A Bug's Life is a 1998 CGI-animated film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Buena Vista Distribution in the United States on November 25, 1998, in Australia on December, 1998 and in the United Kingdom on February 5, 1999. A Bug's Life was the second Disney / Pixar feature film. It tells the tale of an oddball individualist ant who hires what he thinks are "warrior bugs" (actually circus performers) to fight off greedy grasshoppers. The film was directed by John Lasseter.
The story of A Bug's Life is a parody of Aesop's fable of The Ant and the Grasshopper. It is similar to the comedy ¡Three Amigos!, which is about out-of-work actors defending a town while thinking they're merely giving a performance. It also gives an obvious nod to Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (as well as its Hollywood remake, The Magnificent Seven), which is about Japanese villagers hiring a rag-tag group of swordsmen to fight off rampaging bandits.
Reviews for A Bug's Life were overwhelmingly positive at the time of the film's release, and it has remained popular since.
Flik eventually finds his way to the "city"; an insects' metropolis built of discarded boxes and vessels. Here he mistakes a troupe of recently-unemployed circus performers whose latest act had collapsed into chaos, for the warrior bugs he seeks. The bug troupe similarly mistake Flik for a talent agent who wants to engage their act, and agree to travel with him back to Ant Island. Believing that Flik has indeed proven himself and they are truly warriors, the colony celebrates. Princess Atta, however, grows suspicious, especially when both Flik and the circus troupe become aware of their respective mistakes. As the troupe tries to leave, they see Princess Dot, Atta's younger sister who idolizes Flik, attacked by a hungry bird. The troupe and Flik pull off a daring rescue, causing Atta to believe they may be warriors after all. Slowly, she begins to sympathize and fall in love with Flik.
Caught between the opportunity to improve his fortunes within the colony and the knowledge that the bug troupe are not who they appeared to be, Flik discovers that Hopper is deeply afraid of bug-eating birds, and proposes they build a model bird to scare him away. The ants unite behind Flik's plan and build the bird successfully. But while they celebrate, the circus' ringmaster, P.T. Flea arrives to retrieve and rehire his performers, inadvertently exposing the truth which Flick and the troupe had tried to cover up. The colony decides that Hopper should never know about what happened while putting the bird plan on hold. Atta, however, is so hurt by Flik's deception that she banishes him from the colony, leading him to join the circus in dejection.
Having spent an enormous amount of time pursuing Flik's plan, the ants try desperately to gather enough food for the new offering. But due to the rapidly-approaching winter season, they cannot find enough food to meet the quota. When the grasshoppers return, they are enraged by the meager offering, and force them to work until all the food on the island is gathered. Dot overhears Hopper's plan to kill the Queen after receiving the full offering. She therefore goes after Flik; having found him, she convinces him and the circus bugs to return and put the bird plan into action. It nearly works until the confused P.T. inadvertently incinerates the bird while trying to "protect" his performers.
Hopper realizes he has been tricked and takes out his anger on Flik. After absorbing a savage beating from Hopper's dog-like grasshopper, Thumper, Flik realizes and declares that, in response to Hopper's claims of species superiority, Hopper is actually reliant on the ants for his own survival, but also fears their superior strength—the suppression of any cause of this fear being the true reason for his return. Becoming desperate, he threatens to crush Flik. However, the ant colony collectively realizes that they vastly outnumber the grasshoppers (in a ratio of 100 to 1 in Hopper's estimation); therefore the ants all rise up in a wave of fury and chase the grasshoppers out forever. Hopper, alone and reduced to a bare minimum of rational thought, desperately tries to take revenge on Flik. A pursuit scene follows, where Hopper attempts to take Flik away and kill him while Atta and the circus performers try to retrieve him. The performers become trapped behind some branches and fall behind, claming one of Hopper's antenna and a prize while Atta goes on to rescue Flik alone. Later Flik lures Hopper into the nest of the bird from whom Dot was rescued, whereupon the bird feeds Hopper to its chicks.
After these events, the colony adopts Flik's harvesting machine and bids farewell to the circus performers, who depart from the island. Atta is crowned the new queen of the colony while she gives her own crown to Dot, and she kisses Flik and chooses him as her mate.
Dave Foley as Flik, an inventive ant who is desperate to make a difference to his colony's way of life, but tends to make things worse in the process. His inventions include a telescope created by wrapping a blade of grass around a dewdrop; an automatic harvester; several items of traveller's gear; and the bird-shaped aircraft used to terrify the grasshoppers. He is suggested to have a soft spot for Princess Atta.
Denis Leary as Francis, an aggressive ladybug and a clown in P.T. Flea's circus troupe. Francis is frustrated by constantly being mistaken for a female; an obvious pun on the name of his species. In such frustrations, he is shown to be belligerent and aggressive to the point of frightening others. Because it is he who played the most obvious part in Princess Dot's rescue, he becomes 'den-mother' to the scout-like organization of young ants called the "Blueberry Troop". As counselor to this organization, Francis becomes very fond of his charges. Francis seems to have a strong friendship with Slim and Heimlich. While transporting over long distances, Francis carries Slim.
Joe Ranft as Heimlich, a green caterpillar with a German accent and a clown in P.T. Flea's circus troupe. He is gluttonous and frivolous throughout, and contemptuous of anyone he considers less intelligent than himself. At one point, he remarks that he dreams of being a beautiful butterfly. At the end of the film, he sprouts a pair of tiny wings, but remains flightless due to his obesity. Whilst a caterpillar, Heimlich is carried by the rhinoceros beetle, Dim, for transport. At the end of the movie, Heimlich shouts "Auf wiedersehen!" (German for "Goodbye!"), as if to confirm his nationality.
David Hyde Pierce as Slim, a walking stick insect and a clown in P.T. Flea's circus troupe. It appears that he is unhappy with his position at the circus troupe, as his boss constantly casts him as a prop instead of a character, with such castings such as "the broom, the pole, the stick, [and] the splinter". He is shown to be best friends with Heimlich and Francis, and often treats other bugs with respect in contrast to Francis' aggressive nature. It is also implied that he could share a friendship with Rosie as they seem to stand next to each other a lot and often look to each other for help. Since Slim does not have wings and cannot fly, Francis usually carries him from location to location.
Kevin Spacey as Hopper, the main antagonist of A Bug's Life. Hopper is a feared grasshopper who is blind in one eye due to a scratch caused by a recent encounter with a blue jay. He leads a large gang of grasshoppers, who hold a Mafia-like control over the ants. Hopper is cunning, bad-tempered, and tyrannical. Whereas most of the grasshoppers consider the ants harmless, Hopper is aware that the ants outnumber them, and therefore plots to kill the queen ant to frighten them into submission. His catchphrase "Let's ride!" is uttered when the grasshoppers are about to take flight en masse.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Princess Atta, the older princess ant of the royal family and heir to the throne. She is nervous about her new responsibilities and fears what the rest of the colony might think about her. During the film, it is shown that she has a small crush on Flik, although initially she does not show much appreciation for him. Her appreciation changes for the better after the ants build the bird. The Queen eventually gives up her crown at the end of the film to Atta, whereupon Atta gives up her own crown to her younger sister Dot.
Hayden Panettiere as Dot, the younger princess ant of the royal family. She idolises Flik and resents being small. She starts the movie unable to fly, but ultimately finds herself able to fly when her survival depends on it. Dot acts as Flik's moral support, and he as hers. Dot fears the demented grasshopper Thumper, exposure to whom Hopper uses as a punishment. Dot ultimately terrifies Thumper with the help of the rhinoceros beetle Dim.
Phyllis Diller as The Queen of the ant colony. She is an ancient ant, who is due to give up her crown to her eldest daughter Atta. She admonishes her younger daughter, Dot, for trying to fly before her time. She has a pet aphid called Aphy, whom she adores. She is also shown to have an intimate, possibly romantic relationship with another elder ant, Mr. Soil.
Richard Kind as Molt, Hopper's brother and self-proclaimed Vice President of the grasshopper gang. He is named 'Molt' for his exoskeleton's abnormal tendency to peel off. He is a loudmouth and provides a great deal of comic relief. Hopper detests his brothers' antics and is shown remarking that he promised their mother on her deathbed that he would not kill Molt, and would do so if he had not promised. At the end, Molt joins P.T. Flea's circus troupe, under the new name of Tiny.
Jonathan Harris as Manny, a praying mantis with an English accent; the magician of P.T. Flea's circus troupe. Manny is Gypsy's husband. His magic act involves the 'Chinese Cabinet of Metamorphosis', which is really the packaging of a Chinese Takeaway. His magic act is not appreciated well by the flies in the usual audience; but the grasshoppers, when he is set to distract them, take it seriously. Manny is aggressive towards Flik at the beginning of their acquaintance, but grows to like him. During the rescue of the Queen, Manny performs his magic act to conceal the Queen and is almost strangled by Hopper when he refuses to give up the Queen's location. His personality is very melodramatic and dignified.
Madeline Kahn as Gypsy, a gypsy moth who has beautiful patterns on either side of her wings. She is Manny's wife as well as his 'lovely assistant' during his magic act. She gives the signal for Flik's fake bird plan to commence when the plan to rescue the Queen is in session. During this, Manny performs his magic act, wherein Gypsy takes the place of the Queen as if to be a transformation in his Chinese Cabinet.
Bonnie Hunt as Rosie, a black widow spider who is maternal toward the rhinoceros beetle, Dim, and the younger ants of the colony. She has apparently had twelve husbands. She will sometimes be involved in whatever Slim, Francis, and Heimlich are doing. She seems to share a friendship with Slim, to whom she is seen in proximity.
Michael McShane as Tuck and Roll, twin pill bugs who speak a language other than English. According to the Official Pixar website they are Hungarian yet the language they speak is entirely fictional and the dance they do is a typical Russian Folk dance . Tuck and Roll occasionally argue, but are usually the best of friends. They act as cannonballs in P.T. Flea's circus troupe. They like the sound of the phrase "You fired!" (of whose meaning they have no idea), and continuously repeat it throughout the film.
Brad Garrett as Dim, a rhinoceros beetle who has a childlike, impressionable, but clear-sighted character. He is usually mothered by the black widow spider, Rosie. He is the largest insect of the circus troupe, and also the transport to Heimlich, Tuck, Roll, and Rosie. It is he who provokes the performers to revive Flik's belief in himself, when this has waned.
John Ratzenberger as P.T. Flea, the ringmaster of the circus troupe, who is unwilling to give refunds after his show has lasted two minutes. His finalé consists of an act called 'Flaming Death', in which he was almost incinerated. This caused him to fire his entire troupe, until a foot-long line of flies arrived outside the circus tent, wanting to see the 'Flaming Death' act again. He loves money. His name is based on the initials of circus owner Phineas Taylor Barnum.
Roddy McDowall as Mister Soil, a member of the Ant Island council. This role was Roddy McDowall's last before his death in 1998.
Edie McClurg as Doctor Flora, the nurse of Ant Island.
As well, the pan and scan or 'full screen' version of the video (on the DVD as well as VHS releases) has been reframed and restaged; rather than sacrifice image in some parts of the film, the frame has been extended or objects moved to fit the narrower aspect ratio. Pixar continued this process on its later video releases. Also, the different characters (Flik, Dot, Francis, etc.) were on one (by themselves) cover of the video cover, considered a collectible in many cases.
A set of "fluffs" and "outtakes" was included, in which various animated characters "blew" their dialog, or broke up laughing inappropriately. In one, Flik yells the line "To infinity, and beyond!", quoting Buzz Lightyear from an earlier Pixar film, Toy Story. Another "outtake" features Woody coming in with an upside down clap board.