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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 4/28/99

A Bug's Life
1998 (1999) - Disney/Pixar (Buena Vista)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

A Bug's Life Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A+/B-

Specs and Features

95 mins, G, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), recomposed full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, film-themed menu screens, 2 sets of outtakes, animated short Geri's Game, scene access (22 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: none, Close Captioned

Imagine if you will, an ant colony, where each of the tiny creatures slaves away to gather enough food to appease their grasshopper masters. And in that colony, is an ant named Flik, who likes to think "outside the box". Unfortunately, that often gets him into trouble - in this case, he accidently spills all of the gathered food into the lake. When they arrive, the grasshoppers (led by the nasty Hopper) are pissed, and threaten the colony with destruction if the ants don't pony up the food by the time they return. For his mistake, Flik is cast out from the colony. But, ever determined, he sets out to redeem himself in the big city, where he recruits a band of "warrior bugs" to defend his home. Unfortunately, the warriors are really a troupe of down-and-out flea circus performers. Can Flik and his new friends save the day?

A Bug's Life is a charming little tale. This is much more of a G-rated story than say DreamWorks' ANTZ, although there's lots of in-jokes here for adults to catch. The film boasts some great voice talent, including Dave Foley (Flik), Kevin Spacey (Hopper), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Princess Atta), Phyllis Diller (the Queen), David Hyde Pierce (Slim) and Denis Leary (as Francis). Fans of the original TV Lost in Space will recognize the voice of Jonathan Harris (Manny). But, believe it or not, my favorite is Joe Ranft (as Heimlich). Joe is a Pixar staffer, who helped write the story of A Bug's Life, and steals the show with some great voice work. All in all, this is completely enjoyable, light-hearted fare, filled with humor and funny sight gags.

So let's talk DVD quality. I'll only touch briefly on the sound, to note that A Bug's Life boasts absolutely wonderful Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. There's excellent (and very appropriate) use of the rear channels, with lots of good panning effects, and good creation of ambience. All you need to know is that it sounds terrific.

Now, on to the image, which is the real issue with this disc. As many of you know, Pixar worked hard to recompose the widescreen picture for full frame display - this is no pan and scan disaster. And all of the animation was transferred directly from the digital source files, there was no film involved in mastering this DVD. The result is simply stunning picture quality - great contrast, perfect color, and crisp detail - at least when watching the full frame version. But recomposed or not, I prefer the original widescreen image... always. And, while the widescreen image looks good, Buena Vista's policy of not enhancing their DVDs for anamorphic-capable displays means that the image doesn't look quite as good as it could (or should). ANTZ provide a much more satisfying widescreen picture.

ANTZ is ultimately a more satisfying DVD in terms of extras as well. A Bug's Life does include a couple of interesting items, such as both sets of outtakes that appeared at the end of the film, and the Academy Award winning Pixar short Geri's Game. But that's about all - there's none of the behind-the-scenes material that ANTZ provides, and not even a trailer. Still, A Bug's Life is a fun movie. It does break new ground technically, and it will please families, starving for DVDs worthy of their children. I just really wish Buena Vista would reconsider their policy against anamorphic widescreen DVD. It is unthinkable to me, that they would not choose to give consumers ALL of the quality that DVD is capable of, especially given the fact that nearly EVERY other major studio is starting to support (or always has) this feature.

Bill Hunt
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