Western Animation: A Bug's Life

A Bug's Life (1998) is the second computer-animated film from Pixar. It's something of a twist on the fable "The Grasshopper and the Ants" meeting The Seven Samurai with a bit of ˇThree Amigos! thrown in for good measure.

The movie begins in a peaceful ant colony, which yearly is terrorized by a biker gang-esque group of grasshoppers (led by the intimidating Hopper), and the ants are forced to give them an offering of food. One year, an ant named Flik (considered a nuisance by the rest of the colony due to his inventions, which often cause more trouble than they're worth) accidentally destroys the offering. Hopper forces the ants to create a replacement offering, twice as large, giving them until "the last leaf falls" to comply. The ants, who need that time to store food for themselves to survive the winter, fear that Hopper's demand could ruin the colony. Flik volunteers to redeem himself by recruiting "tough bugs" to fight Hopper and his gang. Seeing nothing more than an opportunity to get Flik out of the way so he doesn't mess anything else up, the colony's ruler-to-be, Princess Atta, gives him her blessing.

Flik travels to "the city" (a bug city underneath a trailer), where he meets a bunch of recently-fired circus bugs. After seeing them perform, he mistakes them for warriors, and takes them back to the colony. The circus bugs are initially shocked when they find out why they're there, but eventually begin to love living in the colony, and agree to help Flik come up with a plan to defeat the grasshoppers. Will this be the invention which finally succeeds? Or will Flik's usual bad luck continue, leaving the colony to face the wrath of Hopper and his gang?

A Bug's Life, like most Pixar films, was a critical and financial success, and, with its Hilarious Outtakes, also started the Credits Gag tradition in Pixar movies.

This was Roddy McDowall's last film (and Hayden Panettiere's firstnote ).

A Bug's Life contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: This film is essentially a retelling of Aesop's "The Grasshopper and the Ants" spread out to full-feature-length. It's also something of a Deconstruction of the original fable: basically, instead of starving to death when winter comes, the grasshopper mugs the ant and takes his stuff.
  • Adorkable: Flik, in spades. Especially thanks to some really wonderful character animation.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: As how vile as he may have been, its hard not to feel a bit of sympathy for Hopper given how gruesome his demise (being eaten alive by birds) is. Even Flik is visibly disturbed when he is about to die.
  • Asshole Victim: Ironically, Hopper ends up falling victim to an actual bird in the end.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Birds, which Flik takes full advantage of.
    • Dim scaring off Thumper.
  • Ant War: Naturally.
  • Anyone Can Die: Played with in the form of the junior ants. First they make a painting of the good warrior bugs and bad grasshoppers battling, and they painted one of the good guys dead because their teacher said it would be more realistic that way. Then they perform a play of the battle, in which apparently everyone dies.
  • Artistic License – Biology: When Heimlich makes it out of his chrysalis the only feature changed is that he now has wings. Butterflies have 6 legs, 10 segment bodies, 4 eyes (2 compound, 2 simple), and a sucking tube rather than a mouth. Heimlech has 10 legs (which is also inaccurate for caterpillars which have 12), 11 segments (while caterpillars only have 10) and 2 eyes (caterpillars have 6), and a normal mouth.
    • Insects have six legs. The ants have four limbs. The grasshoppers have six limbs, apparently to make them more alien and less sympathetic to human audiences.
    • The ants cowered in fear of the grasshoppers instead of dismembering them and eating them as they would have done in reality. This would make for a family-unfriendly film, but the amount of spinelessness exhibited by the ants is ludicrous.
    • The existence of male workers.
    • The queen ant doesn't look anything like a real queen ant. (Antz got this one right.)
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Tuck and Roll speak complete gibberish. While their nationality is left ambiguous in the film itself, some promotional material refers to them as Hungarian. The closed captions for the DVD don't clarify, saying "Speaking Foreign Language."
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The finch, from the insects' perspective. Its snorts and squawks even sound a bit like Godzilla.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: At the end of the film, The Queen gives her crown to Atta, thus marking her as the new queen of the colony, and Dot takes Atta's former "Princess Crown" for herself.
  • Ax-Crazy: Hopper, especially when he's pissed. Thumper in general.
  • Bamboo Technology: All of Flik's inventions, including some complex gear-based devices, are done with twigs and grass and whatnot.
  • Batman Gambit: How Flik tricks Hopper into getting himself killed. Also doubles as a Kansas City Shuffle because Flik "looked left" and Hopper "fell right".
  • Battle in the Rain: With an interesting twist—because these are tiny bugs, the raindrops are enormous and fall like bombs, complete with actual bomb stock sound effects.
  • Becoming the Mask: The circus bugs go from pretending to be warriors to fighting alongside the ant colony.
  • Beggar With A Signboard: in The City Flik encounters a bug holding a sign that reads "Kid pulled my wings off".
  • Bioluminescence Is Cool: How to light the ant's cave, and thereby show the action, without inventing some ludicrous ant tech? Plenty of glowing mushrooms.
  • Black and White Morality: Pixar's most prominent example, particularly because Hopper is truly evil, without a Freudian Excuse or sympathetic motivations.
  • Blunt "Yes": In the outtakes.
    Hopper: Are you saying I'm stupid?
    Atta: ...YES! Ah hah hah...
    • Immediately followed by a metaphorical Face Palm from Hopper:
      Hopper: (exasperated) This is the fifteenth take, I cannot work like this. (walks off) I'll be in my trailer.
  • Book Ends: Opens and closes with shots of the ant island from a distance.
  • Break Up Make Up Scenario
  • Brick Joke: Pretend it's a seed, okay?
    • Doubles as a Meaningful Echo.
    • "What's with the rock?" "Must be an ant/circus thing."
  • The Brute: Thumper. He's so vicious the other grasshoppers have to keep him on a leash much of the time.
  • Burping Contest: Between Tuck and Roll in the Hilarious Outtakes. It ends with a fart.
  • Bullying a Dragon: While the grasshoppers are much bigger than the ants, the ants are far more numerous, and by the end of the film the ants decide they've had enough, stand up to the grasshoppers, and force them to run. Hopper was Genre Savvy about this, bullying the ants to make sure they stayed intimidated, knowing that if the ants were to stand up to the grasshoppers, then there would be nothing he could do about it. Sure enough, this happens in the climax when Hopper pushes his luck too far by trying to make an example out of Flik, only for Flik to realize this in the middle of his beating with the rest of the colony watching.
  • The Cameo: Woody appears in one of the outtakes.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Tons. The spider and the praying mantis get along just fine with the other bugs, though all bugs are afraid of birds. The outtakes reveal that the bird is non-sentient (because it's a giant mechanical prop). The outtakes also show Slim (unwillingly) swallowing a bug.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Manny's "HOW DARE YOU!"
    • Tuck and Roll's "You fired!"
    • Molt's "Shutting up."
  • Chekhov's Boomerang:
    • A three-way one with Molt's line:
      Molt: And the birds eat the grasshoppers!
    • The protagonists get attacked by a bird. And then build a massive mecha-bird. And then trick Hopper into getting eaten by a bird.
  • City of Gold: P.T. Flea sings "the streets will be paved with golden retrievers".
  • Convenient Cranny: The current 'gang' has to duck into a rather convenient bush to avoid a hungry bird.
  • Darker and Edgier: Somewhat, at least in comparison with the first Pixar Film Toy Story.
  • Darkest Hour: The colony brought it upon themselves by ostracizing Flik and P.T. Flea's entire circus when the truth about the "warriors" was revealed. They're accepted again when they become Big Damn Heroes (P.T. Flea's circus by putting on an act for the grasshoppers and rescuing the Queen from being squished by Hopper by way of Manny's magic act, and Flik by unleashing the bird he, the circus, and the rest of the colony built to scare the grasshoppers).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Francis and Slim.
    Flik: [hanging off Slim's leg] You can't go! I'm desperate!
    Slim: Really? I couldn't tell!
  • Description Cut:
    Atta: The caterpillar's using himself as LIVE BAIT!
    Ant: How brave!
    —>Heimlich: Ahhhhhhhh!
  • Disappeared Dad: Atta and Dot's father is nowhere to be seen but it's justified, because it's an ant colony.
  • Disappearing Box: A variation was used by Manny to help the queen escape.
  • Disney Villain Death: Noticably averted with Hopper, as he is capable of flight.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Watch the first scene with Hopper and Atta. Go ahead, watch it as many times as you like. It will soon start sounding like a conversation between an abusive boyfriend and his girlfriend.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Francis (see One-Gender Race below)
  • Eat The Camera: Hopper's death at the end.
  • Eureka Moment:
    • From a discussion about birds:
      Atta: Not every bug would face a bird. I mean, even Hopper's afraid of 'em.
      Flik: Yeah, well you know it was... (beat) Say that again.
      Atta: I said, even Hopper's afraid of birds…
    • Also the moment during the big confrontation when Flik realizes exactly what Hopper had been hoping the ants would never put together (namely, how badly they outnumbered the grasshoppers, rendering the latter's individual physical advantage moot).
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Apparently the only reason Hopper hasn't killed his brother Molt yet.
    Hopper: I swear, if I hadn't promised Mother, on her death bed, that I wouldn't kill you, I would kill you!
    Molt: And believe me, no-one appreciates that more than I do.
    Hopper: Shut up! I don't want to hear another word out of you while we're on this island. Do you understand me?
    (Molt whimpers)
    Hopper: I said, do you understand me?!
    Molt: Well, how can I answer? You said I couldn't say another word!
    (Hopper growls with increasing rage and raises his fist)
    Molt: Aah! Remember Ma!
    (Hopper spins around and punches another grasshopper to the ground)
  • Even the Dog Is Ashamed: Averted; after Flik wound up ostracized by the colony for hiring circus bugs to defend them, Dot is the only one who still believes in him - and is the one who, after hearing the Queen's life was in danger, snaps him out of his Heroic BSOD.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Princess Atta and Princess Dot
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Hopper meets his fate via this trope.
  • Exposition Cut: Played for laughs. Slim says that Flik can explain on the way. It then cuts to Flik finishing his explanation to...Tuck and Roll, who don't speak a word of English.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • Hopper crushing three of his gang members under a pile of grain to make a point. Even the other grasshoppers are stunned.
    • Hopper getting fed to the goldfinch's chicks. The last thing he (and the audience, mercifully) sees is one of their gaping beaks rising up to meet him...
  • Famous Last Words: "Are there a bunch of little girls in this one too? Hello, girls!"
  • Foreshadowing / Genre Savvy: Hopper's speech to the other grasshoppers on why it is important that they keep the ants in their place, especially since one ant (Flik) stood up to the grasshoppers:
    Hopper: If you let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up. Those ants outnumber us a hundred to one. And if they ever figure that out, there goes our way of life!
    • Right before Flik and the circus bugs encounter a hungry bird, you can see that there are eggs inside the nest. Later on the film, they are shown to have hatched.
  • Fantastic Racism: Hopper sees the ants as little more than slaves and has worked tirelessly to instill this sense of inferiority into those he has terrorized into submission. Heck, he seems to hold this view against all other bugs he meets, as he will not hesitate to order his men to squish them if he deems them a nuisance to himself.
  • Fly In The Soup: "Hey, waiter! I'm in my soup!"
  • Four-Legged Insect
  • Funny Foreigner: Tuck and Roll, also The Unintelligible. Heimlich, too.
  • Gentle Giant:
    • Dim, the rhinoceros beetle.
    • Molt, Hopper's dim-witted brother. He might technically be on the bad guy's side but you never see him do anything but eat and make himself look like an idiot.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: See here.
  • Good Animals, Evil Animals: Ants are good, grasshoppers are bad.
  • Go Ye Heroes, Go and Die: The little ants make an anticipatory victory mural for the circus performers. It's...not as hopeful as expected.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Slim, being a stick insect, is often used as a prop/weapon by the other circus bugs - both in and out of the circus. He's very unhappy about it.
  • Grimmification: Of "The Grasshopper and the Ants". What if the ant didn't want to give up his food, but the grasshopper was big enough to just take it anyway?
  • Grotesque Cute: The cute widdle fuzzy goldfinch chickies that eat Hopper alive at the end.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Molt. At first it seems as though he's fleeing Ant Island with the other grasshoppers, but in the last scene he's shown to have become a part of P.T. Flea's circus as their strongman (it's been his dream ever since he first saw it perform during Hopper's failed attempt to oppress the ants).
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: Happens to Heimlich (he yells the trope name verbatim) when he gets stuck in one of the cracks during the riverbed sequence. With the bird coming at him.
  • Heroic BSOD: Flik before the climax.
  • Huddle Shot
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Flik.
  • Insect Gender Bender
  • Insect Queen: The ants are led by one. There is the Queen of the Ants, and later her daughter Princess Atta who is given the crown at the end.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Flik and Dot.
  • Interspecies Romance: Manny and Gypsy.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Flik, whose desperation to prove himself has slowly been turning into true self-confidence, stands up against Hopper for Princess Atta the way he did for Dot at the beginning of the movie. And this time, despite the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown he gets for it, he stays there. And goes on to defend/inspire the entire colony.
    • This:
      Hopper: Now let me tell you how things are supposed to work: The sun grows the food, the ants pick the food, the grasshoppers eat the food...
      Molt: And the birds eat the grasshoppers!
    Princess Atta: You see Hopper, nature has a certain order. The ants pick the food, the ants keep the food, and the grasshoppers...leave.
  • Just One Man: Sensing his fellow grasshoppers' reluctancy (due to the coming rain), Hopper initially decides to forget about the food. But recalls Flik standing up to him. The others just laugh since it was only "one ant". Using their grain storage in a visual demonstration, he shows the other grasshoppers if one "puny" ant can stand up to them, soon all of them will. He then tells them it wasn't about the food, it was about keeping the ants in place.
  • Kid-Appeal Character: Little princess Dot.
  • Large Ham: Manny "Oh the pain!". Helps his actor got famous playing one of the most famous hams in television, Dr. Smith. Heimlich is quite hammy too.
  • Liar Revealed: This moment happens to Flik once the colony discovers the truth about the "warrior bugs".
  • Love Epiphany: It's implied that Flik has had a crush on Atta for a long time, but soon as the Circus Bugs save Dot from the bird, Atta begins treating Flik much more respectfully, talking with him about her own personal issues, realizing that perhaps they are Not So Different, and apologizing for how she'd treated him in the past. Then she gives him his Eureka Moment, and he kisses her on the cheek before running off, leaving Atta wide-eyed and caressing the spot where he kissed her.
  • Lovely Assistant: Gypsy Moth is this to her praying mantis husband, Manny.
  • Magnificent Seven: Spoofed and subverted - the seven "heroes" are circus performers who think the ant hill wants to entertain their grasshopper guests. Also, there's nine of them (Rosie, Heimlich, Gypsy, Manny, Tuck and Roll the pillbugs, Dim, Francis, and Slim).
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor:
    • In the Hilarious Outtakes, Hopper is a perfectly nice guy who is reduced to tears when he can't seem to do his scene with Atta properly.
    • Also in the Hilarious Outtakes, Thumper is a much less intimidating guy who asks if his screaming is okay.
  • The Millstone: Flik is this for most of the film.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Molt. Ironically, his toy figure actually makes him seem menacing.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: After Flik's beating, the ant colony unites against the grasshoppers.
  • Mouse World
  • The Napoleon: P.T. Flea.
  • Never Say "Die": It is never used when the good guys are referred to (Flik asked Dim to "squish" him after he found out about the truth of the circus bugs and the grasshoppers deciding to "squish" the Queen), but the words "kill" and "die" are used in humorous contexts.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Near the climax, when Hopper lets Thumper loose on Flik, then finishes the job. It's so nasty we even see his brother Molt flinching.
  • No Name Given: The Queen
  • Non-Action Guy: All the circus bugs put themselves to good use during the fight with the goldfinch...except Manny, who just sits on Dim's back and then takes some of the credit for fighting the bird. He is also the only circus bug who has wings he can use and doesn't actually use them. However, he is one of the first circus bugs to pretend to be dying during the attack, and he did prove himself useful earlier with the Disappearing Box trick.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Atta's chest is curved in a way that resembles human breasts.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Flik's Tunnel-Within-A-Tunnel Project.
    • Molt telling of Hopper's encounter with a blue jay.
    • "...And that's how my 12th husband died. So now I'm a widow. I mean, I've always been a black widow, but now I'm a black widow widow."
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: The ants, in the climax, towards Hopper's gang.
  • Not So Different: Flik and Princess Atta.
  • Oddball in the Series: It, for the most part, lacks the emotional plot lines signature of Pixar.
  • Oh, Crap:
    • The Grasshoppers' reaction to the Constructed Bird, and Hopper's reaction to the real one.
    • The Grasshoppers' reaction as they realize that the Ants are getting pissed off at last and are about to Zerg Rush them.
    • Flik's reaction as he helplessly watched the food offering tumble into the water after his harvester knocked it over.
    • Flik's reaction after realizing that the warrior bugs he brought to the colony are actually circus folk.
    • A split-second at the climax, where an injured Flik sees Hopper flying right at him in a rage.
  • One-Gender Race: Subverted with Francis, a male ladybug.
    First Fly: (to Francis) Hey cutie! Wanna pollinate with a real bug?!
    (Flies laugh. Francis flies up to them, eyelids batting, then...)
    Francis: SO! Being a Ladybug automatically makes me a GIRL! Is that it, fly-boy? HUH?!
    Second Fly: YIKES!!
    First Fly: She's a guy!
  • Pan and Scan: Inverted with the fullscreen version of the film. The most noticeable example is the scene where they show two young ants climbing up a leaf; in the original widescreen version you couldn't see the second ant at all, but in the fullscreen version you actually do.
  • Psycho for Hire: Thumper is more than enough to fix this trope.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Molt. When the food's collected and the circus is performing, he happily claps and plays along, rather like a child.
    Molt: The circus, the circus, I love the circus!
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
    Francis: When your grasshopper friends get here, we are gonna KNOCK! THEM! DEAD!!!
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: Thumper to Hopper. He is also almost dog-like.
  • Right Out of My Clothes: When the ants Zerg Rush the grasshoppers, Molt gets out of there so fast he leaves his "shell" behind (that is, he molts).
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something
  • Scarecrow Solution: The fake bird.
  • Scavenged Punk: It drifts into this trope during the city sequence. The city is built entirely out of discarded boxes and trash with a tipped over soup can doubling as a dive bar (the countertop inside the bar is a swiss army knife). The background of the entire sequence is scattered with numerous details like this.
  • Scout Out: The Blueberry Scouts.
  • Shipper on Deck: The Circus Bugs are all for Flik/Atta.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The dumb, goofy Gentle Giant, Dim. Dim being really dim...
    • In the Hilarious Outtakes: "To infinity and beyond!"
    • The (failed) attempt at intimidating the flies that attempted to harass Francis, which was the reason why Flik even mistakenly believed they were warrior bugs in the first place, was a spoof on Robin Hood. Also, after they demolished the bar in their attempt to flee, Francis pulls Slim out in a parody of King Arthur pulling out Excalibur.
    • Hopper's demise bears some resemblance to General Woundwort's end in Watership Down.
    • This quote from Hopper.
      Hopper: (to Atta) It's a bug-eat-bug world out there, Princess, one of those 'circle of life' kind of things.
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy: In the beginning, Dot really cannot wrap her head around the fact that Flik is pretending that the rock is a seed.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: Invoked. Flik comments that his children's children will be eternally ridiculed if the colony finds out he accidentally hired circus bugs.
  • Snipe Hunt: The premise. Subverted in that Flik actually finds what he was looking for... after a fashion.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Letting Flik go to find help was only supposed to keep him out of the way...
  • Stage Magician: Manny the praying mantis.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: Flik "enlists" the aid of the Goldfinch to deal with Hopper once and for all.
  • Swallowed a Fly: In one of the Hilarious Outtakes, this happens... to another, larger bug.
  • Tempting Fate: See the Your Little Dismissive Diminutive section below.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Parodied and subverted with Francis, a male ladybug that has long eyelashes, full lips and a Beauty Mark.
  • Third-Person Person: Dim.
  • Toilet Humor: "Hey! Who ordered the poo-poo platter?" (a bunch of flies swarm over to it)
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: "Yikes! She's a guy!"
  • Unusual Euphemism: When one of the ants says the following (also counts as a Shout-Out):
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: P.T. Flea does this twice: not only does he accidentally reveal the identity of the warriors, which gets them and Flik ostracized by the colony, but later he incinerates the bird, thinking it was the real deal — however, that latter moment is subverted in that the beating Hopper dishes out on Flik in response, resulting in his Rousing Speech, actually rallies the ants into sending the grasshoppers packing for good.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Hopper breaks down when the ants stand up to the grasshoppers.
  • Visual Pun: Flea circus, anybody?
    • Invoked by P.T. Flea with Slim the Walking Stick.
      Slim: You always cast me as the broom! The pole! The stick! The splinter!
      P.T. Flea: You're a walking stick! IT'S FUNNY! Now go!!
    • When the ants rebel, Molt jumps out of his skin.
  • Welcome to the Big City: Flik doesn't get mugged or attacked (it's hardly as if he had anything on him), but he does get mocked by a couple of street performers and runs into a cricket who's lost his wings; he also gets towered over by a daddy-long-legs.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Played straight with most of Hopper's minions, as nobody knows where they went into hiding; averted with Molt, who joins P.T. Flea's circus as its new strongman, Tiny.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Both played straight and averted.
  • Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises: Flik. Also Thumper at the end when Dim roars at him.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech / "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Flik delivers both simultaneously to Hopper in the climax of the film.
    Who's the weaker species? Ants don't serve grasshoppers! It's you who need us! We're a lot stronger than you think we are... and you know that, don't you?
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Hopper when he sees the Goldfinch, not realizing that it's a real one, but thinks it's another one of Flik's tricks.
  • You Are A Tree, Charlie Brown: Slim, the walking stick, constantly gets these roles in the circus acts, much to his annoyance.
  • You No Take Candle: Dim.
  • Your Little Dismissive Diminutive: Hopper uses three of these in the same conversation when he breaks down.
    Hopper: You think it's over?! All your little stunt did was buy them time!
    Flik: No, please! Please, Hopper!
    Hopper: I'll get more grasshoppers and be back next season, but you won't.
    [A bird shows up]
    Hopper: Well, what's this? Another one of your little bird tricks? Is there a bunch of little girls in this one, too? Hello, girls!
  • Zerg Rush: Hopper fears the ants will realize their advantage in numbers and attack this way. They do. And he doesn't like it one bit.

Alternative Title(s):

A Bugs Life