This is a story of Titanic that has never been heard of before, as a former sailor mouse named Top Conners recounts his experience of the ship on her maiden voyage. While Top Conners and his friend Ronnie are working as crew for the mice passengers on the ship, a young lady named Elizabeth and her father arrive as two of the passengers. Elizabeth is engaged to a high class business man named Maltravers, much to her dislike of the man, and rightfully so as he wants to take advantage of the engagement so he can get his father’s ocean rights for whale hunting. However this plan might not go as planned as Elizabeth and a lower classed Spanish musician named Don Juan fall in love. There’s a giant octopus, several talking mice, magic dolphins and gangster sharks, this is the Legend of the Titanic. Continue reading
Dapplewood is a common forest where animals such as badgers, moles, squirrels and mice live. The young animals, known as Furlings, go to their teacher named Cornelius, an old and wise badger who also likes to build new inventions. Four furlings, the mouse Abigail, the Hedgehog Russell, the mole Edgar and the badger Michelle, go with Cornelius for their current lesson. While Cornelius normally has trouble tutoring these four, it is the least of his concern after the five come across a road and almost get killed by a reckless driver. Their problems with the humans worsen when a hazardous gas leaks from an overturned tanker, damaging their homes and even killing some of the animals, and when Michelle runs to her home to find her parents, she falls gravely ill from the gas. Now Abigail, Russell and Edgar have to venture to another meadow in order to find the herbs needed to cure Michelle, facing the dangers that lie ahead, hoping that it’s not too late to save their friend. Continue reading
Five ordinary middle school children are about to have the summer of their lives, when looking around the school grounds for their lost rabbit, they stumble upon an injured dog. After bringing it in and nursing it back to health, the dog reveals itself as an alien named Pochi. Pochi explains that he is researching the planet Earth, and looking for a substance that is believed to have been extinct for five billion years, and was injured after fighting off against poachers. In exchange for their help, Pochi agrees to take them to the moon, but after an accident, they end up being taken around the vast areas of space. For Natsuki, Amane, Kiyoshi, Koji and Noriko, this is the largest, weirdest and wildest summer trips of their lives. It’s time to enjoy the Space Show. Continue reading
While in the middle of a class at University, a young student named Hana comes across a man who regularly sneaks into her classes. The man, named Ookami, is mysterious, but kind natured and so Hana starts falling in love with him. The two start dating for some time, but there is a secret Ookami reveals to Hana that is quite startling; he is a Wolf man, the last descendant of the Japanese wolf. Because of Hana’s love, this detail is no bother to her, and later on in life Hana and Ookami have two wolf children, Yuki and Ame. Unfortunately, one night Ookami goes out and hunts for food, and dies, leaving Hana with the two children, who, because of the lack of knowledge of caring for wolves, is constantly struggling to find out how to care for them. Because of crowded city and fears that her children would get taken away, Hana decides to move to a peaceful rural village, where Yuki and Ame can roam freely where no one would suspect them otherwise. However, even the rural lives, as well as having Yuki and Ame grow up lead to new problems that even Hana cannot avoid. Continue reading
The year is 3028 AD; human beings on Earth have perfected space travel. It would allow them to live in space and explore new worlds. However, after discovering this achievement, an alien race known as the Drej attack the human race and completely destroys Earth, possibly in fear of what the human race could do against them. Cale Tucker and his father are two of the few human survivors; however they leave on different ships because Cale’s father, Sam Tucker, runs the main ship called Titan, and doesn’t want it in the hands of the Drej. Fifteen years after the Earth was destroyed, the human race is decreasing in population, and a human Space Captain Korso of the spaceship Valkyrie ask for Cale’s help in retrieving the Titan, as it holds a secret to helping the human race. However, the Drej is after Cale and the Titan as it is still determined to completely destroy the human race, so Cale and Korso are now in a race against the Drej with the help of human pilot Akima, first mate Preed, science expert Gune and weapons expert Stith, to save what could save the entire human race from extinction. Continue reading
All the insects have a specific roll in the world, and on Ant Colony all the ants have a basic job that repeats year by year. In the spring, when the food is fully grown and ripe, the ants harvest. The harvest gets eaten by the grasshoppers and then the ants collect more harvest for themselves to take care of themselves through autumn and winter. This has been the order of life for many years for the ants of the colony and as long as nothing went wrong, the ants have been perfectly fine.
This year the eldest princess of the colony, Princess Atta, is currently in training to become the new Queen, and being her first year leading the colony, she’s ultimately nervous about any slip ups to occur, and it doesn’t help that she has to deal with a very accident prone ant, Flik. Flik is very individualistic, and likes to help improve the colony through the inventing of new tools and developing new ideas, although this usually gets him into trouble. His troubles reach a new high when he accidently knocks over the year’s harvest, causing the grasshoppers to break through. The leader of the grasshoppers, simply named Hopper, gives the ants until the middle of autumn to collect up double the amount of food. All looks troubling and Flik is about to be punished until he brings up an idea, he will leave the colony and hire a group of strong bugs to help fight off the grasshoppers. Princess Atta and the others agree to this in the hopes that he would never return, however he actually brings back a group of bugs that agree to help, the only problem is that they aren’t warrior bugs, but retired circus bugs who got new work after losing their jobs at a circus.
Despite this unlucky situation, Flik, Atta, the circus bugs and all the ants have to choose whether to fight off the grasshoppers, or hope that they collect enough food to make sure they don’t reach a dire fate.
In 1994, during the production of Toy Story, a group of the creative staff including John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Joe Ranft discussed future project ideas. The idea for A Bug’s Life began as doing Aesop’s fable The Ant and the Grasshopper, but later changed to a loose adaptation on Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece Seven Samurai. Disney originally had ideas of creating a film based around ants called Army Ants back in 1988, but despite the idea never materialised, it did influence them to green-light Pixar’s next major project. Pixar worked hard on this project in the hopes that it wouldn’t bomb for two reasons; one was the fear that they would lose reputation from releasing a film that wasn’t as good as its previous hit, and that a new rival studio Dreamworks was releasing their own film about ants. While Antz was pitched afterwards, it was scheduled to be released earlier than A Bug’s Life by one month. Fortunately, while Dreamworks won the battle, Pixar won the war as their film earned a higher profit.
Without comparing it to Pixar’s later films, A Bug’s Life has very good animation and it has stood the test of time. While some points are very cheap and cartoonish, most of it is very smooth, detailed and most of the movements and characteristics of all the characters in this movie feel quite accurate to their real life insect counterparts, yet they also have some freedom to show expressions. However when you compare it to Pixar’s more recent film, the animation is far inferior but for its time as Pixar’s second movie it stands on it’s on. The environments are bright and the characters have a more rounded design, so it’s really suited for younger viewers and it has a mostly engaging atmosphere. With almost every Pixar film, each had at least one technical achievement to show how cutting edge Pixar was. The technical achievement in this film was large crowd scenes, which was so advanced at the time that they made a team of over 50 animators specifically to pull it off, and while they look clever, the characters themselves lack any major variety, making it hard to tell if there are duplicates or not.
The orchestral pieces are pretty simple and memorable, with an interesting amount of brass accompaniment. They mainly suit the positive and light-hearted feel of the movie, and get dark and tense whenever the grasshoppers go on screen. However this isn’t a musical score worth listening to on its own, since it’s mainly generic and isn’t as effective as the visual cues. Contrary to ones expectation from Pixar movies, I think the main theme “The Time of Your Life” performed by Randy Newman is the soundtrack’s Achilles heel. I love “You’ve got a friend in me” for its lovely melody, memorable lyrics and a touching message in the song, but this one doesn’t really have much of that. It is a nice song but it is a very weak song.
The voice acting is mostly generic, they sound like typical characters seen several other times, but they do keep the likability in their respective roles to make them tolerable. The only ones I think go beyond tolerable to enjoyable would be Kevin Spacey as Hopper and the late Joe Ranft as Heimlich, Kevin Spacey makes Hopper a really effective villain, as his deep and serious tone of voice always makes him threatening, even when he has a positive mood, and despite Heimlich practically being an overweight German stereotype, Ranft acts like he doesn’t care that his character is a stereotype, and his incredibly silly performance makes him hilarious to listen to. The other casts are like I said earlier, generic. They are tolerable and the actors do give a level of likability to the characters, but all they have are generic personality traits, such as Flik being a klutz, Princess Atta being contentious, Dot being cute etcetera.
The story itself is ok, it’s a light hearted action comedy loosely based on Seven Samurai, and you would expect some emphasis on the word loosely. However, as a Pixar movie, I have always felt since a kid that A Bug’s Life was their weakest film until the release of Cars. First of all, the warrior/circus bugs are mostly dull for the most part. Most of them practically act as just one joke for the entirety of the movie, with little character development and other humour. For example, one of the circus bugs is Francis, a male Ladybug who hates being referred to as female, but because of the type of insect he is, he always is, and that’s it. All he does in the film outside of rescuing one of the ants is based around this one ladybug joke. The rest of them almost have the same problem, I say almost because Heimlich the caterpillar as a small piece of outside joke character development. The other problem is that some of the plot feels dragged down because of some of the characters, such as the circus owner PT Flea, who I hate because all he ever does is make the plot longer by revealing the warrior bugs for who they are, and you end up waiting for the moment the bugs come to their senses and go back to the colony. At the end of the film I was happy, as there were enjoyable moments, it has a colourful design and a good humour, but it’s not as good as most of Pixar’s more recent movies.
If Cars is Pixar’s weakest film, A Bug’s Life would be second place, and if Cars 2 is a real disappointment then Bug’s life would be third. It is a nice movie, it has its moments, it might have some nostalgic value to it and it definitely holds out with what other animated studios have produced even 13 years on, but it is clichéd and has characters which aren’t really broad enough to remain interesting. However, if you have good childhood memories of this, or are interested in Pixar’s past, it’s worth a watch.
A Bug’s Life is available from Walt Disney. The film’s original influence, the Aesop’s Fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper” is available in many forms such as books, audio and animation. The other influence for the story of the movie, Seven Samurai, directed by Akira Kurosawa, is available from Criterion and the British Film Institute, and while I don’t want to go on a last minute tangent but if you love anime and Japanese films, you need to see this film!
At an anthill in Central Park, New York, is where a young worker ant named Z-4195, or Z for short, is going to have his simple life changed. He works a mundane worker ant lifestyle, helping construct a tunnel to find food for the whole colony. After falling in love with the Princess of his colony, named Bala, after meeting her in pure luck at a local bar, he takes the place of his best friend Weaver and joins the army in an effort to see her again, as they head off to fight a war. Thanks to his cowardice, he ends up becoming the only survivor of brutal battle against an army of termites, and is celebrated as a hero. Unbeknownst to Z, Bala or any of the worker ants, the battle was a plan set up by a corrupt royal General Mandible, who wants to eliminate the worker ants and the loyal soldier ants so he can form a strong enough army to take over the whole colony from the royal family. After a troubled reuniting, Z and Bala escape their oppressed lifestyles to try and find Insectopia, where food is of an unlimited supply, but with the rest of the colony in danger because of a rogue General, Z has to help his friends and workers if they all want to live a free and happy life.
Let me introduce you to a man named Jeffery Katzenburg, he began his success with the Star Trek revival at Paramount before becoming CEO of Disney after Michael Eisner purchased the company in 1984. While he was one of the leading men behind the Disney Renaissance that brought Disney back to dominating the western animation industry, he was known for his controversial decisions that almost hurt the company. In 1994 he wanted the position of company president, which Michael Eisner refused, this eventually lead him to resign from Disney and form Dreamworks with Steven Spielberg and David Gaffen in the same year. He decided to create Antz as the company’s first feature film, and based it on a film pitch by Tim Johnson, who is credited for the story. However, this angered Pixar, who pitched and began development on their second feature A Bug’s Life a few months before Katzenburg began work on it. Katzenburg offered to push the film back to March 1999, as long as A Bug’s Life was also pushed back so it wouldn’t be released with Dreamwork’s other film, Prince of Egypt, but since Pixar refused, the film was released on October 1998, more than a month before Bug’s Life.
The animation is very professionally made, but hasn’t aged that well. Granted this was the first ever Dreamworks animated feature, and for its time it is pretty good, especially the subtle emotions and large crowd scenes, but watching it nowadays the flaws are more noticeable. All the characters move robotically at times and lip movements feel a little off during dialogue scenes. The films worst visual part is its colour scheme; it’s mostly full of browns, greens and reds, and for its atmosphere, surroundings and character designs it does make it realistic, but for the kind of film this is, it is really dull. The character designs really surprise me, almost every character is either a worker and or a soldier ant that has the same colour and body structure, and yet except in the scenes with really large crowds and distance shots, there are almost no duplicate character designs, and each visible character in each scene is different in some way.
The soundtrack includes some pop tracks and generic orchestral pieces, so there isn’t really anything memorable. It normally plays through the action and comedic moments, and while it isn’t one of John Powell’s best soundtracks, it is very listenable and it doesn’t drive away from the visuals and the story.
The cast is a bit of an odd bunch overall, some of them do an alright job like Christopher Walken, Danny Glover and Sylvester Stallone, who make Cutter, Barbatus and Weaver really likeable, especially Danny Glover since Barbatus only appears for less than ten minutes of the whole movie. The majority of the cast is basically listenable at best; they definitely suit their roles as characters such as Gene Hackman as a war focused muscle-headed General Mandible and Sharon Stone as the free-minded yet still upper classed princess, but don’t really give anything impressive. I know that since it’s a kid’s animated film I shouldn’t give high expectations in the quality of acting, but I don’t think they really try to make these characters anything truly likeable or memorable. There is one exception to this, but for the wrong reasons, and that is Woody Allen as Z. I understand that he’s meant to be the odd one out, but he becomes really annoying, really quick. I think it’s mainly due to the fact that Woody Allen sounds like he reads the script and then improvises around it, so every time he talked, he says so much in one dialogue session I wanted him to shut up.
If it wasn’t for Prince of Egypt or Shrek, I’d amazed that Dreamworks survived after this movie. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t really that interesting or worthwhile after an initial viewing. This is mainly due the film’s direction of the plot, and exactly what the plot is. According to Wikipedia, Antz is loosely based on a 1930s novel called Brave New World, a story that explores the ideas of genetics to form societies, as well as the ideas of genetics to class people from birth into lifestyles, which in a way is demonstrated in the film with newborn larvae being decided on either being soldier ants or worker ants, and given training regimes to build them to be suitable for that task, and all of them except being insignificant except the main protagonists. This is also somewhat portrayed with one of the morals of the movie being choosing your own path, and while it would make an interesting movie, this is not greatly developed, probably because it’s a light hearted kid’s film. Instead it focuses more on the more predictable and generic plotlines, which include an upper class -lower class romance, trying to find a better world, and the evil guy wanting to take over the world. In the end, it becomes a really dull film with almost no reasons to re-watch it.
For this film, it’s not the question of why would you watch it, it’s why would you want to watch it more than once, besides reviewing it. While it may be interesting to see where Dreamworks started off, but it has a generic storyline that isn’t really interesting, with a generic soundtrack and a barely memorable cast. Since nowadays it’s well known as Dreamworks first attempted at taking elements from Pixar for their own story, this is probably one of a many knock-offs that’s worth skipping for the original.
Antz is available from Dreamworks Pictures. If you a curious about the loose source material of this film, the novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley was originally published by Chatto and Windus, and has since been reprinted by multiple publishers including Vintage Classics and Amazon.