Toy Story's enormous success put Pixar on the map but it still wasn't the animation powerhouse it would become years later. When producing its second film, Pixar had the daunting task of not repeating itself but also, to deliver a high-quality motion picture. As a result, A Bug's Life was born but how does it fare almost 17 years after its original release?
When checking the Pixar canon, A Bug's Life tends to get overlooked in favor of its most successful and popular siblings. It didn't help that the film came between two Toy Story films and that a similarly themed DreamWorks Animation film was released just one month before. Nevertheless, A Bug's Life opened at #1 at the box office and while not as universally acclaimed as its predecessor, it got great and very positive reviews. In addition, taken on its own, A Bug's Life delivers a top-notch story with wonderful humor, characters and animation.
The story was inspired by The Ant and the Grasshopper fable and Kurosawa's classic film Seven Samurai and the result is a hilarious romp with colorful characters and a heartfelt story of acceptance, team-work, confidence and more. The film is packed with colorful characters, each one of them with their own antics and personalities. Flik's plight is a relatable one and speaks to anyone that have felt different and that wanted to make his mark in the world (this same idea was further explored in Pixar's own Ratatouille).
The movie finds creative ways to tell the story. From Ant Island to the City, the world is beautifully detailed and the animation, even if it's 17 years old, still shows beautiful environments that many modern films can't rival. Lasseter & Co. imbues each scene with a sense of whimsy and fun making the whole journey a thrilling ride.
There are many characters in this film and that may be the main problem with the story because they are not as memorable as the Toy Story gang. However, Flik is still a relatable and charismatic lead, Atta's arc as a leader-to be is an engrossing one, Hopper is a cunning villain and Dot is a cute and smart sidekick. The circus bugs are probably the ones that you have most trouble remembering but when you watch the film, each of them serve a purpose (particular highlights are Heimlich, Francis and Slim).
Randy Newman returns to score this film and it's my humble opinion that this is his best Pixar score and the best one after Giacchino's Up. The score is a bombastic experience taking the film to new heights (a particular highlight is the creation of the bird sequence). The music compliments the film perfectly and it gives it an epic atmosphere.
Perhaps not as polished as Toy Story and not as heart-wrenching as subsequent Pixar films, A Bug's Life, nonetheless delivers a thrilling adventure about celebrating the value of been unique and to stand-up to bullies and oppressors. The film is visually stunning and the humor remains fresh after all these years. A Bug's Life is another fantastic achievement by the Pixar folks.
Next: Munir's Pixar Retrospective #3 - Toy Story 2 (1999): 16 Years Later.