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A BUG'S LIFE

A BUG'S LIFE ($35) was the second fully computer animated film to be produced by Pixar, the revolutionary company that brought TOY STORY to the silver screen. Personally, I thought that TOY STORY was a marvelous cinematic achievement, and A BUG'S LIFE was certainly a more than worthy follow-up. Like ink and paint cel animation, the 3-D computer world found in A BUG'S LIFE has that candy colored appeal that one associates with classic Disney cartoons. By the nature of the film's production design, one can tell instantly that A BUG'S LIFE was envisioned as a three dimensional cartoon. Even the characters are designed with a distinct cartoon style that is certain to appeal to the film's largest target audience- children (not to mention the inner child in every adult).

The plot of A BUG'S LIFE is a variation on the fable about the ant and the grasshopper with industrious ants working all summer, while the grasshoppers goof off. Of course, the fable gets turned on its ear in this incarnation of the story. Sure, the ants do all the work, but here the grasshoppers reap the rewards. In A BUG'S LIFE, the grasshoppers are running a protection racket, in which the ants supply them with food and the grasshoppers protect the ants from being squished under their big bug feet. The ants don't question this yearly ritual, until an ant named Flik inadvertently causes the ant's annual bribe to the grasshoppers to be lost in a pool of water. When the grasshoppers arrive and discover that the ants didn't deliver the food, Hopper, the leader of the grasshoppers, gives the ants until the end of the season to come up with more food... or else!

Unfortunately, there isn't enough time for the ants to gather food for both the grasshoppers and their own winter needs, so Flick decides to travel to the city where he hopes to find warrior bugs to defend the colony. Flick makes his way to the city, where he almost succeeds in his task. After a bit of confusion, Flick engages a troop of unemployed flea circus performers, instead of actual fighting bugs. Of course, Flick and the circus troop make it all the way back to the ant colony before he realizes his mistake, which leaves him with even less time to devise a new plan before Hopper and his grasshopper gang return to flatten the colony. A BUG'S LIFE features the fine vocal talents of Dave Foley (Flik), Kevin Spacey (Hopper), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Princess Atta), Hayden Panettiere (Dot), Phyllis Diller (The Queen), Richard Kind (Molt), David Hyde Pierce (Slim), Joe Ranft (Heimlich), Denis Leary (Francis), Jonathan Harris (Manny), Madeline Kahn (Gypsy), Bonnie Hunt (Rosie), Michael McShane (Tuck/Roll), John Ratzenberger (P.T. Flea), Brad Garrett (Dim), Roddy McDowall (Mr. Soil), Edie McClurg (Dr. Flora) and Alex Rocco (Thorny).

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has made A BUG'S LIFE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation is nothing short of glorious, which is exactly how one should expect a Pixar animated movie to look in high definition. The picture just leaps off the screen and leaves the DVD incarnation by the wayside. Image sharpness, dimensionality and detail are all perfect for a computer-animated movie. All of the digitally applied textures to all the objects and characters are reproduced in wonderful detail. Of course, this being only Pixar’s second film, one gets to see the evolution of their work and the enhancements they add with each subsequent film. Colors are truly magnificent- vibrant, candy-like hues dominate the film and are perfectly rendered here. Blacks pitch perfect, while the whites are flawless and completely stable. Contrast is as smooth as can be rendered by computer. Coming off the digital files, there is no grain and no imperfections in the image.

A BUG'S LIFE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This soundtrack was amazingly good on DVD, but is only made better by its lossless presentation on Blu-ray. Featuring a highly aggressive sound design, A BUG'S LIFE utilizes all of the discrete channels for sound effect placement. Sound effects effortlessly whiz, careen and bounce around the viewer in a full three hundred and sixty degrees. The sound design envelops the viewer in the microcosm of A BUG'S LIFE, without ever coming across in a claustrophobic fashion. In fact, the sound has a wonderful spaciousness that makes ones own viewing area seem almost cavernous. The meticulous dialogue recording so beautifully reproduced here that all the familiar voices behind the characters are perfectly brought to life on Blu-ray. Fidelity is truly marvelous thanks to the lossless encode, which enhances all of the sound effects, as well as Randy Newman’s pleasantly cheerful music and songs. The bass channel is full, deep and authoritative, without becoming artificially boomy. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Animation and sound serve to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director John Lasseter, co-director Andrew Stanton and film editor Lee Unkrich. Newly produced hi-def supplements include: Filmmakers' Round Table (twenty one minutes), which reunites the production team to reminisce about the production, and A Bug’s Life: The First Draft (ten minutes), which features Dave Foley narrating the original story to concept storyboards. The appropriately themed 1934 Silly Symphony short The Grasshopper And The Ants is also provided, as are Bonus Trailers. A BUG'S LIFE is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). A Digital Copy of the film is also provided.

Ported from the previous DVD release are the following categorized materials: Pre-Production, Production, Sound Design, Release, Outtakes and "Geri’s Game." Pre-Production starts off with a goofy in house progress film called the "Fleabie" Reel. Story and Editorial looks at the early story treatment of film. Research takes an actual camera down to a bug’s eye view of the world where the filmmakers get their ideas for the film’s actual design. Design features the actual drawing and paintings that served as the starting point for characters and settings that would be modeled in the computer to create film’s 3D world. Production starts off with Behind-The-Scenes Of A Bug’s Life, which is a featurette about the making of the film. Voice Casting introduces the viewer to the actors behind the characters in the film. Early Tests features test footage created for the purpose of actually figuring out how to animate various characters and settings and make them appear organic. Progression Demonstration utilizes the multiple angle feature of the DVD format and takes the viewer through four phases of the animation process. Sound Design takes a look at how sound effects were created and chosen for the film. Release includes Theatrical Release and Video Release sections. Theatrical Release features Posters/Ad Campaigns, which are a series of stills and artwork. Outtakes include a featurette about the film’s outtakes and alternate outtakes, which were part of the film’s end credit sequence, as well as the outtakes on their own. "Geri’s Game" is, of course, Pixar’s Academy Award winning short film for 1997.

A BUG'S LIFE is a wonderfully enjoyable Pixar production that has been given a marvelous presentation on Blu-ray. Highest recommendations.

 

A BUG'S LIFE 


A Bug's Life [Blu-ray] (1998)

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DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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