The Ant Bully
is a 2006 computer-animated film
Based on the 1999 Children's book & produced by Tom Hanks
and Gary Goetzman's Playtone
, John Davis
and Keith Alcorn's DNA Productions
and directed by the aforementioned Davis. Released in movie theatres on July 28
by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment
and Legendary Pictures
, it is based on a book by John Nickle and features the voices of Nicolas Cage
, Julia Roberts
, Meryl Streep
, Allison Mack
and Paul Giamatti
. Concurrently with the general release, the film was offered in big screen IMAX
3D, the format also used with The Polar Express.
For more information on the IMAX 3D experience of The Ant Bully
, see The Ant Bully IMAX 3D Experience
The story is about a lonely 10-year-old boy named Lucas Nickle (Zach Tyler Eisen
) who has just moved to a new neighborhood. His parents, who fail to understand his problems, go on a honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta
, leaving him with his older sister and his Grandmother (Mommo), who obsesses over aliens
. Tormented by a local bully and his gang, Lucas in turn attacks an anthill
, stomping on it and flooding it. This terrifies the ants
, who call him Peanut the Destroyer (Peanut being his mother's nick name for him). One ant, an eccentric wizard
named Zoc (Nicolas Cage), tries to fight back. His girlfriend, a nurse ant named Hova (Julia Roberts), believes in finding a more peaceful solution by attempting to communicate with Lucas. She is almost crushed by Lucas while trying to do so but is rescued by Zoc. After a devastating attack floods the hatching chambers, the leaders of the colony decide to use a potion
(which Zoc made from some magical gemstones) to shrink Lucas down to size of an ant.
Meanwhile, the local exterminator
, Stan Beals (Paul Giamatti), tries to convince Lucas to sign a contract to kill the local vermin. Lucas is hesitant about signing it at first, but after the exterminator calls him a baby and accuses him of only saying what his mother wants him to say, he signs it. Late that night, Zoc and a small troop of ants sneak into Lucas's house and pour the potion into his ear. Lucas wakes up and discovers that he is now as tiny as an ant. The boy is then carried to the anthill and cast down into a world of giant caves, caterpillars
, and ants. Zoc insists that Lucas should be killed, but he is overruled by the imposing, awe-inspiring Queen ant (Meryl Streep). In her wise reasoning, she sentences Lucas to hard labor until he can be considered an ant, for she believes that the colony could be improved this way. Hova volunteers to train Lucas, much to Zoc's mortification. Hova develops a delicate friendship with Lucas when they both learn more about the differences between ants and humans. But when she forces him to undertake a foraging mission under the supervision of a tough female ant named Kreela (Regina King
) and a macho scout leader named Fugax (Bruce Campbell
) Lucas is ultimately unsuccessful. Suddenly, the ants tending the caterpillar herds are attacked by wasps
. Lucas tries to save himself at first; when he finds a discarded firecracker, he uses it to scare away the wasps. This earns him the admiration and respect of all the ants – with the exception of Zoc, who believes him to be still an incorrigible Destroyer who only cares about himself.
Lucas is then invited to eat with the ants; he is introduced to honeydew, a preparation made from the feces of caterpillars. This disgusts Lucas, who is soothed by Hova and a delicious alka-root in a water drop. Lucas is later shown a painting which depicts the Great Ant Mother and the evil “Cloud-Breather”, whom Lucas recognizes as Stan Beals. He and his new friends go back to his house, where he tries to call the Exterminator. However, they are attacked by his sister. When Zoc finds out about the contract, he accuses Lucas of further treachery. Lucas runs away, frightened, and Hova becomes angry with Zoc. But when Lucas is swallowed by a frog, a repentant Zoc uses an emetic root to free him. Afterwards, while the others sleep, Zoc and Lucas discuss the differences between ant society and human society. Zoc states that in essence humans work for personal gain whereas ants work for the benefit of the colony.
Lucas reveals everything to the other ants; although initially angry at him, they are placated by his plan of defense. He enlists the aid of their natural enemies, the wasps. During the battle with the exterminator, Lucas saves the lives of Hova and an injured wasp. Finally, with the help of the leader of the wasps, he injects Stan Beals with a potion that reduces him to infantile size. The queen then pronounces Lucas an ant. She names him Rokai, as such to be forever known by the entire colony. Zoc gives him the antidote to the shrinking potion. Once full-size, Lucas stands up to the bully and inspires other kids to do so, including members of the bully’s own gang. Lucas then showers the colony with jelly beans, thus fulfilling the prophecy of the Great Ant Mother.
Hanks originally conceived the idea for an animated film adaptation after reading the book with his child. He then sent a copy of the book to Davis because of Davis' work on the computer-animated film Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
. Davis came up with a potential take on the story within a few days. "To be honest, when I first looked at it, I thought Oh, why does it have to be ants again?" said Davis. "But the more I thought about it, I said, So what? It's got as much to do with The Incredible Shrinking Man
as it does the other bug movies. It's a completely different story. Also, Hanks agreed that the story could be expanded considerably (the original book being around only 2,000 words). Alcorn had a similar initial reaction to the project as Davis did. "My first thought,” recalled Alcorn, “was, ‘not another ant movie.’ But looking at the actual story, this was really about a little boy and how he learns about the world by having to live beneath the surface.
The movie was rendered on DNA Productions' 1400-CPU render farm
, managed by the open source Sun Grid Engine job scheduler
. The nodes started out with Fedora Core
with a modern 2.6.x kernel, but the new AMD Opteron
nodes are running Fedora Core 4. Most of the applications are commercial, including Maya
and the Pixar RenderMan
Along with the theatrical release of The Ant Bully
, there was an IMAX 3D version presented in only some of the IMAX theaters. The others continued to run the 3D version of
. The special IMAX 3D version was remastered in 3D with IMAX DMR. Critics within the 3D motion picture community have given
the film high marks, as unlike Superman Returns
, the entire film is projected in 3D stereo. The process to turn a pure animation film into 3D is much simpler than converting a film
having live actors.
As of November 16 2006
, The Ant Bully
, currently has made $54 million worldwide.
The estimated production budget was $50 million. This is moderate success while Monster House
and Barnyard: The Original Party Animals
both sold far more. The 3D version did considerably better per screen in its few playdates, though this is due partially to the higher admission prices of IMAX theaters.
The film garnered a 63% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Tom Long of the Detroit News wrote that "there's a sweet simplicity and humility to this film." Ruthe Stein of The San Francisco Chronicle
wrote that "the brilliance of The Ant Bully
is in the crafty way it delves into the minds of ants as they plot to save themselves from extermination... Davis creates a marvelously labyrinthine society for them, right below the surface of a bland suburb." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly
liked Roberts and Cage in their roles, and referred to Streep's queen ant as "excellently magisterial." She also wrote that "the kind of life lessons that usually gum up the fun go down as easily as jelly beans in The Ant Bully
. However, Jeffrey E. McCants of the Minneapolis Star Tribune
wrote that "the film's heavy-handed lessons turn it from a fun romp through a cartoonish insect world to a predictable and preachy snoozefest". Lou Lumenick of the New York Post
called the film "generic" and wrote that "adults will be less than enchanted by its preachiness, talkiness and Communist Party-line political views". Bill Muller of The Arizona Republic
wrote that "The Ant Bully
, in trying to match Antz
or A Bug's Life
, just digs itself into a big hole". . Jack Mathews of the New York Daily News
was positive about the film's lack of pop culture references and thought that the film does not "talk down" to children. Additionally, he noted that "adults may be amused (or maybe not) by the Christian parallel in the ants' religion.
This film was rated PG
by the MPAA
for some mild rude humor and action.
Games publisher Midway
released The Ant Bully, the official video game tie-in to the film on GameCube
, PlayStation 2
, Wii and Game Boy Advance
on July 24, 2006. The game was developed by the Montreal Studio Artificial Mind and Movement
The soundtrack's music score was composed and conducted by John Debney
and there are no songs in this film. The entire movie score was released by Varese Sarabande