Looking Back At Some of the First Computer Animated Films: Antz v A Bug’s Life

There are plenty of movies that come out and are essentially the same films. The first example you can think of is probably Deep Impact and Armaggeddon. In the animated realm, we have A Bug’s Life and Antz. Both movies deal with a colony of ants overcoming certain obstacles. Both having come out in 1998, Antz is a DreamWorks production, while A Bug’s Life is a Pixar animation. Antz was DreamWorks’ first film, while A Bug’s Life was Pixar’s second. So, there’s some cool history behind these two computer-animated projects.

What are both movies about? Let’s discuss.

A Bug’s Life

 

In A Bug’s Life, a colony of ants works tirelessly to collect grains and other various food for the aggressive grasshoppers who collect every year. Flik, a good-natured albeit empty-headed ant, has good ideas, but they often end up backfiring on his people. An invention of his ends up knocking over the pile of food collected for the grasshoppers, destroying the food. As you can imagine, the grasshoppers are not happy. The leader, voiced by Kevin Spacey; Hopper, declares that they will be back at the end of the season for double the quantity of food, which is damn near impossible considering there’s very little time before spring ends. 

The princess Atta, voice by Julia Louis-Dreyfus; and her advisors decide to shoo Flik away from the colony so he won’t ruin another harvest gathering. Flik believes he is on a quest to find tougher bugs to help combat the grasshoppers and he ends up with a circus. Though, Flik doesn’t know they’re circus performers; he really thinks he’s essentially saved his colony. Halling the “tough bugs” back to the colony, the circus figures out that they aren’t there to perform, but to fight. And Flik finds out the truth. They end up devising a plan against the grasshoppers anyway. Things look bleak once the grasshoppers arrive and the circus bugs’ secret is revealed, but it’s Pixar, so everything works out in the end.

Growing up, A Bug’s Life was one of my favorite Pixar films. I even played the game made for PC. Looking back and rewatching the other day revealed how…goofy Flik is? To the point of too much at time. The rest of the ants also can be quite all over the place and the circus bugs bring a sort of old school slapstick comedy to the film. It’s very much made for kids, but it does have some great lessons despite its flaws. The scene where Hopper explains the strength of the ants and the need to repress them to the other grasshoppers is still incredibly powerful and damn Spacey for being such a creep in real life.

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Antz

Another childhood favorite of mine. I’m not kidding. I hate bugs in real-life, but apparently I was loving ant movies as a kid. Even as a child, I knew Antz was by far the more adult film. The subject of war, classism, and sexual tension make it different from A Bug’s Life. Plus, the animation is different and there is cursing, which would never happen in the Pixar film. So, Antz includes Woody Allen voicing the main character Z, so here we have two movies with actors who ended up being creeps in them. We will have to ignore.

Antz follows Z and a colony who live in an anthill (obviously) where your life occupation is determined at birth. The idea of a queen bee giving birth every ten seconds is stated in this film and the topic of classism is very heavy here. Once you are determined to be a warrior or a worker, you cannot change your stance in life. It’s not about individuality – it’s about the good of the colony. Z struggles with feeling insignificant and when Princess Bala (voiced by Sharon Stone) sneaks to the workers’ bar, Z begs his soldier friend Weaver (voiced by Slyvester Stallone) to switch jobs with him for the day. This is unheard of, but Weaver believes in his scrawny little friend and decides to agree. Besides, Weaver is a muscle ant who loves working out and loves worker ants, such as Jennifer Lopez’s Azteca.

Z ends up going into an unexpected war and experiencing the horrors of battle. It’s also where you see how little General Mandible (voiced by Gene Hackman) thinks of the “lesser” ants. He believes them as disposable and that he and his other warrior ants are superior (when picking who would go to war, he specifically asked for ants loyal to the queen).  

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Z and Princess Bala end up outside of the colony, finding “Zootopia”, falling for each other, and realizing that they don’t need to be stuck in the positions they were given at birth. Z ends up inspiring the worker ants to stop mindlessly working and General Mandible’s evil plan is revealed. I think Antz had a fantastic climax and loved then seeing all of the disenfranchised ants work together and prove they are more than what Mandible thought. Z and Weaver had a great friendship and I really liked Christopher Walken as Colonel Cutter.

Final Thoughts

As an adult, I think I can say I enjoy Antz more. I still liked A Bug’s Life, but I can see it is the more childish of the two movies. A Bug’s Life was about there being strength in a community and finding your voice against bullies. Antz was about finding your individuality and questioning the very day grind that seemingly pigeon hole people into one category without ever encouraging them to evil. A Bug’s Life was clearly the more child friendly movie during a time where kid’s cartoons may have felt the need to “dumb down” characters and life lessons by making them goofy. Antz was a more adult film, but both had meaningful messages that are still needed to this day.

You may ask, why are we revisiting two films about ants? I don’t know, because I wanted to. Which film do you prefer?


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