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a bug’s life (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 11, 2009 by  



“Eleven years later and the Pixar film ‘A BUG’S LIFE’ gets its definitive release.  There’s nothing negative one can say about Walt Disney animation releases on Blu-ray right now.  ‘A BUG’S LIFE’ looks absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray, audio is also magnificent!  And compared to other Disney animated releases, ‘A BUG’S LIFE’ features the most extensive amount of features on Blu-ray.  A+!”

Images courtesy of © WDSHE. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: a bug’s life

DURATION: 94 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

RATED: G

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: May 19, 2009

Directed by John Lasseter

Co-Directed by Andrew Stanton

Produced by Darla K. Anderson and Kevin Reher

Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Joe Ranft

Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Don McEnery and Bob Shaw

Music by Randy Newman

Story Supervisor Joe Ranft

Edited by Lee Unkrich

Supervising Technical Director William Reeves

Director Of Photography Sharon Calahan

Production Designer William Cone

Sound Designer Gary Rydstrom

Technical Director Graham Walters

Starring:

Dave Foley as Flik

Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Princess Atta

Hayden Panettiere as Dot

Denis Leary as Francis

Joe Ranft as Heimlich

David Hyde Pierce as Slim

Jonathan Harris as Manny

Madeline Kahn as Gypsy

Bonnie Hunt as Rosie

Michael McShane as Tuck and Roll

Brad Garrett as Dim

Kevin Spacey as Hopper

Richard Kind as Molt

Phyllis Diller as the Queen

Roddy McDowell as Mister Soil

Edie McClurg as Doctor Flora

John Ratzenberger as P.T. Flea

Experience the astonishing world of Flik and his tiny friends like never before as the magic of Pixar animation springs into life with new crystal-clear picture and amazing theater-quality sound on Disney Blu-ray Hi-Def!

Embark on an incredible journey with one little ant as he searches for a brave band of warriors to help him battle the bullying grasshoppers who threaten his home.  When he stumbles upon a bumbling troupe of circus bugs, instead, their only hope for victory is the bond of friendship and the awesome power of imagination.

Crawling with fun-loving characters and featuring a star-studded voice cast, this epic film of miniature proportions is a “triumph of storytelling” says the San Francisco Chronicle.  Plus, with all-new bonus features created exclusively for Disney Blu-ray, including a DisneyFile Digital Copy of the movie.  A Bug’s Life will keep the whole family buzzing for hours!

Back in 1998, Pixar Animation Studios and Disney released their second film.  Coming off the emotional high from “TOY STORY”, Directors John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton began working on “A BUG’S LIFE” which cost around $45 million to make and brought in over $363 million worldwide.

The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews and featured an all star cast starring Dave Foley (“The Kids in the Hall”, “NewsRadio”, etc.), Kevin Spacey (“The Usual Suspects”, “Se7en”, “L.A. Confidential”), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Seinfeld”, “Saturday Night Live”), a young Hayden Panettiere (“HEROES”), comedians Denis Leary, Madeline Kahn, Phyllis Diller and Bonnie Hunt, Richard Kind (“Spin City”, “Mad About You”), David Hyde Pearce (“Frazier”), Brad Garrett (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) and Roddy McDowell (“Planet of the Apes”, “Cleopatra”) to name a few.

The film revolves around a colony of ants who have to harvest food for the grasshoppers once a year.  Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is the successor of the queen (Phyllis Diller) and fears that she is not doing a great job leading the colony.  Meanwhile, a clumsy inventor named Flik (Dave Foley) creates inventions that tend to be quite harmful for the colony.  The only person who has faith in him is Princess Atta’s young sister Dot (Hayden Panettiere).

While the ants get their food prepared on a big leaf, the all head underground when the bullying grasshoppers led by Hopper (Kevin Spacey) are expected to arrive.  While Flik tries to get back into his ant hole, he accidentally sends all the food flying down the river and all is lost.

He tries to explain to Princess Atta of what he had done but its too late, the grasshoppers are upset and start threatening all the ants.  The grasshoppers expect to be fed and they will protect the ants from other bugs but if they don’t follow procedure, they will be killed.  Hopper gives the colony some time (until the final leaf has fallen) to get their food ready.  The ants fear that they can’t because of the rainy season that is coming but Hopper doesn’t care.  If they don’t do it, they die.  Hopper threatens the young Dot and Flik comes to her rescue but is roughed up by the grasshoppers.

While the grasshoppers leave, the colony is upset with Flik but Flik comes up with an idea of finding bugs who can take on the grasshoppers and protect them.  But he would have to venture out of the colony and go on this dangerous mission.  Of course, the colony looks at the opportunity as to rid of Flik temporarily, so he can’t cause any more problems.  So, Princess Atta grants him permission to go to the city and find these bugs, not expecting him to succeed.

We are then shown a group of bugs who are part of a circus group led by P.T. Flea.  The bugs are not exactly a well-talented team and hardly anyone comes to their shows.  We are introduced to:

Francis the Ladybug (Denis Leary) – An aggressive ladybug who is a guy and dislikes when people think all ladybugs are female.

Heimlich (Joe Ranft) – A green caterpillar with a German accent and not very smart.

Slim (David Hyde Spearce) – A walking stick insect and is often used as a prop in their circus act.

Manny (Jonathan Harris) – A praying mantis and the magician of the group.

Gypsy (Madeline Kahn) – A gypsy moth with beautiful patters on her wings.  She is also Manny’s wife and assistant.

Rosie (Bonnie Hunt) – The black widow spider and uses her webs for the circus props.

Dim (Brad Garrett) – A childlike rhinoceros beetle.

Tuck and Roll (Michael McShane) – Arguing twin pill bugs who are the comedy relief in the circus.

During their performance, they eventually botch their whole act up and are fired from the circus.  The group get themselves into trouble with a few troublemakers and take care of the problem.  Flik sees this and hires the group to protect the village.  The group thinks they are performing and do not know they are heading into danger.

When Flik and the group return to the colony, Princess Atta is surprised and shocked that he accomplished his goal.  The colony has a special ceremony for the bugs who will protect them and immediately, the circus group find out that they are there to fight the grasshoppers.  They tell Flik that they are not fighters but a circus group and immediately try to leave the colony and as for Flik, he tries to make up a story to hide the fact they are circus performers.

As the group heads back to the city, Flik tries to convince them to stay.  But as they head out, Dot gets herself into trouble and the circus troupe go on a rescue mission.  Next thing you know a big bird tries to go after them and the colony watches in awe as the group successfully works together and Princess Atta is convinced these bugs can protect them.  When she gives Flik the idea that Hopper is scared of birds, Flik comes up with an idea that the ants and the bugs can create a fake bird in order to scare off Hopper and the other grasshoppers.  Princess Atta who has now put her faith on Flik and the group of bugs has the colony to help build this bird and to not gather food for the grasshoppers.

Princess Atta then apologizes to Flik that she thought he brought in a couple of clowns but he may be the colony’s hero and ending the threat from Hopper and the grasshoppers.  She also starts to warm up to him, as the two begin to flirt with each other.  But how long can Flik keep the secret of his bug friends from Princess Atta and the colony?  Will Flik and the circus group be enough to protect the colony when Hopper and his grasshoppers return?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

When the first DVD came out for “A BUG’S LIFE” in 1999, it received rave reviews for being a complete digital transfer.  And of course, since the film’s release in 1998, we have seen how Pixar animation has come to evolve in the last eleven years and pushing animation technology as far as they can go.

With that being said, “A BUG’S LIFE”, even though its been a decade since its release, looks absolute magnificent on Blu-ray.  Feature in 1080p High Definition with an aspect ratio of 2:35:1, the animation looks absolute crystal clear.  The animation is quite vibrant in colors, lush and green for the grass, the browns of the dirt, the blues of the sky and the blacks are nice and deep.  There is nothing bad that can be said about the picture quality.  It’s an animation that was created in digital and looks absolute awesome on Blu-ray.  No artifacts, no blemishes, no dust, bad particles or anything negative.  The picture quality is colorful, clear and vibrant!

As for audio, the audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and sounds absolutely superb.  The sound is literally coming from all directions and really good utilization of rear surrounds and separating audio.  I have a 7.2 setup and scenes such as the grasshoppers flying, to the sounds of thunder and a variety of sounds with music all coming together definitely makes an immersive, audio experience.

It’s important to note that my receiver doesn’t shown the DTS-HD Master Audio and shows up as ES.  There is speculation that the audio is featured not in 5.1 but in 6.1.

The special treatment that Walt Disney has put in their animated releases on Blu-ray have been nothing short of phenomenal, it doesn’t matter if the film is 10 years or 70 years later, the picture and audio quality of these releases have been outstanding.   “A BUG’S LIFE” is yet another fabulous release on Blu-ray!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“A BUG’S LIFE” contains all the special features from the 2003 DVD but also contains newer bonus content as well.   The new bonus content (in HD) specific for this Blu-ray release are:

  • INTRODUCTION BY JOHN LASSETER – A quick introduction by Director John Lasseter.
  • FILMMAKERS ROUND TABLE – (21:00) Filmmakers John Lasseter, Kevin Reher, Darla Anderson and Andrew Stanton take a journey back 10 years from when the theatrical release first premiered and discuss what advances Pixar has made in technology, story telling and the overall filmmaking process.
  • A BUG’S LIFE: THE FIRST DRAFT – (10:19) How the story changed from a red ant that was part of the circus to the final cut of Flik and the ant colony.  Existing storyboards from Pixar’s original story treatment brought to life by animating them.  Ready by Dave Foley.  Also, includes STORY TREATMENT INTRO BY JOHN LASSETER.
  • BD-LIVE FEATURES

o Movie Chat
o Movie Mail
o Movie Challenge
o Movie Reward
o Avatars

All 2003 Bonus Features from the 2-Disc version (in Standard Definition) included are:

  • Pixar Animation Studios’ Academy Award®-winning Best Animated Short Film, Geri’s Game
  • A Walt Disney Silly Symphony – “Grasshopper and the Ants” (1934) – (8:15 w/ intro) A classic Disney animated short.
  • Director Commentary – Commentary by John Lasseter, co-writer Andrew Stanton and Editor Lee Unkrich discussing the film scenes, original plans for the story, final cut, the various talent and voiceovers and the positive reception of the film.
  • Pre-Production: This section alone contains many sub-features such as:

– Fleabie Reel (With Intro – 4:19)

– Story + Editorial (With Intro 5:33)

– Storyboard to Film Comparisons (13:22)

– Dot’s Rescue: Story Reel (3:53)

– Dot’s Rescue: Final Render (3:53)

– Dot’s Rescue: Split-Screen Comparison (3:53)

– Abandoned Sequences (with intro: 5:34)

– P.T. Fleas Office (1:37)

– Original Museum (1:43)

– Research Documentary (with intro: 5:22)

  • Design (1:39) + Gallery
  • Production

– Behind-the-scenes of Bug’s Life:

– Production Feature Documentary (3:45)

– Voice Casting (4:12)

– Early Test (5:25)

– Progression Demonstration

– Story Reel (with intro: 3:56)

– Layout (with intro: 2:54)

– Animation (with intro: 3:04)

– Shadow and Lighting (with intro: 2:55)

  • Sound Design – (13:07) Featuring Gary Rydstrom (Sound Designer) introducing how they created various sounds for the film.  From jelly squishing to flapping film, interesting and creative ways to capture sound.
  • Release – This segment features posters and ad campaign and also the trailers (trailer 1: 1:22, trailer 2: 2:25) and character interviews (with intro: 2:00) featuring a real interview between a newscaster with Hopper, Flik, Francis and Heimlich.
  • Outtakes – (3:17) The Story behind the outtakes which includes the original outtakes (2:31) and the alternate outtakes (2:30).  NOTE:  This is presented in HD.
  • Geri’s Game – (4:55) A Pixar classic short film of an older gentleman playing chess against himself.  NOTE:  This is presented in HD.

Also, included is a MovieCash Code with a printable voucher for the upcoming animated film “Up” and a second disc which is a digital copy of the film.

“A BUG’S LIFE” is just a fantastic Blu-ray release.  I’ve always looked at the storyline is like a hilarious, enjoyable and child-friendly, animated nod to Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” but its overall storyline and presentation was just incredibly done.  The film was financially successful and it was quite interesting to see this film and DreamWorks Animation’s “ANTZ” go head to head in the box office that year.

It’s been a long time since I first seen “A BUG’S LIFE”.  The first thing that catches your eye is how beautiful the film looks even though it is over a decade old but then once you start seeing the dirt and detail of an animated film created by Pixar at that time, you realized how much farther Pixar has come since 1998.

You can look at the characters now and just imagine if they looked this good then, can you imagine how much detail into the actual characters that Pixar would probably go crazy if they worked on a sequel (with a total of three films for “TOY STORY”, with the success of this film, I was hoping a sequel for more adventures with Flik).

There is really nothing negative I can say about this release.  The 2003 DVD release was among the most fantastic Walt Disney animated releases ever as it really goes into the making of the film and for any Pixar fan or animator, this DVD was just magnificent to own.

What is awesome about “A BUG’S LIFE” and watching it ten years later is that the story is well-written and the acting is well-done.   It’s one thing to have awesome animation but if the storyline is not enjoyable, then the experience is not exactly wonderful.  With this film,  you have a good group all-star talent involved in this film and the I found the acting to be well done.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her well-known laugh, Kevin Spacey’s brooding vocals and of course, Dave Foley does a magnifcent job as Flik.  But the list goes on, these talents did such a fantastic job on this film.  It’s also important to note that if you are big fans of legendary talents Madeline Kahn and Roddy McDowall, this animated film was their final film.

Now let’s assume that you own the original 1999 or the 2003 DVD version and are wondering if you should double dip and re-purchase this film on Blu-ray.  My answer is YES!!!

This is the definitive version to own of “A BUG’S LIFE” as the picture and audio quality is just phenomenal in High Definition.  I can continue to give you many reasons of how awesome the picture and audio quality are and how incredible this film is, but you also get more special features included only on this Blu-ray release.  Moreso, than the 2003 DVD edition and these newer bonus features are presented in HD.  The overall presentation of this release alone outshines the 2003 DVD (and that DVD release was magnificent).  If you own an HD setup, you’re definitely going to appreciate this release!

Overall, “A BUG’S LIFE” is highly recommended! A+!






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