Inspired by having visited a beautiful Pixar exhibition in an Arts Center where I live, I treated myself with some Pixar movies in these days. Here’s my thoughts on A Bug’s Life, the feature film that the well-known house produced in 1998 and directed by John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton.
After saying that the film doesn’t in the least show its twenty plus years, let me start from the plot in two words, as usual. It’s Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai, 1954) with insects.
Okay, maybe I was too concise. Let me try again: a group of grasshoppers led by the evil Hopper (Kevin Spacey) torments a clan of ants by taking away their food every year before the rainy season (the idea comes from Aesop’s fable entitled The Ant and the Grasshopper). One of the ants, Flik (Dave Foley), accidentally destroys the offer prepared for the grasshoppers and has to make up for it by looking for someone who could fight them. He only manages to hire an unlikely group of seven insects who were just fired from the circus of P.T. Flea (John Ratzenberger)…
The film still seems very fresh and successful in all its aspects, computer animation included. The choice of having insects as protagonists instead of human beings still pays off today, since ants, cockroaches, grasshoppers, butterflies… they all look great. Flik, the hero of the story, has a nice character arc, just like Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and the seven circus insects (at least as a group, if not individually). The hero saves the day after experiencing moments in which everything seemed lost. The seven circus performers actually manage to help Flik, and Princess Atta overcomes her anxieties and deservedly becomes queen.
Moreover, the antagonist is really scary (it was a good call to pair him with the clumsy Molt, Richard Kind, to make his scenes lighter) and he becomes one of the unforgettable ones of the Pixar Universe!
Every detail is well-polished, such as the amusing puns like that of the stick insect doing slapstick comedy or the flea dreaming of gold… en retriever, and even the more obscure references such as that of the hungry caterpillar coming from a story for small children written by Eric Carle and that I read to my two-year old baby every night before going to sleep…
Actually, there are jokes all over the place, even in the nutritional values of the biscuits boxes of the circus wagons and in the short scenes with the city bugs, like the one of the mosquito ordering a Bloody Mary zero negative (and getting a drop of blood which, once drunk, numbs her), or the scene in which two other mosquitos are irremediably attracted by the electric mosquito light.
I conclude by simply reiterating how A Bug’s Life seems to me to be one of Pixar’s most successful films, due to its plot, characters, comedy, animation… And, as usual with their best movies, both young and older viewers can enjoy it! The themes of pursuing one’s dreams, believing in oneself (even when society, in this case that of ants, wants to avoid free thinking and anti-conformism), and unity is strength are just the icing on the cake of an almost perfect movie. Ciao!