"A Bug's Life" Blu-ray Review
May 13, 2009 by Zach Demeter
Another in Pixar’s endless line of successful animated outings, A Bug’s Life racked up big numbers at the box office, although it is certainly not the favorite of fans. Despite implementing the brilliant visuals and superb story telling Pixar is known for, the film really didn’t resonate with fans the way other entries from the studio have. Despite all of this, this is one of Pixar’s most released films on home video, with the film receiving DVD treatment three times and now it marks the first (catalog) Pixar film to be released on the Blu-ray format. Just as it was used to promote Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life is being used to promote Up! and even includes movie cash to see the new Pixar flick when it arrives in theaters.
A colony of ants is threatened by a gang of grass hoppers led by the evil Hopper. Flik, a common ant and a misfit, has an uncommon vision when he tries to rise to heroic proportions by enlisting a band of circus fleas to help him defend his colony from the grasshoppers.
Growing up I watched a lot of cartoons. Ok, scratch that. I still watch my fair share of cartoons and some of the most enjoyable ones come out of Pixar. But even has a kid I really didn’t like this film all that much and I wasn’t ever able to put my finger on why until watching it again on Blu-ray. It certainly wasn’t the voices or animation, as both are absolutely superb from start to finish. It wasn’t the humor in the film either, as it was absolutely loaded with it. No, the real reason for my dislike of the film (when I was younger at least, I certainly don’t dislike it now) was two-fold.
The first reason is that Antz also came out around that time and for as much as I didn’t like A Bug’s Life, I hated Antz twenty times more. It’s for that reason that I seem to directly associate A Bug’s Life directly with Antz; not only did they come out at almost the same time, but they also focused on ants and both just really didn’t interest me when I was younger. As much as I watched Toy Story over and over, this Blu-ray release marks only the second time I saw A Bug’s Life…and it’s all because of Antz.
Well, not all because of. The second reason I didn’t like this film was more subtle, but it makes sense now. While other animation I watched was uplifting and always happy, there was just really a lot of unhappy times to be had in this film. Flik is constantly being put down, no matter how hard he tries and although he eventually succeeds in the end, the many times before that we just see him fail, a miserable look rolls onto his face and his fellow ants cast him out. This only happens a couple times of course, but during the course of a ninety-five minute film, there’s not a lot of room for moving around if most of its spent in the dumps.
But…watching the film now? I don’t really mind it. It’s a realistic story and I’m sure we can all relate to failures in our adult lives, but as a kid it was simply…well, too adult. The themes were a little more obscured and just about the only thing there for kids to enjoy was the humorous characters and exciting ending, as the villain in this film was such an unbelievable jerk and our hero such a “loser,” that it just didn’t make for very many happy feelings. Or maybe I was just a weird kid and overanalyzed these things and should’ve just been happy I was watching a cartoon.
Whatever the case may be for my “dislike” of this film when I was younger, I certainly can’t say the same for that now. While I will still say it is on the lower end of the Pixar list (nestled right next to Cars, but above Ratatouille [no I didn’t like that film]), it certainly isn’t a deplorable film by any means. Even the lowest of Pixar’s works exceeds the stuff that other studios put out and pass off as animation and the visuals alone on A Bug’s Life are brilliant to take in…especially in HD, which I’ll get to in a bit here. But when all is said and done there is some genuinely entertaining elements to glean from A Bug’s Life, whether it’s the characters or the story of triumph over bullies, this film really is a solid production from start to finish.
As with most Disney/Pixar releases, the set arrives in a visually attractive way. Although the discs (second disc is a digital copy) are housed inside of a standard Elite Blu-ray case, a reflective foil/embossed slipcover is included to make it pop off the shelves. Inside are the usual assortments of paper inserts (advertisements, the aforementioned Up! ticket) and the menu system follows the usual pattern that Disney releases come with…which can make navigation for such an extras-loaded disc a bit hairy to contend with.
Video arrives in the form of a 2.35:1 AVC encoded 1080p transfer and…yes, the all-digital cartoon looks positively brilliant coming off of a Blu-ray disc. Pristine visuals, superb detail and definition and an absolutely breathtaking color palette brings this film to life in ways previously thought impossible. OK, not impossible, but considering my original viewing of this film was from a fullscreen VHS (hey maybe that was another reason I didn’t like it…) and to jump from that to this…well, it’s bound to cause some jaw droppage. In addition to that we get a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that blows the roof off with subwoofer output and surround usage; truly, this is a brilliant film to engage in aurally as it is visually. Also included are 5.1 Dolby Digital English, French, Spanish tracks as well as English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Included in the new extras area is a surprisingly large amount. Considering how packed the original release of this film was on the two-disc DVD, it’s almost startling that they included even more extras, but…here we go! First up is an Introduction by John Lasseter which is quickly followed by a Filmmakers Roundtable, which has filmmakers John Lasseter, Kevin Reher, Darla Anderson and Andrew Stanton going back ten years to look at the progress that Pixar has made through the years since this film’s release (ten years ago!). Next up is The First Draft, a series of storyboards that bring elements of the original story treatment “to life.” This is preceded by an Intro by John Lasseter as well. A series of BD-Live extras are included as well (Movie Chat, Movie Mail, Movie Challenge, Movie Reward, Avatars) for those who are so inclined to play with such things.
On top of that is the plethora of extras from the original DVD release, including:
• Pixar Animation Studios’ Academy Award®-winning Best Animated Short Film, Geri’s Game
• A Walt Disney Silly Symphony - “Grasshopper and the Ants” (1934)
• Director Commentary
• Story and Editorial
• Storyboard To Film Comparison
• Behind the Scenes of "A Bug's Life”
• Character Interviews
There’s a ton more extras that fall under those umbrellas but listing them would not only be overkill but also redundant as they’re the same as the extras from the DVD release of years past. The entire second disc is devoted to the Digital Copy of the film.
Overall this is an exhaustive look at the making of A Bug’s Life and, quite frankly, may be one of the most jam-packed releases to ever grace the home video format. Kudos to Disney for not only porting over all of the old extras, but also introducing some new ones into the mix as well. Highly Recommended.
A Bug’s Life arrives on Blu-ray on May 19th.