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A BUG'S LIFE
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Voices:  Dave Foley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Spacey, Phyllis Diller, Hayden Panettiere, David Hyde Pierce, Roddy McDowall, Bonnie Hunt, Dennis Leary, Madeline Kahn
Director:  John Lasseter
Audio:  DTS 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Disney/Pixar
Features:  See Review
Length:  95 Minutes
Release Date:  May 19, 2009

“It’s a bug eat bug world out there, Princess.”

Film ***

A Bug's Life was 1998’s second big budgeted computer animated insect movie after Antz. How do they compare? Well, each can certainly stand alone on its own merits, and both are definitely worth watching.

This film, created by the talented folks at Pixar, is meant for the entire family, whereas Antz was largely a comedy for the adults. As such, the tongue in cheek humor is largely curbed for some broader physical comedy, but the results are equally hysterical.

The plot certainly reminded me a lot of Kurisawa's Seven Samurai. A colony of ants is faced with losing their harvest of food to a bevy of mean, ruthless grasshoppers led by Topper (Spacey). In desperation, Flik (Foley) sets out to recruit some warrior bugs to help the colony defend itself. When he mistakes a troupe of down and out circus bugs for real fighters, the fun is just beginning (my favorite is probably Dennis Leary as the ladybug).

These performers are not fighters, but with a little teamwork, and Flik's continued ingenuity, the ants and their Princess Atta (Dreyfus) might just find there's something bigger inside them all!

Pixar is the studio that revolutionized computer animated entertainment with Toy Story, and as such, this film looks more like their own predecessor than Antz. This film is more about the colors, the comedy and the action rather than the more life like skin tones and realistic facial movements of Dreamworks' bug picture. The bottom line is that it's different, but equally good.

These animators know how to deliver entertainment. You will laugh out loud, then be exhilarated by the high speed flight and chase sequences that only a computer could accomplish. And you may even find yourself on the edge of your seat in spite of yourself over the fate of these plucky little guys.

Oh, and don't forget to stay for the end credits. There is a collection of outtakes that will floor you!

BONUS TRIVIA: This was the final film for the great Roddy McDowall.

Video ****

There’s something about Pixar animation and high definition that makes for an unbeatable quality combination. Here, rather than create a transfer to disc based on the film negative, Pixar took the next logical step and went straight from the computer, resulting in the first ever digital to digital Blu-ray. The results are extraordinary. Gone are the nicks, cuts, and pieces of dust that flicker in and out of every frame in a film. What's left is a stunning picture, with remarkable color, no compression, no grain, and an almost three dimensional quality to the images.

The colors are extraordinarily presented throughout, with amazing and vivid detail to these small worlds that will make you feel like you could step right into them (but not ON the ants, please).  The contrast levels are striking, and the overall crispness is perfection. 

Audio ****

No complaints here, either...the DTS HD 5.1 audio delivers plenty of punch and pizzazz as expected!  The music score is solid, the spoken words are clean and clear, and there are plenty of big sequences that utilize your surround channels and subwoofer.  The final battle, with the horns sounding the warning from every corner, the coming rains, and the chaos is as solid as any action movie presentation.  Never has such a small world sounded so large! 

Features ****

The best feature is the inclusion of both sets of outtakes that were released theatrically. These were too good not to have both versions, so kudos to Disney for that.  But this Blu-ray offers some new exclusives, including the ability to watch the movie as a "first draft", before images and shots were finalized.  Very intriguing to see an animated film in a short storyboard form!  There 's also a new "filmmakers' round table", in which the creators look back on the making of the film.  You can also access BD LIVE with your internet capable player for extra goodies!

But that's just for starters.  You can listen to an audio commentary from John Lasseter, co-director Andrew Stanton and story man Joe Ranft (who also provided the delightful voice for Heimlich) for plenty of good information.  The extras are then divided into pre-production, design, production, sound design, and release.  Each one opens up a new gallery of features to peruse.  You can learn about the story development, the casting, the animation process, see three storyboard-to-film comparisons, watch a couple of release trailers, and even see a couple of abandoned scenes.  Many of these also include optional introductions from John Lasseter.  You can even check out some 'character interviews' and watch the original research film that helped bring the project together.

And also nice is the 1997 Oscar winner for Best Animated Short, "Geri's Game", also produced by Pixar, and a quality (and humorous) piece of animation in its own right, along with a classic Disney animated short, "The Grasshopper and the Ants".

Finally, there's a digital copy disc, and for a limited time, a ticket to catch the newest Pixar animated offering, Up.

Summary:

A Bug’s Life is simply superb on Blu-ray.  This entertaining film looks and sounds more pristine than ever, and the generous collection of extras will keep you busy for a long time!

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