After the great success they had with Toy
was wondering if Pixar could repeat their success or if they were going
the Hollywood equivalent to a
one-hit-wonder. Their sophomore film, A Bug's Life, turned out to be just as
strong as their first feature and the rest, as they say, is history. At long last Disney has gone back into Pixar's
catalog of films and started to release them in high definition. They've done a magnificent job too, crafting
a disc with impeccable sound and a stunningly beautiful image. This is a must buy for all animation fans.
Flick is an ant who lives in a colony that is being
tormented by a swarm of grasshoppers.
Every year the grasshoppers decend on the ant hill and steal
most of their food, leaving them
barely enough to live. When Flick
accidently destroys the food intended for the grasshoppers, he decides
to travel to the
big city in order to find a group of warriors who will defend his
village. Instead of finding seven samurais
to a misconception on his part, Flick returns with a recently fired
circus insects who know nothing of war or battle.
There are a couple of things that separates Pixar films from
the run-of-the-mill 'family-friendly' animated movie.
The technical wizardry and the very tight
storytelling are all part of it, but for my money the main thing is
movies have is heart, sympathetic characters that you can empathize
with. None of their films show this off
A Bug's Life. Poor Flick
is an everyman (er, well,
everybug) who is never appreciated for his contributions and who is
for every good deed he does. Who hasn't
had a kind gesture backfire or made a dreadful mistake?
He's easy to relate to, and the deeper into
trouble he gets the more you feel for him, especially since he has a
Added to that is a very tight script, one where every scene
serves a purpose and is integral to the movie.
The animation that Pixar creates is very time intensive and they
want to generate any scenes that won't be in the final product. Because of that they re-write the movie over
and over and over again until the script is perfect.
The process literally takes years, but the
result is a well thought out movie where every scene, line of dialog,
movement has been planned for maximum effect.
Take the scene where Flick tries to cheer up Princess Dot who is
because she's too little to fly. He can't
find a seed for his parable, so he gives her a small rock and tell her
imagine it's a seed. He compares a
single seed to a mighty Oak, stating that there is greatness in even
unlikely packages. Dot replies "But it's
only a rock" getting a big laugh, but later hands Flick a rock when
and thinking he's a failure. It cheers
him up, and perplexes the circus bugs to no end. This
simple segment not only introduces one
of the movie's themes, but gets some big laughs at the same time.
Finally there's the animation itself. While
Story was fun to watch, A Bug's Life
is a work of art. Every shot looks like
a perfectly composed photograph and the entire film is dazzling to see. Even without the excellent story this movie
would be a joy to sit through because it is so beautiful.
Especially the last shot, a pull away of the small
island with a tree where the entire battle had taken place.
The Blu-ray Disc:
In a nutshell: it's
perfect. This film looked good on DVD,
but this Blu-ray disc is a big step above that.
The 2.35:1 AVC image just leaps off the screen with vivid,
colors, amazing detail, and a total lack of DNR. The
most impressive thing is that every scene
has that 3-dimensional feel that the best HD transfers offer. Every character seems to be in a different
plane and the trouble that Pixar went to in order to light the objects
pays off. Everything, the ants, the
plants, and even the rocks, has depth and substance.
The colors are solid and invisibly pass from
one shade to another. There was no
posterization or banding which is fairly common in animation, even CGI
features. The folks at Pixar also
avoided using any DNR or EE, which was the right choice.
The picture on this disc is absolutely
Equally stunning is the DTS-HD Master Audio track.
It really brings the movie to life and adds a
lot to the film. The dialog and effects
are all crystal clear and the music has a full range and a lot of body. What's more is the way Pixar has used the
soundstage to bring this story to life.
There are a lot of magnificent effects that immerse the viewer
movie such as when it starts to rain.
The downpour starts behind the viewer and you can actually hear
approach, reach the sitting position, and continue on to the screen. It's really impressive. There
are a lot of pans and cross fades and
the effects are precisely placed around the room. Everyone
I screened the movie with commented
on the sound, which is fairly unusual for my family.
A top-notch presentation.
Disney includes all of the bonus material from the 2003
release of the film (with the exception of the the isolated music and sound effects tracks which are not included.) What's more they go a step further and add some BR
content and bothered to upgrade many of these extras to HD (unless
noted.) Other studios should take a cue
disc. Way to go Disney!
The bonus material starts out with a commentary track with
co-writer/director John Lasseter, co-writer Andrew Stanton, and editor
Unkrich. I have enjoyed all of the Pixar
commentary tracks that I've heard, and this is no exception. The discussion is lively and they offer a lot
of interesting information about the creation of the film and behind
stories about Pixar itself. They talk
about the genesis of the project, the state of Pixar after Toy Story, the
casting, story changes etc. It's an
entertaining track and well worth listening to.
This disc has a lot of material that goes behind the scenes
and shows how the film was actually made.
These productions (and pre-production) featurettes run over an
all and each section features an introduction by John Lasseter and
Stanton (these are a mix of SD and HD.) They include a primer on the storyboarding
process, research films they made of real bugs, a filmed storyboard
where a scene is pitched to Lasseter and Stanton (this was quite
featured a few instances were dialog was changed and the changes ended
the final film), storyboard comparisons, and a bit on the sound design. These are all fun and informative and none of
them are fluff pieces.
In addition there are eight minutes worth of deleted scenes
(which were okay but not great), a design gallery and promotional
There are a couple of shorts, Pixar's Oscar-winning Geri's
Game, a wonderful cartoon, and Disney's Grasshopper
& the Ants a classic Silly Symphony cartoon that had an
influence on the Pixar feature.
Then there are the BD exclusive bonus features. First
off is a Filmmakers Roundtable with
Lasseter, Stanton, and producers Kevin Reher and Darla K. Anderson. They cover some of the material covered in
the commentary track, but there's a lot more new information in this 21
bonus. A fun chat.
The other HD exclusive was really exciting, the first draft
of the movie. Dave Foley narrates the
original storyboards that outlined the first draft of the story. It was quite different than the final
product, with a different main character and several new situations. It runs about 11 minutes and is an
interesting look at how the film evolved.
Finally this disc is also BD-Live enabled. I've
never been a fan of BD-Live, but Disney
is working on improving the features.
They take a big step forward with this disc by getting rid of
to log in! Now novice BD-Live users can
jump right in to examining the features without having to register. (Users can log in if they want, which helps
if you're forming a viewing party.)
The BD-Live features are pretty standard for a Disney
disc: There's a movie chat function to
up movie and watch it with friends in other locations, new avatars, and
trivia game you can play against other viewers, (like the games they
A second disc includes a digital copy of the film.
The first pressings of the disc there's also
Movie Cash included good for a free ticket to Pixar's next feature, Up.
A fantastic movie that is often unjustly ignored when
discussing Pixar films, A Bug's Life has never looked or sounded better. A reference-level disc all the way around,
this movie will really show off your system.
Added to that are some great bonus material, including a couple
BD exclusive features. This is a great
disc all the way around and easily earns the DVD Talk Collector Series
images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not
represent the image quality on the disc.