A Bug's Life

A Bug’s Life on Blu-ray

Pixar’s first follow up to the groundbreaking “Toy Story” was this tale of ants trying to defend themselves from a swarm of mafiosa-like bully grasshoppers. And it's a spectacular Blu-ray.

It’s kind of “Disney meets The Magnificent Seven” as our hero, Flick (Voiced by Dave Foley) - an inventor with a black cloud of incompetence following him around - is sent off (well, exiled is probably more accurate) in search of some heros who can come in and save the ant colony from the evil hoppers.

The exile happens after Flick accidentally destroys the food offering the ants are required to leave for the grasshoppers (okay, it isn’t just “Magnificent 7,” it’s also “The Grasshopper and the Ant” - the old Disney cartoon of which, undoubtedly not coincidentally, is part of the extra features). He heads across country to the “big city” (a remarkably rendered scene of digital imagination) and comes across a circus act of misfits he mistakes as the heroes for which he’s been searching.

He enlists the gang to help him and they go along with him, thinking it’s just another gig. But the mistaken identities are corrected, and the gang leaves the ant colony in shame.

Naturally, they come back and together they and the ants concoct a scheme to defeat the hoppers and this leads to an action packed finale that’s highly entertaining.

While Toy Story may be a better movie, A Bug’s Life is no less enjoyable and includes some terrific stuff. The bird attack sequence, for example, is an outstanding bit of movie action - animated or live action - that really deserves to be seen on a big screen TV. The computer generated imagery is first rate, and the voice cast (which includes Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Phyllis Diller, David Hyde Pierce and more) delivers wonderful characterizations that are matched beautifully by the animation.

It was also A Bug’s Life that introduced audiences to Pixar’s outtakes which, though beginning to wear thin now with subsequent titles, are hilarious. What a concept: a blooper reel where the actors fluff their lines, knock over cameras and the like - even though these creatures exist only inside the computer, which means true outtakes are impossible and have to be written, performed, and animated just like the rest of the movie!

The Blu-ray was created directly from the digital source (which consists of the digital output from the computer fed directly to the digital video medium) and the video quality is absolutely spectacular. The 1080p widescreen (2.35:1) picture is one of the best we've seen on Blu-ray - and that's saying a lot! The sharpness is incredible, detail is amazing, colors are wonderful, and the depth is such that it almost seems as if you can reach into the picture and squash a bug right from your home theater.

Audio is dts HD Master Audio 5.1 and it’s also superb. You can hear absolutely everything, from little ant footfalls to the thundering of multiple hoppers - and the surround channels and low frequency effects from the subwoofer are spectacular. This disc is an outstanding audio and video experience, a true reference disc.

And you get plenty of extras, too, including a second disc on which there's a digital copy of the "film".

Exclusive to Blu-ray features include:
• FILMMAKERS ROUND TABLE (Filmmakers John Lasseter, Kevin Reher, Darla Anderson and Andrew Stanton take a journey back 10 years from when the theatrical release first premiered and discuss what advances Pixar has made in technology, story telling and the overall filmmaking process.
• A BUG’S LIFE: THE FIRST DRAFT- Existing storyboards from Pixar’s original story treatment brought to life by animating them.
• BD-LIVE FEATURES (including Movie Chat, Movie Mail, Movie Challenge, Movie Reward, and Avatars). This "live" stuff is something we can take or leave, and generally leave, but far be it for us to dump on a company for giving more value for your hard-earned after-tax dollars.

Disney also includes a bunch of bonus features from the original DVD, such as:
• Pixar Animation Studios’ Academy Award-winning Best Animated Short Film, Geri’s Game
• A Walt Disney Silly Symphony - “Grasshopper and the Ants” (1934) - and it's wonderful to see this old classic again!
• Director's Commentary
• Behind the Scenes of "A Bug's Life”
• Character Interviews
• And much, much more!

The Blu-ray release also comes with a coupon for a ticket to the upcoming Pixar release of "Up."

Disney traditionally offers excellent audio and video quality, and a host of extras, and A Bug's Life is no different. In fact, as mentioned above, this particular release is so spectacular that we wouldn't be surprised to see it in our local videos stores, used to demonstrate the latest and greatest high definintion televisions and audio systems.

Well done!

A Bug’s Life, Collector’s Edition, from Walt Disney Home Entertainment
95 min. 1080p widescreen (2.35:1, dts HD Master Audio 5.1 surround
Starring the voices of Dave Foley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Spacey, Phyllis Diller, Dave Hyde Pierce
Produced by Darla K. Anderson and Kevin Reher
Written by Andrew Stanton and Donald McEnery & Bob Shaw, co-directed by Andrew Stanton and John Lasseter

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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