Back in 1998 I was a 15 year old school girl with a crush on a boy in the year above her. I thought he was positively dreamy and if only he’d notice me we would fall madly in love and live happily ever after. My best friend, however, had a completely different idea of the boy in question and was adamant (no pun intended) that he looked exactly like A Bug’s Life protagonist Flik. Alas, the boy and I never did get our happily ever after, we never even spoke to each other, I just admired him from afar and he carried on with his life, blissfully unaware of my existence, as is so often the case in high school. Looking back, I must admit, there are a number of similarities between the clumsy character and the boy, and I suppose this is one of the many reasons I remember this film so fondly.
This year was definitely the year of the creepy-crawly in the animation world, with two bug-based films, Antz and A Bug’s Life, being released within months of each other. Having seen them both it’s definitely A Bug’s Life, Pixar’s follow-up to the phenomenally successful Toy Story, which is more warmly remembered and not just for the childhood memories it brings back.
The plot centres on Flik, a clumsy ant whose notoriously hare-brained schemes are playing havoc with his popularity among the rest of the colony, not least the object of his affections, Princess Atta. Flik is dumped into a spot of bother when he accidentally destroys the harvest of food his fellow ants have been working all summer to collect for the evil grasshoppers. So, in a last ditch attempt to make amends, he volunteers to head off on a quest to recruit some bigger bugs to come and lend a hand. The only problem is, the gang he ends up talking into returning to the colony with him aren’t fearless warriors at all, but performer bugs from a struggling flea circus.
As with most Disney pictures, A Bug’s Life works on two levels. It has likeable characters and fast-paced action for the children and brilliant animation and subtle humour for adults. With a writing team including Seinfield scribes Don McEnery and Bob Shaw, it is sure to leave parents giggling at jokes that have flown straight over their children’s heads.
As only the second release from the Pixar/Disney stable, A Bug’s Life is bound to be compared to Toy Story and sadly, it’s not quite up to that standard in comedy value or imagination, but it’s main competitor, released just seven weeks prior to this, pales in comparison.
There is the old adage that the best part was when the film finished, that is often bandied around in bad reviews, and it is true when it comes to this. It has an absolutely ingenious series of end credits. We are presented with a sequence of hilarious “outtakes” from the film. Mocked up line goofs and trips and falls, the type of thing that has come to be a regular feature in numerous comedy films have been brilliantly executed and look as genuine as they would if this were a live action feature.
I will always have a soft spot for A Bug’s Life in my heart, not just due to the school yard memories it brings back and the piles of memorabilia I amassed on it, but because it is a superb film and for 95 minutes makes me forget my real life as I get lost amongst the blades of grass.
Oh and remember, “it’s a bug eat bug world out there, princess!”