Disney/Pixar’s A Bug’s Life may have arrived on the six-legged heels of another celebrity-voiced, all-CGI insect movie, DreamWorks’ Antz, but the similarities stopped there. Antz tried to take animation to a more adult audience-and, to a degree, succeeded-while A Bug’s Life reveled in the joy of kiddie-friendly moviemaking. The follow-up to Disney/Pixar’s pioneering first collaboration, 1995’s Toy Story, A Bug’s Life took computer animation yet another step higher, presenting “an epic of miniature proportions.”
In a world of ant conformists, Flik (voiced by Dave Foley) is a bug with big ideas. He’s an amateur inventor, and his latest gadget will speed up the annual seed harvest immeasurably. Unfortunately, the invention goes haywire, and the entire year’s harvest is lost to the river. That’s especially bad news, because those seeds were earmarked as a tribute to the menacing, scavenging grasshoppers, led by the evil Hopper (Kevin Spacey). When Hopper and his clan show up to find the food all gone, they demand an even bigger tribute, so large that the ants themselves will be left without supplies for the winter.
The ants gloomily set out to gather, but Flik has another bright idea: If they can find a band of warrior bugs, they can end the grasshoppers’ tyranny once and for all. The Queen (Phyllis Diller) and her daughter, Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) think it’s a suicidal idea, but if it’ll get Flik out of the colony, they’re all for it. Flik latches onto a dandelion puff and floats his way toward the “big city,” where he mistakes a crew of disgruntled circus performers-walking stick Slim (David Hyde Pierce), masculine ladybug Francis (Denis Leary), mystical butterfly Gypsy (Madeline Kahn), tubby worrywart caterpillar Heimlich (Joe Ranft) and others-for genuine warriors. The “warriors” think it’s just another show, but when the truth comes out, it’s clear that teamwork is the only way to survive the looming grasshopper onslaught.
Lively, fast and funny, A Bug’s Life also featured one of the most memorable closing credit sequences in movie history. Spoofing the blooper outtakes at the end of live-action comedies like The Cannonball Run and Liar Liar, A Bug’s Life ran its own “outtakes”-planned bloopers such as flubbed lines, slips and falls, characters breaking wind, and Flik’s yelling the Toy Story catchphrase, “To infinity and beyond!” After one month in release, Disney added a second set of “goofs” to the credits, encouraging audiences to come back for a second and third viewing.
They did, as A Bug’s Life became one of the biggest hits of the year, far surpassing its DreamWorks predecessor. The “outtakes” themselves became a sort of mini-tradition, popping up again in Disney/Pixar’s next project, Toy Story 2.