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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 first).
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.
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 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."
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 they just decide they've had enough, stand up to them and force them to run away. Hopper was Genre Savvy about this, bullying them to make sure they stay intimidated, knowing that if the ants were to stand up to him together, then there would be nothing he could do about it. Sure enough it does happen in the climax when Hopper pushes his luck too far by trying to make an example out of Flick only for Flick to realize this in the middle of his beating with the rest of the colony watching.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
One of the Fly Brothers to Francis the Ladybug (before discovering that "she" is actually male): "Hey, cutie! Wanna pollinate with a real bug?!"
When Flik is trying to distract Atta from his meeting with the other bugs, he uses various acronyms, like "FYI" and "BYOB". "BYOB" is a message generally given with party invitations, and usually it means "Bring Your Own Beer".
"Work that ab, baby!"* The abdomen is an insect's hindquarters.
Hopper kills three of his own henchmen during the bar scene. Graphically. Entirely onscreen.
The poster featuring Hopper had the tagline "bugs kick grass."
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).
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 Ant: 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.