A Bug’s Life is a bit of a forgotten child in the Pixar canon. Sandwiched awkwardly and rather unfortunately between the first couple of Toy Story films, this children’s Seven Samurai often gets lost in the shuffle when the discussion of the company’s best films is entertained.
What is immediately noticeable is just how long 17-years in the animated genre is. A fairly trite observation, but the miracles being worked by Pixar’s animation teams on their recent efforts can make it easy to allow rose-tinted glasses to obscure the memory. A Bug’s Life is by no means ugly in 2015-O-vision but it is interesting how sparse it looks. Flik and co are animated with vitality against, for the most part, rather static backgrounds with not much going on.
Kevin Spacey’s turn as the film’s main antagonist, Hopper, makes for one of the studio’s finest villains and that hasn’t changed with time – his speech before the grasshopper invasion about the need to keep the ants in line is still very intense. The bird (the second best villain in A Bug’s Life) is as terrifying as ever.
Flik (Dave Foley), on the other hand, is not the strongest of leads – he has long since been surpassed by many of Pixar’s other heroes – and while the big ensemble cast of characters has its fair share of stragglers, there is much fun to be had from David Hyde Pierce’s Slim channeling Niles Crane and mostly anything involving Heimlich (Joe Ranft).
Pixar are at their most wonderful when they add little touches that evoke wry smiles from the sheer ‘ah, that’s so clever and obvious’ ingenuity of it all. A Bug’s Life has plenty of that, too: the makeshift recreation of Times Square or smaller touches like the telescopes made of leaves and water droplets proved to be a signal of things to come.
Is A Bug’s Life one of Pixar’s best? Definitely not, but it isn’t the runt of the Pixar litter, either. (6)