Bug's Life (A) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Andy James & Noor Razzak (15th June 2009).
The Film

It’s hard not to feel a little bad for Pixar’s "A Bug’s Life". Coming in as the highly anticipated second feature film of the outfit responsible for the highly regarded and influential "Toy Story" (1995), it had nigh-impossible expectations to live up to. On top of that, it was one of two Ant movies coming out in 1998; the second being Dreamworks’ Woody Allen starring "Antz".

"A Bug’s Life" was less philosophical than "Antz", deciding to keep things pretty simple story wise. It’s essentially "Seven Samurai" (1954)/"The Magnificent Seven" (1960). Actually, it is perhaps closer to "Three Amigos!" (1986), with the understandable confusion of distinguishing roaming entertainers from roaming heroic gunslingers. But told from the perspective of ants (i.e. the villagers). The ant colony (village) is under constant attack by grasshoppers (the evil Banditos), raiding all their supplies. Our idealistic hero ant, Flik (Dave Foley) trys to break out of the established order with various inventions that just don’t quite work. When one of these goes awry, sending the food tribute tumbling away, he is banished from the colony.

Swearing to find assistance in ridding the colony of Hopper (Kevin Spacey) and his cronies, Flik heads out and washes up in Bug City. Here he finds the motley crew of out-of-work circus entertainers he mistakes for heroic help. So, wanting Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen but getting Martin Short and Steve Martin. The circus troupe (including David Hyde Pierce as a stick insect and Denis Leary as a male ladybug) follow Flik back to the colony in the hopes of finding food and paid work. Needles to say, mis-communicated hilarity ensues. In the end, the circus troupe has to help save the day with the performance skills, Flik and his inventions are accepted and the colony fights off the grasshoppers.

It’s all pretty by-the-numbers; complete with plucky outsider hero, a collection of lovable misfits and villainous villains. But don’t take that as a slight on the film. There is an enormous amount of charm at work here (it is Pixar), not least due to co-directors/co-writers John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton. It may not stack up against some of Pixar’s recent output; "The Incredibles" (2004), "Ratatouille" (2007), and "WALL•E" (2008) but "A Bug’s Life" is a fine slice of CG animated entertainment. While it may be considered the “least” of the Pixar canon, the least of Pixar trumps the best of most others.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this transfer comes to fans on Blu-ray in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and has been mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression codec. It's hard to believe this film is already 11 years old, and while Pixar's CGI has improved by leaps and bounds since this film, I have to say it still looks damn good. Mastered from the film's original digital elements this print is as near perfect as you'll get. The image is beautifully rendered with bright, bold and vibrant colors. The lush world in which these characters live is wonderfully presented here with incredible detail and texture. There are some limitations of the animation while compared to current Pixar films such as intricate character detail is very smooth, but this can be forgiven. The image is crisp, clean of any dirt or flaws, there were no compression problems. Overall it's a fantastic image.

Audio

Three audio tracks are presented here in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixed at 48kHz/24-bit as well as French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD audio, and it's a massive improvement over the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track from the older DVD release. The first impression you'll get is a broader range and depth to the overall mix. The environments feel more open and much more immersive. This is due to the excellent sound mix utilizing all channels effectively with subtle ambient sounds, environmental and directional effects that place viewers amid the glass and growth of the bugs world. Dialogue is clear and distortion free and the film's music soars throughout the sound space. The bass comes into play a few times during some excellent action scenes, this is an active and impressive sound mix.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Disney has released this film with an impressive collection of extras that feature an audio commentary, a presentation reel, eleven featurettes, two abandoned sequences, several galleries, trailers and teasers, outtakes, character interviews, two short films, BD-Live features, a digital copy of the film and bonus trailers> Below is a closer look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISC ONE:

First up we've got a feature-length audio commentary by screenwriter/director John Lasseter, co-writer/co-director Andrew Stanton and editor Lee Unkrich. I've been a fan of Pixar for a long time and one of the strongest supplements they provide on their releases are the fun and easy going audio commentaries, this one is no exception. The participants clearly love talking about films, their crafts and just hanging out together in a recording studio. This is the immediate impression you get about these guys. The take fans through almost every facet of this production from the challenges of following up a film as hugely successful as "Toy Story" (1995) was and on the genesis of this production from the initial concept, to story plotting and writing the script, character development and design, casting the voices, the intense and rigorous hours of animation done each day to complete the film, etc. They all come to the table with something to offer and thus makes for a delightful, informative and altogether interesting commentary.

The disc is split up into sections, the first of which is the Pre-Production Features:

"Fleabie Reel" is an early presentation reel that runs for 4 minutes 23 seconds, this was created to pitch the film to studio executives, it's a nice look at the early development of the film and how they presented it to the studio.

"Storyboard Pitch" is a featurette that runs for 4 minutes 43 seconds and although brief this is a cool look at the importance and significance of the storyboard process, especially for a film such as this where major edits will occur in this stage before it goes to animation to help trim the fat and create a more concise film.

"Storyboard to Film Comparison" featurette follows the previous extra and runs for 13 minutes 32 seconds, this reinforces the importance of the process as set-up by the previous clip and takes a closer look at a key scene from the film and compare the storyboards to the finished film version. It clearly shows the creative process of structuring the scenes as boards and creating the final scene.

There are also two abandoned sequences which include:

- "Original Museum Opening" runs for 1 minute 44 seconds, is a prologue sequence that was dropped fairly early in the development stage.
- "P.T.'s Office" runs for 1 minute 39 seconds, another storyboarded sequence that was dropped featuring the circus troupe.

Following that is the "Research Documentary" which is basically a featurette that runs for 5 minutes 24 seconds and takes a look the various reference footage of actual bugs that were taken for the animators. The filmmakers would have used this to help create the characters, their movements and also in helping to create their environments.

The next section on this disc is the Design Features:

First up here in this section are a collection of three in-depth galleries that contain a whopping 570 images, these galleries provide fans with a unique look at the design process and the development of the film. This is an excellent resource and provides a wonderful foundation for what the film eventually ended up being, the galleries included here are for:

- "Characters"
- "Locations"
- "Concept Art"

The third section on this disc is are the Production Features:

"Behind the Scenes of A Bug's Life" is a very short EPK featurette that runs for 3 minutes 26 seconds, sound bites and behind-the-scenes footage from Pixar make up this fluff piece that barely covers the basics of the production.

Next up is the "Voice Casting" featurette which runs for 4 minutes 14 seconds, this takes a look at the casting of the voice actors and also goes behind-the-scenes of the recording session as we get some more interviews from key personnel.

"Early Tests" is the next featurette and runs for 5 minutes 27 seconds and is basically a reel of early animated tests to get down characters and in getting their movement down so they appear natural. This clip is worth checking out even though it's all too short in length.

"Progression Demonstration" featurette runs for 8 minutes 48 seconds, takes a look at another key scene and shows viewers the various stages that a scene undergoes before it's signed off in its final form. The stages start at the story reel that features the ins and outs of the scene, then the scene progresses to the layout of the scene, once that's done the animation process adds movement to the scene then shading and lighting is added to create depth and texture to the scene. This is a cool educational look at the complete process of bringing a scene to life.

"Sound Design" is the last featurette in this section and runs for 13 minutes 9 seconds, the film is populated with all sorts of unique and interesting sounds from bug wings to environmental sounds among others. This is a fascinating look at the creation of the sound for the film and finding the right balance to create an effective and immersive sound design.

The next section is Release Features:

First up here are a series of posters and ad campaigns that features 16 images of exactly that, the complete marketing materials created for the film's release.

The teaser trailer runs for 1 minute 1 second and the disc also includes the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 37 seconds.

Character interviews runs for 2 minutes 7 seconds and are animated interviews with Flik, Hopper, Heimlich, and Francis in this promotional clip.

"The Story Behind the Outtakes" is a neat little featurette that runs for 3 minutes 48 seconds and is a look at how the outtakes eventuated that are used at the end of the film as the credit roll.

Following that are the outtakes is a reel that runs for 2 minutes 33 seconds and features some funny moments, and then there's also the alternate outtakes which run for 2 minutes 32 seconds.

"Geri's Game" is an animated short film from 1997 which runs for 4 minutes 54 seconds. We've seen this film on several releases including the "Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1", the film is a neat and funny film about Geri's most heated chess game.

"A Walt Disney Silly Symphony: The Grasshopper and the Ants" is a short film from 1934, it's a cartoon that runs for 9 minute 3 seconds and also is featured on the "Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies" DVD set. The short is about a lazy grasshopper who doesn't prepare for winter while the colony ants send their time gathering food.

The disc also features some new Blu-ray exclusive extras, the first of which is the "Filmmakers' Round Table" featurette which runs for 20 minutes 58 seconds. This is an all new round talk with the film's writers/directors John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton we well as the film's producers Darla K. Anderson and Kevin Reher. This is a sort of retrospective feature as the participants talk about their involvement in the film as they remember back to the film's production and share stories, memories and other tidbits. It's another great clip that makes a welcomed addition to this collection of supplements.

The next exclusive clip is "A Bug's Life: The First Draft" featurette which runs for 10 minutes 51 seconds, this takes a look at the first draft version of the story which includes some interesting choices including ones that were changed or developed into the version we see now.

For those with profile 2.0 players we have some BD-Live features that include:

- "Movie Chat" which allows you to chat about the film online with others.
- "Movie Challenge" is an online trivia challenge you can play.
- "Movie Mail" use this feature to create custom voice messages to send to other viewers online.
- "Disney Movie Rewards Live" access the shop to order Disney merchandise.

Rounding out the supplements are a collection of bonus trailers for:

- "Up" which runs for 1 minute 56 seconds.
- "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" which runs for 1 minute 40 seconds.
- "Monsters, Inc." which runs for 1 minute 8 seconds.
- "Disney Blu-ray" spot which runs for 1 minute 15 seconds.
- "Disney Movie Rewards" spot runs for 19 seconds.
- "Race to Witch Mountain" which runs for 2 minutes 25 seconds.
- "Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure" which runs for 1 minute 31 seconds.
- "Disney Parks" spot which runs for 31 seconds.

DISC TWO:

Is a digital copy of the film.

Packaging

This 2-disc set is packaged in a Blu-ray case housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A-

 


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