(Clips from all DreamWorks Animation movies play out as "Test Drive" from How to Train Your Dragon plays)
Doug (vo): So after the big hit with Disneycember, everyone's been asking me the same thing: "Do the DreamWorks movies, do the DreamWorks movies!" And...yeah, actually, I guess that does sort of figure now, doesn't it? In the old days, the big competition used to be Disney and Warner Bros., and in some ways, they still are competitors, but when it comes to film, hands down, Disney won the battle. But now a new contender seems to have come out of nowhere known as DreamWorks. DreamWorks, in many ways, is to Disney what Warner Bros. cartoons are to Disney cartoons. Disney was always described as the classical music of cartoons, where Warner Bros. were described as jazz. Disney and DreamWorks seem to work the same way. Both are alike in many ways, but DreamWorks seems to take a few more chances, for the most part. They, too, try to succumb to what the general audience will enjoy, but they throw in a few more twists and turns, stories and characters that are a little bit more off-color, that is, at least, compared to the Disney formula. And it turned out to be a success, with many of their movies being big hits, and some of them not being such big hits. But financial stability doesn't always mean artistic success, so let's take the month of February to look through all of DreamWorks' animated features. This is the month I'd like to call...Dreamworks-uary. Yeah, that's what I'm going with. I know that...SHUT UP!
(The Dreamworks-uary logo is shown, before showing clips from Antz)
Doug (vo): Let's start with DreamWorks' very first animated feature, Antz, the controversial predecessor to A Bug's Life. Did Disney think of the idea first? Did Katzenberg? Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. Who cares? Let's just look at the movie as a whole.
Doug (vo): The film stars an ant named Z, played by Woody Allen. He's, big surprise, a neurotic, living in a colony of ants where it's very easy to lose your identity. He has friends here and there, but for the most part, he finds it hard to fit in. That is, until he accidentally comes across the Queen's daughter, played by Sharon Stone, which is...weird, because, yeah, they're all technically her children, but I guess somehow they singled her out as princess because...she's being trained to carry the children...? Don't know how it works. But they have a romance and they seem to hit it off. But while uncovering an evil plan from a general ant, played by Gene Hackman, Z and the princess get whisked away outside of the colony, and thus, the two are on a hair-raising adventure against humans, other insects, and even their own kind to find what they call paradise, known as Insectopia, which is really nothing more than a garbage can.
Doug (vo): As a first film, this is pretty damn good from an animation company. The CG now is a touch dated, but when it came out, it was pretty impressive. I find it interesting that I actually don't have a hard time telling the ants apart. They're not drawn like typical cartoon characters with big eyes or big expressions, but somehow, I actually do know which ones are which. Part of that comes from the incredibly distinct voices that they have. Yeah, this movie really crams the celebrities in there, I mean, there's a ton. But to its credit, they all sort of fit. Woody Allen as the neurotic, that's a no-brainer. Gene Hackman as the bad guy, that works obviously. [Sylvester] Stallone as a soldier obviously fits well. Jennifer Lopez as one of the tough miners, that works, too. Danny Glover as a supportive comrade, Dan Aykroyd as a snobby sophisticate. These actually really do fall together. That is, all except for one.
[The character about to be mentioned here, Cutter, the colonel, is shown in several clips]
Doug (vo): What the hell is Christopher Walken doing in this movie? And I'm not at all about the Christopher Walken hate. Anything he's in, I'll take it. But, I...why? He has, like, no role. He's the assistant to the general and...that's it! There's no other character to him. He's not weird, he's not strange, and his voice sticks out like a sore thumb.
General Mandible: Imagine it.
Colonel Cutter (Walken): A strong colony, sir. A colony we can be proud of.
Doug (vo): I just remember snickering the whole time 'cause every time he opened his mouth, I'd be like, "Oh, that's Christopher Walken and he sounds funny. I wish he was given funny stuff to do."
[Various scenes showing the film's depiction of the world is shown]
Doug (vo): But while we're on the subject, the film is pretty funny. I mean, okay, not knee-slapping funny, but it certainly does great in creating these grand environments, made out of everyday small things. Their view of the world and the way they actually act as a colony is pretty entertaining. Literally at birth, they decide whether or not they're going to be a worker or a soldier. And, of course, there's a lot of obvious commentary in either following the pack or being an individual, and where you draw the line, which is why I think the film really does work better for maybe a younger audience. I remember when I saw this, I was a junior in high school. I was going through my rebellious artist phase and this is just the movie I wanted to see, not realizing that a bajillion movies more that year and the following years were going to come with a very similar message. It's not a bad message, it's just kind of been hammered to death in other films, and, yeah, this one kind of hammers it to death, too.
[Various other clips, mainly showing what's described next, is shown]
Doug (vo): But what makes it stand out is the characters, the environments they create, and the fact that while it's animated, it doesn't go totally kid-friendly. I mean, yeah, kids can watch it, and like I said, I enjoyed it in high school, but the designs aren't as colorful or baby-friendly as something like Pixar can be, neither is the story or the content for that matter, and I think that gives it a little bit more of an edge. Even the bad guy's diabolical plan, at first, I thought was kind of cliched. What? He just wants to wipe out the weak, start all over and have a "survival of the fittest" type thing? But when you really look at the way they set up this colony and the way things work, yeah, actually, you can see how a character like that would be formed. I even give credit to the fact that the bugs are not all the same size like in A Bug's Life. Everything is actually to scale. The termites are much bigger, mantises are much bigger, bees are much bigger. It's like, yeah, bugs aren't all the same size, and that makes for a much more entertaining and threatening world to go through.
Doug (vo): So I really like the film. Does it have flaws? Sure. Is the message a little passe? A touch. But I think it still stands out as being a very unique, tongue-in-cheek adventure, and audiences at the time seem to like it, too. But this would turn out to be only the first big hit in DreamWorks' lineup.
[The final scene, showing all the ants celebrating after getting out of harm's way, is shown]