Will A Bug's Life suffer by coming out so soon after Antz? Not any more than one thriller hurts the chances for the next one. Antz may even help business for A Bug's Life by demonstrating how many dramatic and comedic possibilities can be found in an anthill." Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times gave the film four out of five stars, saying "What A Bug's Life demonstrates is that when it comes to bugs, the most fun ones to hang out with hang exclusively with the gang at Pixar." Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film four out of four stars, saying "A Bug's Life is one of the great movies – a triumph of storytelling and character development, and a whole new ballgame for computer animation. Pixar Animation Studios has raised the genre to an astonishing new level". Since then, DreamWorks and Pixar have been bitter enemies.
Richard Corliss of Time gave the film a positive review, saying "The plot matures handsomely; the characters neatly converge and combust; the gags pay off with emotional resonance." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B, saying "A Bug's Life may be the single most amazing film I've ever seen that I couldn't fall in love with." Paul Clinton of CNN gave the film a positive review, saying "A Bug's Life is a perfect movie for the holidays. It contains a great upbeat message ... it's wonderful to look at ... it's wildly inventive ... and it's entertaining for both adults and kids." Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three and a half stars out of four, and compared the movie to "Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai" (with a little of another art-film legend, Federico Fellini, tossed in)." where "As in 'Samurai', the colony here is plagued every year by the arrival of bandits." On the contrary, Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post gave the film a negative review, saying "Clever as it is, the film lacks charm. One problem: too many bugs. Second, bigger world for two purposes: to feed birds and to irk humans."
- Main article: A Bug's Life (video)
- The read-along version contains the very rare song, "A Place You've Never Been".
- This is the only Disney-Pixar animated feature film before Disney purchased the company that has not yet received a sequel or prequel.
- This is also the only Disney-Pixar film to have a "Widescreen Edition Release" on VHS.
- John Lassetter repeatedly attempted to get Robert De Niro to voice Hopper, the grasshopper, but De Niro repeatedly declined. DeNiro didn't do animated voice work at the time.
- In the bloopers shown at the end of the film, Princess Atta is shown cracking up during her scene with Hopper, ruining take after take until Hopper goes to his trailer in frustration. This is a spoof of Julia Louis-Dreyfus being known to do the same.
- The film is inspired by Aesop's fable, The Ant and The Grasshopper and is highly reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and all of its successors, including The Magnificent Seven (which gave the villain a more prominent role than in Seven Samurai and had a similar scene in which the heroes are driven away from the people they were protecting) and Three Amigos! which was a comedic take on the story.
- This is the second film that Denis Leary and Kevin Spacey worked on. Their first film was Touchstone's 1994 Christmas comedy The Ref. Leary played the main antagonist Gus and Spacey played Lloyd who was taken hostage by Gus.
- This was the only Pixar film not to be broadcast on STARZ until 2016's Finding Dory, which streamed on Netflix.
- P.T. Flea is John Ratzenberger's favorite Pixar character that he voiced.
- This is the first Pixar film to be reframed for 4:3 televisions.
- This is the first Pixar film to be produced in a 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratio, unlike the company's previous film which was produced in a 1.85:1.
- Two versions of the film have been released, each one with different fake outtakes over the end credits. The version released before December 18th, 1999 features a set, and the one released after that date has another. This was done because Disney hoped it would encourage people to view the film a second time. But in the VHS, the credits are poised away from the backgrounds shown next to them for a few seconds before the bloopers, but in the DVD, the credits are poised inside the backgrounds, and there are different lengths of bloopers switched around depending on the widescreen or fullscreen viewing, so don't expect to see the same version twice.
- During the summer of 1994, Pixar's story department began turning their thoughts to their next film, while Toy Story (1995) was in post-production. The storyline of A Bug's Life (1998) originated in a lunchtime conversation between John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, and Joe Ranft, the studio's head story team. Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), and WALL·E (2008) were also conceived at this lunch. Lasseter and his story team had already been drawn to the idea of insects as characters. Insects, like toys, were within the reach of computer animation at the time due to their relatively simple surfaces. Stanton and Ranft wondered whether they could find a starting point in Aesop's fable The Ant and the Grasshopper. Walt Disney had produced his own version with a cheerier ending decades earlier in the 1934 short film The Grasshopper and the Ants (1934). In addition, Walt Disney Animation Studios had considered producing a film in the late 1980s entitled "Army Ants", that centered around a pacifist ant living in a militaristic colony, but it never fully materialized.
- This is the first film to be transferred directly from a digital source straight to VHS and DVD.
- This is the first Pixar film to be specifically reframed for 4:3 exhibition on VHS, DVD and televised airings.
- In Japan, the film's image song is "STAND" by the Japanese band Hoff Dylan. It is also the first song on the Japanese version of the film's soundtrack. (link)
- Some short clips of this film are featured in two of the Disney Villains mixes included on the bonus features in the DVD release of Mickey's House of Villains.
- The teaser trailer was attached to the 1997 re-release of The Little Mermaid.
- The theatrical trailer was attached to Mulan.
- The final trailer premiered on September 18, 1998, but was not attached to any film.
Easter eggs and references
- At the start of the film, Hopper refers to the roles of ants in the world as "one of those circle of life kind of things"
- Next to the Caravan, the Pizza Planet Truck can be seen.
- PT Flea's Circus travels in a Casey Junior cookie box.
- A113 is seen on a box at Bug City.
- Woody makes a cameo in the outtakes, holding a clapperboard.
- A pair of unnamed ants, as well as Dot, follow Flik as he prepares to leave the island. After Flik gets across the valley and hits himself on a rock, one of the ants told the other "Your dad's right, he's gonna die.". However, in an earlier scene, the ant said that it was his dad who said that Flik's gonna die.
- The drunk mosquito is clearly a male, while in real life, only female mosquitoes drink blood.
- The ant colony is made up of both male and female worker ants. In reality, all worker ants are female but can't reproduce. And males, also known as drones, only serve to mate with the queen and die afterwards. The same is true with bees and wasps.
- In the opening sequence where the ants are loading the food onto the leaf, they show a panoramic shot of the scene, and you can see the Queen and Princess Atta standing under the shade near the center. But in the very next shot, the ants are still hauling the food and the royal family is not there.
- When the ants decide whether on not let Flik go to Ant City, Atta says, "He can't mess anything up.". However, her lip movement reads "screw" when she says "mess".
- When Gypsy spreads her wings throughout the film, the number of yellow spots on her wings keep changing.
- The size of the shadow of an object depends upon its distance from the light source, not the surface that falls upon. Lifting the cutout of the bird a few inches closer to the Sun as they do would make absolutely no difference to the size of its shadow, yet it quadruples in size.
- When Tuck & Roll got Hopper's antenna, the other antenna was the only one on Hopper's head, but when zoomed out, the antenna that was pulled off is still there.
- Approximately half of the insects in the film appear to have 4 limbs, while the other half have the correct number of 6.
- When P.T. Flea was doing his trick with the other performers, he was stuck on a paper with glue. When he is putting his head on front, his other hair was found on the huge paper. But when the paper falls to the matches to make him filled with ash, his hairs that got stuck to the paper are gone.
- The bird featured in the film is clearly a songbird, but her chicks seen at the end of the film that hatch just in time to eat Hopper alive are all depicted with their downy feathers and open eyes. Actual songbirds are born naked and blind.
- Gypsy resembles a regular moth. But in real life, only male gypsy moths have fully functional wings while females have vestigial wings and can't fly unlike all the other moth species (a similar trait goes to bagworm moths, where only males have wings and females have no wings at all.
- When Atta and the Queen were discussing relaxing, the Queen puts Aphie down. When he was down, the two male ants made a hole to escape from Dot. But when a tall wheat stalk falls on Princess Atta, the hole disappears.
- "Shoo, Fly, Don't Bother Me"
- "The Itsy Bitsy Spider"
- "La Cucaracha"
- "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow"
- "The Time of Your Life" - Randy Newman
- "A Place You've Never Been" - The Manhattan Transfer (Read-along only)