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- "An epic of miniature proportions."
The grasshoppers arrive once a season to extort food from the ants, supposedly in return for protection from "bigger bugs," but while working with an invention to pick grain more efficiently, an ant named Flik accidentally destroys the annual offering that the ants were collecting to appease the grasshoppers. In exchange for a temporary reprieve from the grasshoppers, the ants are given until the end of autumn to produce an offering of twice the usual amount. Later, while he is being admonished by the royal council of the colony, Flik proposes a plan to recruit "warrior bugs" to fight off the grasshoppers. When the council agrees to his proposal, Flik actually believes they have accepted the merits of his plan, whereas the council actually saw it as a convenient way of simply keeping Flik from wreaking any more havoc with their food-gathering activities.
Flik finds his way to the "city" (garbage under a trailer), where he mistakes a group of recently fired circus performers, whose act had collapsed into chaos, for the warrior bugs he's seeking. The bug troupe, meanwhile, mistakes Flik for a talent agent who wants to book their act, and agrees to travel with him back to Ant Island.
Both Flik and the circus troupe soon become aware of their respective mistakes. However, the rest of the ant colony had become convinced that these newcomers are indeed the warriors for which they had hoped when the circus bugs help Flik pull off a daring rescue of Dot (a young princess ant of the colony, who idolizes Flik) and a wounded Francis (a ladybug performer of the circus bug troupe) from a hungry bird.
Caught between the opportunity to turn around his fortunes within the colony, and the knowledge that the bug troupe are not who they appear to be, Flik advocates building a fake bird to scare away Hopper, the leader of the grasshoppers, who is deeply afraid of bug-eating birds. The ants unite behind Flik's plan until the circus' ringmaster, P.T. Flea, arrives to retrieve his performers, thereby blowing Flik's cover. As punishment for deceiving the colony, Princess Atta (the older sister of Dot and soon-to-be queen of the colony) banishes Flik, who sadly joins the rest of the circus.
Meanwhile at the grasshopper's home (under a sombrero in a desert), Molt, Hopper's brother is tricked by other grasshoppers into trying to talk Hopper out of returning to Ant Island since they have more than enough food to last and it will rain soon. Hopper in response shows his men exactly why they are returning by burying the three who questioned him with hundreds of seeds. Saying that the ants and seeds are alike, ants may be puny by themselves but they outnumber grasshoppers a hundred to one. They aren't returning because of food, they're returning to keep the ants from figuring out how powerful they really are.
Having wasted an enormous amount of time pursuing Flik's plan to stand up to the grasshoppers, the ants try desperately to gather enough food for a new offering, but due to the rapidly-approaching winter season, they can't find enough food to meet the quota. When the grasshoppers return and are angered by the meager offering, Dot overhears Hopper's plan to squish the queen after receiving the full offering, and convinces her friends to put Flik's bird plan back into action. She goes after Flik and convinces him and the circus bugs to return to help the colony.
It all nearly works, but when a confused P.T. inadvertently incinerates the bird, Hopper realizes he has been tricked and takes out his anger on the primary instigator: Flik. After absorbing a beating from Hopper's rabid, feral grasshopper Thumper, Flik declares, in response to Hopper's claims of species superiority:
"You're wrong, Hopper. Ants are not meant to serve grasshoppers. I've seen these ants do great things, and year after year they somehow manage to pick enough food for themselves *and* you. So who's the weaker species? Ants don't need grasshoppers! It's you who need us! We're a lot stronger than you say we are...and you know it, don't you?"
Indeed, Hopper's worried expression leads Flik to realise that Hopper has always known how strong the ants are. However, Hopper's reaction to Flik's challenge in front of the whole ant colony make them collectively realize that they vastly outnumber the grasshoppers, and that they needn't endure their oppression any longer, and the battle for Ant Island ensues.
The ants rise up in a wave of fury and chase the grasshoppers out for good, but not before Hopper makes off with Flik in a plan to exact revenge upon him. Flik's friends, including Princess Atta, set off in pursuit, and thanks to some quick thinking by Flik, Hopper ends up being eaten by a real bird. Flik is welcomed back to the colony, and all the circus bugs join him in a celebration before departing from Ant Island.
- Dave Foley: Flik, the protagonist. A misfit ant looking for warriors to save his colony from grasshoppers.
- Hayden Panettiere: Dot, the tritagonist. Princess Atta's little sister.
- Kevin Spacey: Hopper, the main antagonist. He is the leader of the grasshoppers.
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Princess Atta, the deuteragonist. The heir to the throne.
- Phyllis Diller: The Queen, Atta and Dot's mother.
- Richard Kind: Molt, Hopper's brother and a secondary antagonist.
- David Hyde Pierce: Slim, a walkingstick clown in P.T. Flea's circus.
- Joe Ranft: Heimlich, a caterpillar clown in P.T. Flea's circus who longs to be a butterfly.
- Denis Leary: Francis, a bad-tempered and argumentative ladybug clown in P.T. Flea's circus, who is constantly mistaken for a girl.
- Madeline Kahn: Gypsy, a gypsy moth and Manny's assistant in P.T. Flea's circus.
- Michael McShane: Tuck and Roll, two Hungarian twin pill bugs and the "human cannonballs" in P.T. Flea's circus.
- Bonnie Hunt: Rosie, a black widow spider in P.T. Flea's circus..
- John Ratzenberger: P.T. Flea, a flea and the boss of the circus troupe.
- Jonathan Harris: Manny, a praying mantis magician in P.T. Flea's circus..
- Brad Garrett: Dim, a rhinoceros beetle and "foul beast" in P.T. Flea's circus..
- Roddy McDowall: Mr. Soil, an ant and a thespian.
- Alex Rocco: Thorny, a part of the Ant Council.
- Edie McClurg: Dr. Flora, the ant doctor.
- David Ossman: Cornelius, an elderly ant with a walking stick and Thorny's Helper.
- Ashley Tisdale: Daisy, a leading member of the Blueberry Scouts.
- Jack Angel: The Fly Brothers/Flies, flies who mistake Francis for a girl.
- David Lander: Thumper (speaking voice), the other secondary antagonist and Hopper's aggressive pet.
A Bug's Life was a much more complex film than Toy Story because of the more complex character models, so Pixar's computers tended to run sluggishly for the animation process. The crowds of ants were particularly challenging, with some 400 crowd shots scattered throughout the film, with many requiring the animation of 800 characters. The technical team worked around this by instructing the animators to work with 4 or 5 groups of 8 to 10 ants. The software team wrote an "ant generator" program that would duplicate the character models and motions of the ants, and then automatically and randomly adjust the character models of each ant to change physical traits such as eye and skin color, height, and weight. The ants were then randomly scattered throughout the shot. This allowed these shots to be animated much more efficiently and for ants to look different from one another, despite the fact that the programmed motions would be nearly identical. These tools were based on existing "particle systems" that allowed autonomous dust and snow, which would eventually be perfected to allow up to 2 million dust particles on Wheezy's shelf in Toy Story 2 and 3 million hairs on Sulley in Monsters, Inc.
DreamWorks Animation's similar film Antz was released a little more than a month before A Bug's Life. DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg left Disney in 1994 and said the idea for Antz came from a 1991 story pitch by Tim Johnson that was related to Katzenberg in October 1994. However, Disney had been working on developing an ant film since 1988. Pixar head John Lasseter pitched A Bug's Life the day Katzenberg left Disney in August 1994, and said he felt "betrayed" when he learned Antz was scheduled for release before A Bug's Life. According to Lasseter and Steve Jobs, Katzenberg offered to stop development of Antz if Disney moved the release date of A Bug's Life, which was coming out opposite DreamWorks Animation's The Prince of Egypt. Pixar refused.
The release date of Antz was moved up from March 1999 to October 1998 in response to Disney's refusal. Even though A Bug's Life was the first to be pitched, Antz was finished and released first. A Bug's Life, however, was more profitable.
- So far, this is the only Pixar film released before Disney purchased it that has neither received a sequel or prequel, nor has had one announced.
Box Office Results
According to Box Office Mojo, A Bug's Life made $162.8 million in its U.S. theatrical run, easily covering its estimated production costs of $120 million. This made it the fourth highest grossing movie in 1998. Even so, it had been the lowest grossing Pixar feature animated film, until The Good Dinosaur. Its worldwide box office total was $363.4 million.
One Pixar tradition is to create trailers for their films that do not contain footage from the released film. Trailers for this film include:
- Flik and all the insects from the circus troupe gather onto a leaf right before Heimlich bites the end of it off, causing them to fall.
Attached Short Film
Theatrical and video releases of this film include Geri's Game, an Academy Award-winning Pixar short made in 1997, a year before this film was released.
An "A Bug's Life" Video Game was released for N64, PlayStation, Dreamcast and PC.