Western Animation / Antz

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Antz is a computer-animated film created by DreamWorks in 1998, the first feature film by DreamWorks Animation and the third feature-length CGI movie ever released (the Brazilian Cassiopéia was the second feature-length CGI movie ever released while the American Toy Story was the first). Most of the time, if someone mentions it, they're either comparing it or confusing it with Pixar's A Bug's Life, and fair enough, both are computer-animated films about insects released in 1998. However, Antz is far Darker and Edgier than A Bug's Life, as it was geared more towards adults and teenagers—who all brought their children and younger siblings to see it.

The protagonist is a worker ant named Z, voiced by Woody Allen. He is somewhat neurotic and maladjusted to life in an ant colony, where each individual is treated as an insignificant part of a greater society. One day, he hears a drunk veteran soldier ant rant about some place called Insectopia, where food is plentiful, there are no rules, and everyone lives in peace. Z and his soldier friend Weaver (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) snicker at the old ant behind his back and think the idea of an "Insectopia" is hilarious.

Meanwhile, the lovely Princess Bala (voiced by Sharon Stone) is living in the palace, but finds it dull and does not happily anticipate her upcoming marriage to General Mandible (voiced by Gene Hackman), or the idea of giving birth every ten seconds as Queen. She drags two ladies-in-waiting down to the workers' bar, where she dances with Z, who falls for her instantly. Z soon realizes however that he'll never see her again, so he convinces his friend Weaver to switch places with him for a day, just to see Princess Bala at a royal inspection, while Weaver gets to interact with some of the worker girls.

All does not go according to plan however, as it turns out the companies under royal inspection are immediately sent into an unexpected war with a nearby termite mound. Z is the only survivor through pure luck.

Meanwhile, Weaver, who has fallen for the career girl (and Z's work friend) Azteca (voiced by Jennifer Lopez), feels terrible about switching places, even though he too had no idea the army was about to go to war. However when he learns Z is the surviving ant and is now a war hero, he is ecstatic.

When Z meets the Queen (voiced by Anne Bancroft) and Bala again, she recognises him as the worker from the bar. Mandible is furious that a worker danced with his fiancée, and the nervous Z hides behind Bala, but it is assumed that he is taking her hostage. She beats him off quite easily, but in doing so they fall down a garbage chute.

Z is forced by a series of his own mistakes to flee the colony with a troop of soldier ants in pursuit. Since he cannot go back, he decides to go out looking for Insectopia. Bala doesn't know how to get back home on her own and has little choice but to go with him.


Antz contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adorkable: Z
  • An Aesop:
    • Z runs away from the colony because he hates being an insignificant part of some huge thing. In the end of the film, he realizes the colony is able to survive because while individually insignificant, the ants are mighty when they all work together.
    • He also accepts his role in life, because this time he chose it.
    • Also "Think for yourself instead of frequently following orders."
  • Alcohol Hic: Chippie gets one.
  • Alien Geometries: Over half the film does take place inside an ant colony, after all.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Played for Laughs, given all the characters are ants, and have no interaction with their parents.
    Z: When you're the middle child in a family of five million, you don't get any attention.
  • Ant War: Mandible manipulates the hive into going to war with a colony of termites, who proceed to slaughter the ants, leaving Z as the sole survivor.
  • Arranged Marriage: Between Princess Bala and General Mandible.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • In real life, female ants make up the vast majority of any given colony. Male ants exist solely to fertilize new queens, and usually die shortly afterwards.
    • No, termites do NOT look like that. They are small and white, with large orange heads, and do not shoot acid, are not bigger than ants, and way more. Some species of termites do have a facial appendage called a "fontanellar gun" that sprays a noxious substance, though it's more of a toxic glue rather than acid.
  • Artistic License – Geography: All of the major skyscrapers of New York City are clumped together during The Reveal. At least the Statue of Liberty doesn't appear and the Great Lawn of Central Park is depicted accurately.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • Water surface tension is depicted at the ant level (when Z is trapped inside a droplet), but later, it behaves on a human scale when the colony is flooded. The DVD Commentary acknowledges this, but states the change was for Rule of Cool and Rule of Drama.
    • During the scene where Z and Weaver discuss Z's offer to swap places for a day, the light source is a harsh, bright blue, yet the lighting is soft and warm. Again, acknowledged in the DVD Commentary.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Standard soldier ant tactics, and said word-for-word by Z when trying to impress Bala and the Queen.
  • Awesome McCool Name: Z, Weaver, Mandible, Bala, Cutter, Barbatus, Azteca... no-one here has a normal name. Weaver, Bala, Barbatus and Azteca are the names of species of ants. Cutter probably refers to leafcutter ants, and Mandible's name in prior versions of the script was Formica (another species).
  • Badass:
    • Colonel Cutter.
    • Barbatus also counts, as he's able to single-handedly take down a termite, which is in his own words five times his size. When Z thanks him with no end of amazement, he just shrugs, tells him not to get sappy, picks up a spear and immediately goes to single-handedly kill another one.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: At the beginning of the movie, Z says that he would've preferred to be a soldier. 20 minutes later, he gets his chance—and it's not pretty.
  • Be the Ball: In an early scene, a large numbers of ants join together into a massive wrecking ball. If you're lucky, you're somewhere in the middle of the ball; if you're Z, you're one of the ten or so forming the chain at the top who have to support the weight of the rest of the ants. One ant, who coordinates the action, literally yells "be the ball", making this movie the Trope Namer.
  • Big Applesauce: The big reveal at the end is that the entire film took place around a water fountain in Central Park's Great Lawn. (Of course, the film stars Woody Allen.)
  • Bowdlerized:
    • Whenever it is shown on TV, all the swear words are edited out. And there's quite a lot of petty swearing in the movie, so some of the dialogue is almost completely out of context. This is all to keep it in the Animation Age Ghetto.
      General Mandible: We will finish this tunnel, on schedule. Come —— high water.
    • Later:
      Mandible: —— ...good! —— good!
    • The cover of the movie used to feature the World Trade Center quite prominently, until 2001.
    • The television ad had Z saying "drinking from the caboose of another insect," not "anus."
    • Also on the ad, Z says "Who the heck is that?" rather than "Who the hell is that?"
  • Big Bad: General Mandible wishes to purge the colony of "weaker elements" (i.e. the Queen and all of the workers) and set up a new colony with his loyal soldiers and Bala as his Queen.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The ants have hands for feet. Four of them.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The humans aren't "evil" per se, they're simply so huge they're unaware of their sheer power in comparison to an ant. The film does a very good job of illustrating this.
  • Bug War: An unusual example in that both sides are bugs, but the ants are very anthropomorphic, bordering on Petting Zoo People, wearing helmets and using tiny spears, while the termites are monstrous and lack any anthropomorphic features.
  • Call to Adventure: The old veteran's rant about "Insectopia" at the bar.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Z only actually goes looking for Insectopia after soldiers attempt to kill him for "kidnapping" Princess Bala.
  • Carnivore Confusion: The termites and praying mantis don't talk.
  • CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): Bala uses it on Z—he wakes right up after one breath and no chest compressions. Also a case of Artistic License – Biology, since ants don't have lungs, and their heart is very different from a human's.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Deconstructed with Z, who only snarks when he is nervous.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Bala, of course.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: The worker foreman doesn't like Azteca's attitude when she stands up to him on behalf of Weaver, so he denies her that day's rations.
  • Description Cut: When Weaver fills in for Z and starts falling in love with Azteca, she coyly states she's glad Z's "takin' a breather." Cut to Z walking among the bodies of dead soldiers from the termite war.
  • Disney Death: After the climax of the movie, Z appears to have drowned. Bala manages to revive him with CPR.
  • Disney Villain Death: General Mandible as he falls to his death on an upturned root, killing him on impact. Subverted, as unlike most Disney villain deaths, they do show the aftermath (although it's from a fair distance)
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
  • The Dragon: Cutter.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: When Chip offers to help Z, he's crawling out of a bottle of Scotch. Amusingly, wasps do literally drown that way.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: DreamWorks Animation would define itself as a creator of children's movies with plenty for adults to enjoy. This is definitely not a children's movie.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Or rather, Fantastic Caste-ism between the soldier ants and the worker ants.
    • Also touched upon between wasps and ants when the species meet in Insectopia.
  • Fat and Skinny: Bala's two best friends.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Z, as far as General Mandible is concerned.
  • Gaussian Girl: Played for Laughs during Z and Bala's romantic moment at Insectopia; Bala's face is blurred as Z goes in for a kiss, before he is rudely interrupted by the other insects around the fire.
  • Gender Is No Object: Not only are there male and female workers, but there are also male and female soldiers.
  • General Ripper: General Mandible.
  • Gentle Giant: The wasps, Chip and Muffy (hey, they're giant from an ant's point of view!). Muffy more so than Chip, who mildly admonishes her for her charity towards "lowly" crawling insects like ants when they first met Z and Bala.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • Granted, it's geared towards adults and teens, but nevertheless, aside from swearing, there is also a scene where Z mentions that he wants to place Princess Bala in his wildest erotic fantasies. Ironically, they edited out sexual (the original line being "erotic sexual fantasies") to keep the PG rating despite "erotic" being an even dirtier use of the word. Also, Chip the wasp is clearly drunk at one point. This video proves it all.
    • The scene where Azteca is briefly tortured off-screen comes across as disturbingly rapey. Word of God says they're actually grabbing her antennae.
    • "I've been listening to you complaining. What are you bitching about?" from Weaver talking to Z at the bar.
    • "I have a thing about drinking from the anus of another creature." — Z at that same bar.
  • Good Lips, Evil Jaws: Subverted: while the large-jawed termites are monstrous and antagonistic, whereas the ants with lips are those the audience sympathizes with, but the true antagonist of the story, Mandible, is an ant who has lips (although his name suggests otherwise), and the termites aren't actually evil (the Queen mentions that they have been at peace with them for years, the battle in the film was all Mandible's doing).
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Hoo-boy, averted. You see ants melting during the war, getting torn apart in the background, and you see Muffy's splattered body after being flyswatted.
  • Gossip Evolution: While Z and Bala are away, the rumors of his standing up to General Mandible, kidnapping the princess, and killing soldiers with a look (actually the fault of a Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass) spread like wildfire through the colony, inspiring the workers to revolt when they hear that it's possible to do something other than take orders.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Colonel Cutter right at the end.
  • Hive Caste System: Soldiers are about twice the size of workers and have Heroic Builds.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu:
    • A plastic-wrapped sandwich is "surrounded by Some Kind of Force Field", and an unseen sadistic human with a magnifying glass becomes a Flying Saucer with Death Ray (complete with The War of the Worlds sound effects) in a clear take-off of the "It's beautiful" scene in Independence Day. Also the human at the picnic, who is practically a living mountain compared to the insects (all we ever see are his feet and legs). A kid's sneaker is the size of a battleship (the scale according to Word of God). The directors stressed that the film didn't show how small the ants were, but how big their world was.
    • Oddly averted when Z stares at Lincoln's face on a penny and exclaims, "Who the hell is that?!"
  • I Am the Noun: General Mandible's response to Cutter's Heel–Face Turn "for the good of the colony" is "I AM the colony!" Which also qualifies as an Ironic Echo, coming soon after Z says "we are the colony" when Mandible tries to claim that drowning the workers is a public good.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice:
    • General Mandible, after his Disney Villain Death, falls straight onto a root.
    • How Barbados saves Z from a termite.
  • Ink-Suit Actor:
    • Nearly everyone has some resemblance to their voice actor, of course turned into anthropomorphic ants. It is actually quite unnerving watching Weaver channel the expressions of Sylvester Stallone. The irony is that, according to the DVD Commentary, the characters were all designed before the actors were cast, as was the decision to give Weaver "Stallone-esque" lips.
    • Inverted in that Z originally was to wear Woody Allen-style thick glasses. They decided against it.
  • Insect Gender Bender: Ants shouldn't have gender as we define it anyway, much less love interests.
  • Insect Queen: The Queen, who is both royalty and the literal mother of the colony.
  • It's Quiet... Too Quiet: Right before the termites ambush the ant army.
  • Just Following Orders: Two of General Mandible's loyalists can be heard following his plan because "those are the orders."
  • Knight Templar: General Mandible.
  • Large Ham: General Mandible.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The DVD case shows Z with New York City in the background.
  • Leaf Boat: Z and Bala cross the lake on a leaf in search of Insectopia. They spend the night using the leaf as a lean-to on the other side.
  • Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: Bala and Z leave Chip and Muffy alone when they become distracted by their affections.
    Z: Oh brother. I think I've lost my appetite.
  • Little Guy, Big Buddy: Z and Weaver.
  • Losing Your Head: Barbatus, the soldier ant who takes Z under his wing. Z has a sad/disturbing moment with his head before he actually dies.
  • Love at First Sight: Z with Bala, Weaver with Azteca (and vice-versa?).
  • MacGuffin: Insectopia. It's central to Mandible's plans for a new colony.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Barbados. Truth in Television, however, in that an ant will live a while if reduced to just its head.
    Barbados's head: I can't feel my legs.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Colonel Cutter.
  • Moment Killer:
    • At the campfire in Insectopia, right as Z and Bala are about to kiss, one of the hippie bugs asks Z to get more firewood. As Z goes to get it, he asks them if they know why they're called "pests".
      Z: Great, nothing like a little manual labor on the most romantic night of my life!
    • Muffy is smacked with a flyswatter and killed while she and Chip are... uh... making Z lose his appetite.
    • When Weaver is flirting with Azteca, the foreman comes along.
  • The Mourning After: Chip does this after his wife Muffy is swatted. When Z decides to follow Cutter back to the Colony (after he picks up Bala), Chip offers to help him get there, coming out of a discarded bottle of scotch, drunk from grief.
  • Mouse World: Insectopia is a landscape of discarded food and other garbage on the ground next to a trash can.
  • My Eyes Are Up Here: When Weaver first meets Azteca, he spends a bit too much time admiring her legs, causing her to invoke this trope.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: General Mandible and Colonel Cutter.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted, and how. Not to mention you see ants with acid boiling away their heads and bodies, poor Muffy squished, and so on.
    Marching soldiers: The ants are marching two by two, hurrah, hurrah/We'll all be dead before we're through, hurrah, hurrah!
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Despite what the trailer tells you, Antz is not a comedy flick for kids or a direct contender with A Bug's Life. It's completely different.
  • Non-Action Snarker: Z.
  • Odd Friendship: Z and Weaver, a worker and a soldier respectively. Well, they're actually brothers, since Weaver was born 2 seconds after Z.
  • Official Couple: Z and Bala, Weaver and Azteca, Chip and Muffy.
  • Oh Crap!: Z when he finds out that the regiment he snuck into is going off to battle termites.
  • One-Letter Name: Guess who. No, the first twenty-five guesses don't count.
  • Pair the Spares: Weaver and Azteca.
  • Petting Zoo People: While the ants have six limbs, four of them are legs that move together, giving a somewhat bipedal appearance. Other talking insects are similar, while the termite antagonists are monstrous.
  • Please Wake Up: Bala, to Z, followed by a quick mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  • Precision F-Strike: While the f-bomb itself is never dropped, characters do swear in this movie; the first time caught many viewers off-guard.
  • Product Placement: Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Reebok make appearances, albeit believable and unobtrusive ones.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Colonel Cutter. Probably a decent guy, if he wasn't taking orders from the Big Bad. In an early script, Cutter was going to have a lady friend among the palace workers, who would double as Bala's best (and only) friend, and probably have replaced the two serving girls. But this would have taken attention away from the main romances, which were Z and Bala, and Weaver and Azteca.
  • The Purge: Mandible's Evil Plan is to wipe out all the workers and the queen, so he could make a new colony filled with soldiers. Wiping out the soldiers loyal to the queen in a pointless war with termites is the first step.
  • Rebellious Princess: Bala.
  • Red Herring: The picnic is not Insectopia.
  • Refusal of the Call: At first, Z laughs when he hears the legend of Insectopia.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Following Z's (exaggerated) example, the workers stage a strike and peaceful protest, which is quickly subdued by Mandible using nothing more than a Rousing Speech.
  • Rich Bitch: Princess Bala for a while.
  • Save the Princess: From the mess you got her into, and later from General Mandible.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: The wasps, Chip and Muffy. From mild bantering to "Cuddly Widdles" and "my big, strong pheromone factory".
  • Sliding Scale of Libertarianism and Authoritarianism: this film lies somewhere in the middle. Closer to the authoritarian end—Insectopia exists only because the ant colony allows it, but cannot resist General Mandible.
  • Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass: A giant magnifying glass fries one of the soldier ants sent to arrest Z and Bala.
  • Some Kind of Force Field: Word-for-word, even, when Z and Bala encounter a picnic lunch—covered in Saran Wrap.
  • Spoiler Cover: The cover shows New York's skyscrapers in the background. The film's location is not revealed until the end, which reveals that the grand adventure took place in a tiny patch in Central Park.
  • Squick: Invoked and Discussed by Z when Weaver asks him if he's going to drink his Aphid Beer.
    Z: Call me crazy, but I have a thing about drinking from the anus of another creature.
  • Stock Sound Effects: The magnifying glass is accompanied by the original UFO sound from The War of the Worlds.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: Doris Day belting out "High Hopes" at the end.
  • Talk to the Fist:
    • When Cutter arrives in Insectopia, he is immediately greeted by a hippie bug.
      Hippie: Hey, man, welcome to Insec— [WHACK!; groan] —topia.
    • Weaver's interrogation scene qualifies as well, which leads to a funny line from the DVD Commentary:
      Eric Darnell: Ooh, look out, Weaver! [WHACK!]
  • That's No Moon!: That's a mantis.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Z stops the workers from digging because they're near water. But the worker foreman wants them to continue digging because those are orders.
    Z: What if someone told you to jump off a bridge? I mean—
    [Foreman puts hand to chin and contemplates]
    Z: Ah, geez, I'm talkin' to the wrong guy here!
  • Took a Level in Badass: Z during the Sneaker scene. According to Word of God, Z had been a Neutral Male too much of the film and had to become more heroic.
  • Torture Always Works: While beating up tough ant Sylvester Stallone doesn't work, bring in his new girlfriend Azteca and start implying pain on her part and he sings like a bird.
  • Übermensch: Z gradually develops into something like this.
  • Uptown Girl: The lowly worker ant pretends to be a soldier to impress a princess.
  • Uriah Gambit: The termite war is a large-scale gambit; General Mandible sends all of the soldiers who are more loyal to the Queen than himself, and only Z survives.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: General Mandible thinks so.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    Cutter: This is for the good of the colony. (extends hand to Z)
    General Mandible: YOU USELESS, UNGRATEFUL MAGGOT! I AM THE COLONY!!!
  • Villain with Good Publicity: General Mandible is excellent at Rousing Speeches that inflate his reputation at the cost of his foes.
  • Visual Pun: Chip and Muffy, the Yellowjackets, are portrayed like stereotypical upper-class WASPs.
  • War Is Hell: Z finds his first taste of battle unpleasant, to say the least. The aftermath, complete with Scenery Gorn, is arguably worse.
  • You Have Failed Me: The Queen sees General Mandible as this for failing to bring back her daughter. Of course, she didn't really like him that much to begin with despite seeing him as a suitable mate for her daughter.
  • You Owe Me: Subverted when Z is trying to get Weaver to agree to switch places with him.
    Z: Please, Weaver, please. Think of all the things I've done for you.
    Weaver: Hmm... Can't think of any.
    Z: Okay, well, think of all the things that I'm gonna do for you!
  • You're Insane!: Said by Bala to General Mandible after she learns the true purpose of the Mega Tunnel.
    Princess Bala: You're crazy!
    General Mandible: [frowns, then smiles and replies calmly with an Audible Gleam] I believe history will see things differently.
  • Zerg Rush: Soldier ant tactics amount to overwhelming the enemy with superior numbers. (Ants really do fight like this, minus the tiny spears obviously.)

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