(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from A Bug's Life)
Doug (vo): With Toy Story being kind of a surprise monster hit, it was no wonder that it was a big rush to get out their next film, A Bug's Life. And in talking about this film, it's probably fair to give a little background about this as well. In fact, I dare even say it's inevitable. [A photo of Jeffrey Katzenberg is shown] Katzenberg, one of the huge names at Disney, left very shortly after Toy Story premiered. And apparently, Disney and Pixar were already working on their next CG animated film about bugs.
[Footage from the DreamWorks animated film Antz is shown alongside A Bug's Life's clips]
Doug (vo): Well, Katzenberg left to start up DreamWorks and, guess what? He thinks he owned that great idea about CG animated bugs. So it was a giant race to see who could get their CG family-friendly bug movie out first. That's right. That summer, only within weeks away from each other, we had the movies Antz and A Bug's Life. It was very bizarre. So, kind of harsh to say, it does make sense to actually compare these movies just a little bit. Antz came out first. It starred Woody Allen playing, big shock, an ant. He befriends a princess ant, and he leaves the colony in search of adventure, which ultimately ends up with him saving the day. Then you have A Bug's Life. This also stars an ant, who befriends a princess, who leaves the colony in search of adventure, and, what a shock, saves the day. They sound pretty similar, but in reality, they actually are pretty different. Antz was a little bit more like a Woody Allen film except mixed in with some adventure, action and so forth. A Bug's Life was much more family-friendly and colorful. Now I personally think Antz is the better story. I like the characters more, I think visually it's a little bit more interesting, and the idea was a little bit more creative, and the moral was sort of fun at the time. But let's be fair to A Bug's Life and just judge it on what it is.
Doug (vo): We have an ant named Flik. He's part of a colony of ants that constantly uses a lot of their food rations to feed the grasshoppers. They're led by a meanie, played by Kevin Spacey. Essentially, they're just bullies that like to take advantage of the fact that they can push around the ants and they can get them food. But Flik doesn't like that. So he ventures off and tries to find a group of warrior bugs to come in and fight the grasshoppers off. What he finds is a group of circus performers that are confused for warrior bugs. The circus bugs, in turn, confuse the fact that they think they're getting a job to perform. Once they find out the truth, they inevitably try to flee, only to discover that actually, they can put together a decent plan to get rid of the grasshoppers. So the race is on to put their plan in motion, put together a device that would stop the grasshoppers forever, and return peace to their colony and stop being bullied around.
(Note: Doug mispronounces Flik's name as "Flip")
Doug (vo): As a follow-up to Toy Story, this one's pretty weak. I guess it's bright and colorful, but the characters just aren't as strong as they were in Toy Story. And on top of that, the elements that make Toy Story so good like, say, a very simple setup but with very complex, relatable characters, is now thrown away for a kind of complicated setup with very black and white characters. There's an obvious villain, there's an obvious hero. The hero is awkward, but not really that memorable. In fact, most of the ants aren't even really that memorable. I don't remember identities or names or really anything about them.
[The circus bugs are shown in several clips]
Doug (vo): That is, except for the circus bugs. These are the highlight of the film. That's Denis Leary as a ladybug who's constantly mistaken for a woman. That's David Hyde Pierce as the stickbug who's constantly used as, well, a stick. You have a group of acrobatic bugs who can't speak any English...in fact, I'm not even sure what language that is. You have a ditzy black widow, a fortune teller who can't see two feet in front of him, a giant caterpillar with a super thick accent, the list goes on. The way these characters work off each other and the constant one-liners are just hilarious. The point where they finally figure out that they're supposed to be warriors and not performers is one of the highlights of the film. Look how cowardly they suddenly all turn. Anything with these characters is great.
[Various more clips are shown]
Doug (vo): But sadly, as I said before, the rest of the film is kind of bland. Is it terrible? Not really. I mean, as a stand-alone film, it's kind of just your generic story of mistaken identity. But sadly, that leads to the generic consequences as well: The "liar revealed", which as most of you know, I HATE. God, I despise this part in movies where you know the hero's just gonna be taken back, but because they found out the person was a liar, they have to throw him out and act like he's not part of the group when, hey, wait a minute, this is actually a good idea, and it turns out to kind of work in the end. It's not funny, it's not suspenseful, it's not dramatic, because we know everything that's going to happen! Maybe if the main characters were a little bit more engaging, but they're not. They're just kind of generic, too.
Doug (vo): But to be fair, for a lot of people, they don't mind this kind of story. They enjoy this kind of story, they like watching it, they like seeing the hero go through this journey where they're cast out, only to get the nerve to come back and be strong again and, you know what? If it does it for you, great. Because, really, in the end of the day, A Bug's Life doesn't have anything terrible in it. It's just stuff we've seen before. But if you don't mind seeing this stuff, it still has a few good highlights, like I said, the circus bugs and the colors. But for me, both as a stand-alone film and ESPECIALLY as a follow-up to Toy Story, this one seems pretty weak. I don't hate it, I just don't think it's especially strong. The circus bugs are great, sometimes, the grasshoppers look cool, but the story and characters for me are sadly minuscule.
[The film's ending scene, showing the ants waving goodbye to the departing circus bugs, is shown]