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Bug’s Life, A (Blu-ray Review)

6 May, 2009 By: John Latchem

Bug's Life

Street 5/19/09
Box Office $162.8 million
$39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘G.’
Voices of Dave Foley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Spacey, Denis Leary, Phyllis Diller, Bonnie Hunt, Brad Garrett, David Hyde Pierce, John Ratzenberger, Hayden Panettiere.

There’s got to be something in the water over at Pixar, whose animators keep consistently cranking out great movies. The behind-the-scenes stories of movies such as A Bug’s Life are almost as interesting as the films themselves. Whether this is the genuine magic of the filmmaking process or the result of selective editing, it certainly enhances the fun-factor of the discs.

A Bug’s Life may be the overlooked gem of the Pixar canon. The 1998 effort was the upstart animation studio’s second full-length animated film, which while not as financially successful as Toy Story was still a huge hit and established the studio as the standard for CG-animated films. A Bug’s Life easily outshined a rival CG-animated bug film, Antz, which had opened a month earlier.

The film’s plot, about an ant inadvertently recruiting a circus troupe of insects to fight marauding grasshoppers that steal their food, is reminiscent of films such as Three Amigos and Galaxy Quest, but with the fresh spin of exploring the world from the insect point of view.

This Blu-ray is a worthy addition to any collection. The DVD was the first disc to offer a direct clone of the film’s digital source, which has paved the way for a gorgeous Blu-ray transfer nearly 10 years later. The film was already beautiful to look at, but the Disney technicians have taken full advantage of the Blu-ray format to ensure the colors radiate from the screen as brightly as intended.

The new material created for the Blu-ray would be enough to round out most special-edition discs. The centerpiece of the new extras is a 10th anniversary retrospective roundtable with co-directors John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton and other members of the production team. The half-hour reflection offers an interesting discussion on the film’s place in Pixar history. For those in the know, one section of anecdotes serves as an unofficial memorial for Joe Ranft, a storyboard artist and the voice of Heimlich the caterpillar in the film, who died in 2005.

The Blu-ray also includes a special “First Draft” storyboard reel of the film’s original concept, when it was known as Bugs. The storyline is generally the same, but the subtle differences offer good insights into the filmmaking process.

Also ported from the DVD are the quirky short film Geri’s Game, which looks great in HD but is not presented in anamorphic widescreen, and widescreen HD versions of both end-credit “outtake” reels.

The disc also has all the extras from the DVD. The legacy material is presented in 4:3 standard-def, but as the content mainly consists of concept art, it’s not exactly the kind of stuff that really cries out for a high-def presentation anyway.

The excess of material is probably too much for even the most ardent animation fan to absorb in one sitting, or even two or three. But at least it’s there to be had.

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