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A Bug's Life(1998)
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.
For more about A Bug's Life and the A Bug's Life Blu-ray release, see A Bug's Life Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 10, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Dave Foley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Hayden Panettiere, Phyllis Diller, Richard Kind
Directors: John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton
» See full cast & crew
A Bug's Life Blu-ray Review
Lasseter's insect adventure earns an amazing Blu-ray release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 10, 2009
When asked to identify the weakest entry in the Pixar canon, most fans tend to point an all-too-accusatory finger at the animation studio's second feature film, A Bug's Life. Personally, I cry foul anytime the question is even posed. Choosing a favorite Pixar flick is a lot like choosing your favorite child: each one is a beloved and valued individual, each one has something special to offer, and each one touches greatness in its own way. But let's just say A Bug's Life is indeed Pixar's weakest link -- it nevertheless soars above the competition delivered by Dreamworks, Fox, and other production houses. It has more soul than Shrek or its pop-culture-infused sequels, a more charming disposition than Ice Age and its ilk, and sharper writing than the Madagascar series. Make no mistake, A Bug's Life gets a bad rap simply because its Pixar brethren are such stunning cinematic achievements.
Inspired by an array of sources including a classic Aesop fable called The Ant and the Grasshopper, Akira Kurosawa's stunning Seven Samurai, and (of all things) John Landis' Three Amigos!, Pixar's sophomore effort tells the surprisingly infectious tale of Flik (Dave Foley), a bumbling ant who volunteers to assemble a group of warriors to battle a fierce gang of grasshoppers (led by a particularly vindictive giant voiced by Kevin Spacey). However, Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) doesn't actually expect the spirited inventor to succeed; she only approved the mission so her remaining workers could concentrate on fulfilling the grasshoppers' demands without having to deal with any distractions. Flik does succeed though... at least to an extent. After gathering a diverse group of impressive fighters -- a snarky black widow (Bonnie Hunt), a hot-tempered male ladybug (Denis Leary), a mystical mantis (Jonathan Harris), a gypsy moth (Madeline Kahn), an oversized German caterpillar (Joe Ranft), a lanky walking-stick (David Hyde Pierce), a hulking rhino beetle (Brad Garrett), and a tumbling pair of twins (Michael McShane) -- and returning to his village, Flik is shocked to find that the bugs are actually circus performers who believe they're being hired to put on an elaborate show. Reeling from the news and working to cover up the extent of his mistake, Flik has to devise a plan to defeat the grasshoppers, prevent the circus bugs from abandoning his colony, and ultimately win the respect of his own people.
A Bug's Life works on so many levels that I have a difficult time understanding how it has any serious detractors: not only is its story populated with an endearing band of personable bugs, director John Lasseter (Toy Story, Cars, Toy Story 2) delivers an enviable lineup of perfectly-cast voice actors, creates an engrossing bugs-eye-view world of looming litter and deadly raindrops, and works from a thoroughly witty, meticulously-constructed screenplay sure to elicit laughs and cheers from adults and kids alike. Foley effortlessly injects heart into the proceedings at every turn -- his portrayal of a down-on-his-luck every-ant makes it easy to understand why the colony is so infuriated with his attempts to modernize their traditional lives, yet allows us to root for his success regardless of how often (or how severely) he fails. Likewise, Hunt and crew develop such a convincing familial interplay between the circus bugs that their every struggle is intertwined with an intense loyalty and love that goes beyond mere words. Granted, the second act slows down a bit too much as pieces are moved into place for the film's thrilling climax (mainly during an unnecessary and time-consuming visit to the grasshoppers' Mexican hideaway), but Lasseter manages to retain the film's momentum and finish strong.
It is interesting (some ten years after the film's initial release) to note how far the animation studio has come. Many of the themes explored in A Bug's Life have been mined to greater effect in more recent Pixar productions, the animation is more simplistic in lieu of modern standards, and the story itself is less challenging than later masterpieces. But such "criticisms" are a product of the era and the film's placement in Pixar history. As far as I'm concerned, Flik's quest continues to resonate today and shouldn't be overlooked or brushed aside by fans who are easily enamored with more polished presentations. Lasseter's ode to the little guy still has the ability to entertain, amuse, and capture the imagination... regardless of its age. A good story is just that: a good story. The same applies to wonderfully-conceived characters, clever screenwriting, impeccable design, hilarious gags, and mesmerizing action sequences. A Bug's Life may be getting gray around the ears, but don't let that scare you away from an otherwise exceptional flick capable of pulling whining kids, morose adolescents, and stuffy adults out of their funk.
A Bug's Life Blu-ray, Video Quality
I wish it were possible to describe Disney's absolutely stunning 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer without resorting to a laundry-list of superlatives, but A Bug's Life is so gorgeous, so undeniably pristine that few other words come to mind. Colors explode off the screen and command attention, primaries are strong and stable, the film's bright skies and lush clover forests are a sight to behold, and blacks are as deep as they come. Better still, detail is perfect. Captured directly from its digital source, the image isn't hindered by a single flaw: textures are crisp and refined, object definition is exceedingly sharp (without the help of any unnecessary edge enhancement), and the word "soft" never once crossed my mind. More importantly, the technical quality of the transfer is above reproach. I didn't detect a hint of artifacting, source noise, macroblocking, aliasing, crush, or any other encoding anomaly. I didn't even catch a single instance of color banding (an issue that haunts most animated releases). Once again, Disney delivers a mind-blowing, eye-gouging transfer that presents every frame of A Bug's Life with the utmost care and precision. I can't praise this one enough.
A Bug's Life Blu-ray, Audio Quality
A Bug's Life is no ordinary animated film and Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is no ordinary lossless presentation. Dialogue is clean, perfectly prioritized, and exceptionally weighty; voices seem to reside within the characters rather than in the center speaker. LFE support is incredibly aggressive as well: the resonant roar of ear-piercing grasshopper wings, the earth-shaking cry of a gigantic bird of prey, and the powerful thunder cracks and exploding rain produced by a dangerous storm leave the previously-released DVD audio mix sounding like an antiquated relic of a forgotten age. Likewise, the rear speakers are barely able to contain the vigorous activity assigned to their care. Swarming insects, bustling cityscapes, rousing circus performances, and harrowing rescues appear from all directions, creating an immersive, unexpectedly realistic soundfield that will steal your breath away. But that's not all. Transparent pans? As invisible as I've ever heard. Accurate directionality? My home theater was transformed into an ant colony more times than I care to count. Remarkable clarity and dynamics? I can't even begin to describe. In short, Disney has created the perfect companion for their sparkling 1080p transfer: a rousing, involving, top-tier lossless audio track.
Note that while the primary audio track initially appears to be a DTS-HD MA 6.1 surround mix, the actual track is a 5.1 channel mix (as the back coverart and main menu states) in which the additional channel is matrixed into the right and left surrounds. It is not a discrete channel and therefore not a true 6.1 track.
A Bug's Life Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
A Bug's Life arrives on Blu-ray with a surprisingly robust supplemental package that not only revisits the material included on the 2003 Collector's Edition DVD, but tacks on some meaty exclusive content all its own. The only downside is that a small portion of the featurettes are presented in standard definition.
A Bug's Life Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Rather than continuing to gush over Disney's Blu-ray release of A Bug's Life like a thesaurus hopped up on cocaine, let me just say this: it isn't often that a disc comes along that boasts a fantastic film, a perfect video transfer, an equally perfect DTS-HD Master Audio track, an engaging collection of extensive supplemental features, and a generous helping of exclusive content. I can't recommend this one enough.
A Bug's Life: Other Editions
A Bug's Life Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Two More Pixar Films Coming this May - February 20, 2009
Walt Disney Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the two Pixar films 'A Bug's Life' and 'Monster's Inc' to Blu-ray on May 19th. Both titles will be two-discs set, featuring a digital copy of the film on a separate DVD. Technical specs have yet ...
• A Bug's Life Coming this Spring - December 16, 2008
We have confirmed that a post over at The Pixar Blog (unofficial) is correct, and the Pixar film 'A Bug's Life' will come to Blu-ray this Spring. While no date is currently set, an official announcement for the release is scheduled for February with a proposed ...
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