A Bug’s Life (1998)


A Bug’s Life (1998)


Can you guess the Rotten Tomatoes score of A Bug’s Life without looking it up?

92%! That seems way too high, right? A Bug’s Life has gone down as a thoroughly mediocre affair for Pixar: Rote plot, rote characters. All around, just rote. That’s what people say, at least.

And I think that’s unfair. A Bug’s Life is a very good movie. It has a likable protagonist, high stakes, excellent animation (a HUGE step up from Toy Story), and lots of humor. It shows Pixar’s cinematic taste developing.

I still get scared when Hopper is eaten at the end: The way Pixar animated that bird was brilliantly framed, portraying it almost like a horrible monster. Pixar knows how to take advantage of its nascent medium — the sense of physical scope and size works so well with CGI, and they mastered it early.

In addition, the circus bugs give the story plenty of visual delight and humor. Denis Leary as a male ladybug is a particular favorite.

So why has its reputation tanked? Two reasons: First is that DreamWorks basically adopted the template of this movie not just for Antz, but for its entire brand of animated films: A misfit (who is either a talking animal or knows a talking animal) messes something up, does one good thing, screws a much bigger thing up, then redeems it by being true to himself and using his misfit trait. It was never exactly a groundbreaking story structure, but DreamWorks (and other, smaller studios) have really beat it into the ground, making A Bug’s Life feel retroactively bland.

The second thing that happened to A Bug’s Life to tarnish its reputation is that Pixar grew more ambitious, more unorthodox, and simply better. A Bug’s Life felt a big frog in the pond until we saw Toy Story 2 and Monsters, Inc and… well, just about every other Pixar movie for the next fifteen years.

Verdict: Underrated

Favorite moment: “I know it’s a rock! Don’t you think I know a rock when I see a rock? I spend a lot of time around rocks.”


A Bug’s Life is indeed leaps ahead Toy Story from an animation standpoint. Birds are usually associated with springtime and flowers, but that dose of darkness from Sid is mostly encompassed in this bird-turned-monster creation of Pixar’s. There is another grasshopper who might intimidate kids; I know he frightened me a bit.

Beyond that, nothing in this movie indicated progression for the studio. The plot is predictable. The characters are not very interesting, although the two incomprehensible pill bugs crack me up every time.

There is a great scene when Flik and princess Atta are just gazing upon the joy Flik’s lie has brought to the colony, and I thought I knew where Pixar was going. This was going to be about hope. How you need hope to live life, even if there aren’t many real reasons to believe in it. Really, this movie seems to condone Flik’s lie, considering how the colony sides with Flik only when he spells out the true relationship between the ants and the grasshoppers. This diffuses any complexity to the movie, which feels uncharacteristically like a kid’s film from a studio who knows how to make family films.

Verdict: Properly Rated

Final Grade: B- (80%)—seemingly manufactured: looks great, makes no mistakes, has no heart.

For the full article: http://earnthis.net/animation-evaluation-pixar-1995-2006/

3 Replies to “A Bug’s Life (1998)”

    1. I didn’t see it when it came out, so maybe the whole retrospect thing Dan brings up prevents me from seeing it for what it is. A Bug’s Life does follow the DreamWorks formula quite a bit.

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