Magnificent Samurai

Tradition is everything to A Bug’s Life’s ant colony. Change is hard; change is the unknown; the unknown is fear. Protagonist Flick, though, doesn’t have that fear, but ideas – if not the know-how to implement them.

A Bug’s Life uses a familiar story formula, twisting key points for comedy, and making Flick (Dave Foley) an intelligent hero. Things break. He causes chaos. But he’s a thinker, and because things go wrong isn’t cause to quit. That’s made clear, setting Flick up to succeed even when raised in a submissive ant colony. It’s not that they can’t fight, rather they choose not to, and belief in the past keeps them acquiescent.

It’s a story of the food chain, with ants at the bottom, and the villainous grasshoppers next on that list. Rather than nature, the setup is similar to a school, with bullies muscling their way up the social order, the geekier types – performers, inventors – seen as feeble and submissive. That works, making Flick’s uniqueness his greatest trait. A Bug’s Life celebrates being one’s self, and being an outcast isn’t reason to fall in line, rather use that to change and better society.

A Bug’s Life celebrates being one’s self

Flick discovers a circus troupe when hunting for soldier bugs – they don’t have a clue. Like the ants, those stunt bugs wrestle with change. Instead of relying on comfortable routine, they too need to shed their old ways.

Next to the end credits, a blooper reel plays. The genius of that, beyond the comedic brilliance, is making kids see this as something plausible and real. Beyond the computer animation, talking bugs, and clever miniature world building, a child can see A Bug’s Life as tactile. That adds weight to the storytelling, at a time when the target audience needs such a message. Toy Story convinced kids their action figures lived in secret; A Bug’s Life does the same for insects, but bolsters that reality in a simple creative touch.

Togetherness makes these ideas work, a key theme in most animated films, but in A Bug’s Life, it ensures the individualism isn’t lost. The best ones do that, and A Bug’s Life is one of them.

Video

Like with Toy Story’s 4K release, the original source animation wasn’t rendered with 4K in mind. Given computer tech at the time, it’s a miracle A Bug’s Life was rendered at all. At 22-years old, this does cause aliasing on many edges, if imperceptible to most, and likely invisible on smaller screens. A Bug’s Life doesn’t attempt to smooth this out, choosing to leave things as is, helping to keep an image stellar in its sharpness.

At one time, A Bug’s Life sat atop the DVD ranks for visual quality. CG advanced, the only reason Pixar’s second feature fell from that perch. It’s still easy to see why, as the source material asks a lot of any format. While textures lack the firmness evident in modern animation, the rocky dirt, long grasses, and large gatherings demand precision. On UHD, there’s nothing holding this back. Gradients happen smoothly, compression is pinpoint, and clarity reference grade.

In adding HDR, the image gains in dynamics. This is clear early when the ants go underground, the dim light bringing fantastic black levels with added contrast to increase depth. Watch when the grasshoppers invade that scene, letting in sunlight. Dynamics give their all, superior (and greatly so) to the Blu-ray. Dimension gives A Bug’s Life a 3D quality.

Audio

Can it be? A Disney Atmos mix that isn’t marred by lacking range? The mix here proves itself thanks to swarms humming as they pass, action scenes willing to engage wholly in the low-end, and thunder making an impact. Rainfall equals some war films when they drop mortars; it’s that superb.

In motion, flying bugs pan between channels, and the opportunity to utilize the height channels is frequent. This isn’t only buzzing, but ambiance from other insects, including cricket chirps. Bird calls also fill the available channels. All sounds filter into the speakers where needed. A stellar mix.

Extras

All Blu-ray bonuses carry over. A filmmaker’s roundtable brings John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Darla K. Anderson, and Kevin Reher together to discuss their experience. Actor Dave Foley narrates the original story concept, presented in storybook fashion.

A commentary from Lasseter, Stanton, and editor Lee Unkrich is just as lively as it was back on DVD. Grasshopper and the Ant is a classic Disney short that inspired the Pixar crew, remastered in HD.

Four separate making-of sections cover story, abandoned concepts, test footage, loads of galleries, animation, and promotional material. A separate section on the outtakes at the end of the film (one of the best parts) discusses the idea, and showcases an additional set. The material in this paragraph totals over 80-minutes of content, and that’s not even including the usual Pixar short, Geri’s Game.

A Bug's Life
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Although following a template, Pixar adds unique touches of their own in A Bug’s Life, including a subtly brilliant credit sequence.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 42 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: