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 contains examples of:
- Aerith and Bob: Most of the insects have odd names based on their species, an identifying trait, or just a seemingly random word, like Molt, Dim, Atta, and Heimlich. But then you also have a few insects with ordinary human names, like Francis, Dot, Manny, and Rosie. Bonus points for Gypsy and Manny for having names that are not only based on their species, but are also actual names.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Even though Hopper was a cruel villain who had it coming, its hard not to feel bad for him during his death scene considering how utterly horrifying it is. Not helped by him begging for his life while in complete panic.
- Actor Allusion: As he pretends to be dying from the fake bird attack, Manny (Jonathan Harris) cries out "Oh, the pain!"
- 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; instead of starving to death when winter comes, normally the grasshopper mugs the ant and takes his stuff.
- all lowercase letters: The title of the film was promoted as such in marketing and on the title card.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Flik is regularly isolated by the rest of the colony. They actually cheer his departure, while he's still within earshot (though he thinks they're cheering for him), when he leaves at the start of the film to find warrior bugs in the city. This is averted by the end.
- Always a Bigger Fish:
- An Aesop:
- Even the smallest thing can make the biggest things.
- Things can change for good. All it takes is one person with an idea and faith to make it happen.
- As strong as an opposing force may be, its powerless when people work together to stand-up to it.
- Ant War: Naturally. Once it openly starts, it ends rather quickly.
- Anyone Can Die: Played with in-universe 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:
- Played for Laughs when Heimlich makes it out of his chrysalis at the end - the only feature changed is that he now has wings... very tiny ones. Butterflies have 6 legs, 10 segment bodies, 4 eyes (2 compound, 2 simple), and a sucking tube rather than a mouth. Heimlich 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. Not only that, being a Big Eater Caterpillar is supposed to be a good thing: the larger a caterpillar gets, the larger the butterfly becomes, with their most distinctive feature being their large wings.
- Insects in real life have six legs. The ants (and a few other bugs in the film) have four limbs. The grasshoppers have six limbs, apparently to make them more alien and less sympathetic to human audiences. Some "good characters", such as Slim the stick insect, do have the correct six limbs, however.
- 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. At least it's justified since Hopper wants to keep them too scared to learn they easily outnumber his swarm 100:1.
- The existence of male workers. At the very least, Flik should have been a winged male.
- The queen ant doesn't look anything like a real queen ant. (Antz got this one right.)
- With the exception of flies, all the bugs have human-like eyes (why the flies are, of all bugs, singled out to have realistic compound eyes is anyone's guess, aside from the fact that of all insects, flies are the ones best known for the two compound eyes characteristic of insects).
- The baby birds at the end that devour Hopper are shown to be cute and fluffy, like baby chickens. In truth, the newly-hatched young of many songbirds are in fact blind and featherless◊, at least for the first few weeks.
- The male mosquito asking for blood at a bar. Male mosquitoes only drink nectar. It's the females that drink blood because they need the extra nutrients for egg production.
- Gypsy is a female gypsy moth that can fly. In real life, North American and European female gypsy moths can't fly at all, despite having a full set of wings. Japanese female gypsy moths are capable of flying, however, but this movie presumably take place somewhere in North America. Additionally, real-life gypsy moths are not as brightly colored as Gypsy (males typically have plain brown wings with slight zig-zag patterns, while females have white wings with black spots and are more plump), and real female gypsy moths are more plump than Gypsy is.
- 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.
- Bad Boss: Hopper goes to punch Molt near the start and punches out another grasshopper instead. Later, he crushes three of his own grasshoppers with the grain pile to make a point about how the ants could rise up against them.
- Bad-Guy Bar: Hopper's gang of grasshoppers hang out in an insect-sized version of one—an abandoned sombrero in the desert.
- 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 Discretion Shot: A couple of Thumper's punches at Flik are replaced by the crowd flinching as the sound of punches are heard.
- 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. They all scatter to avoid these while Hopper chases Flik and Atta.
- 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".
- Big, Thin, Short Trio: Heimlich (big), Slim (thin), and Francis (short). They seem to share acts in the circus together, and appear as a group on the circus flyer, like Rosie and Dim or Gypsy and Manny.
- Bilingual Bonus: Heimlich doesn't just talk with a German accent, but actually speaks a bit of German at the end when the circus bugs leave the ants. "Auf wiedersehen" is normally translated as "Goodbye", but more precisely would be "See you (again)!" note , which implies that the circus bugs hope/expect to see the ants again in the future.
- Black-and-White Morality: Pixar's most prominent example, particularly because Hopper is truly evil, without a Freudian Excuse or sympathetic motivations. Played with due to his considerably less evil brother, Molt who even pulls a HeelFace Turn in the end and completely averted in the Hilarious Outtakes.
- Blunt "Yes": In the outtakes.Hopper: Are you saying I'm stupid?
Atta: ...YES! Ah hah hah...
Hopper: (exasperated, close to tears) This is the fifteenth take, I cannot work like this. (walks off) I'll be in my trailer.
Atta: I need a break.
- Book-Ends: Opens and closes with shots of the ant island from a distance.
- Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Flik and Atta break up when it's revealed that Flik was lying about the so-called warriors, but make amends in the end.
- Brick Joke:
- "Pretend it's a seed, okay?" It also doubles as a Meaningful Echo.
- "What's with the rock?" "Must be an ant/circus thing."
- Bring Help Back: Flik ventures out to find warrior bugs to bring back to help defend the colony.
- The Brute: Thumper. He's so vicious the other grasshoppers have to keep him on a leash much of the time.
- 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 cunning about this, bullying the ants to make sure they stayed intimidated, knowing that they ever learn the truth, 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.
- Burping Contest: Between Tuck and Roll in the Hilarious Outtakes. It ends with a fart.
- Cain and Abel: Hopper is the cold, stony Cain to his brother Molt's bumbling, somewhat friendly Abel. Hopper only seems to put up with Molt (and hasn't killed him yet) because of a promise he made to their mother.
- The Cameo: Woody appears as the 2nd assistant camera in one of the outtakes.
- Camera Abuse: In the Hilarious Outtakes, both Heimlich and P. T. Flea hit the camera with their faces.
- 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 shown in this movie is non-sentient (because it's a giant mechanical prop), though it's unclear if the outtakes are actually canon to the story. The outtakes also show Slim (unwillingly) swallowing a bug.
- Cartoony Eyes: Averted realistically with the houseflies, but played straight for the other insects. For more information, see Artistic License Biology above.
- 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 heroes get attacked by a bird. And then build a massive mecha-bird. And then trick Hopper into getting eaten by a bird (the same one they encountered earlier, to be specific).
- A three-way one with Molt's line:
- Chekhov's Gun: P.T. Flea's "Flaming Death" trick. Used early on to try and save the show, then used later to expose the bird as a fake, as he was unaware of the plot to use it to scare the grasshoppers away. See Unwitting Instigator of Doom below.
- City of Gold: P.T. Flea sings "the streets will be paved with golden retrievers".
- Color Failure: Heimlich turns pale when the ant children painted a bloody battle between the circus bugs and the grasshoppers and see that they made him the casualty to make the battle more dramatic.
- Company Cross References: Flik says the Toy Story quote "To infinity and beyond!" in one of the outtakes.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: Averting this trope underpins the entire narrative; Flik is well aware of the fact that even the mightiest grasshopper can't defeat one hundred ants, and one hundred grasshoppers can't defeat one thousand ants.
- Convenient Cranny: The current 'gang' has to duck into a rather convenient bush to avoid a hungry bird.
- Darkest Hour: The colony brought it upon themselves by having Flik and P.T. Flea's entire circus exiled when the truth about the "warriors" was revealed at the worst possible time. 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 (helps from being voiced by Denis Leary and David Hyde Pierce respectively).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!
Mr. Soil: How brave!
- 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: Averted. Hopper doesn't fall to his demise (and he probably could fly anyway), but is instead fed to the bird's chicks by their parent, though this is (thankfully) not shown on-screen.
- Distressed Dude: Flik twice during the climax. First about to be squished by Hopper and then almost flown away/kidnapped (again by Hopper). Princess Atta to the rescue on both occasions.
- 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 scared-witless girlfriend.
- The Dog Bites Back: Everyone on Ant Island rallies as one and turns the tables on the grasshoppers, after Hopper threatens to kill the Queen and, when that fails, beats and belittles Flik one time too many.
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: Francis (see One-Gender Race below) is constantly confused as a woman throughout the film, which he is very unamused about.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- Unlike Pixar's later talking animal movies, humans are not featured and instead the animal society is made similar to human society. Later films used Humans Are Cthulhu for the most part and showed reasonable differences in animal societies.
- Pixar has come to be known for either avoiding Black-and-White Morality when it comes to their antagonists, or having most of the more despicable ones still outwardly appear friendly on first inspection, so it may take some veterans by surprise to see a very no-frills traditional villain in this movie with Hopper. Unlike future Pixar villains, he is established as evil with no question at all from the very start, and wouldn't be out of place next to most of the classic Disney villains.
- Eat the Camera: Hopper's death at the end, wherein the chick he's being fed to "eats" the camera, seguing into the epilogue.
- Enforced Method Acting: Invoked in the Hilarious Outtakes, wherein Slim, while using a berry to represent a bloodied, pecked-out eye, actually gets the berry juice in his eye.
- "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...
(Flik sprints off, then sprints back to Atta and kisses her cheek)
Flik: Thank you. (sprints off again)
- Also the moment during the big confrontation when Flik realizes exactly what Hopper had been hoping the ants would never put together:Flik: Ants don't serve grasshoppers! It's you who need us! We're a lot stronger than you say we are... And you know it... don't you?
- From a discussion about birds:
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Hopper may have loved (or at least respected) his mother enough to honor her deathbed promise to never kill his bumbling, annoying and idiotic brother Molt.Hopper: I swear, if I hadn't promised Mother on her deathbed 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] 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] AAAH! REMEMBER MA!
(Hopper spins around and punches another grasshopper to the ground)
- Everybody Cries: Francis makes Dot and the other Blueberries cry by snapping at them over the tea party they were holding on top of him. Immediately, he feels bad over his actions and cheers the girls up with a juggling act.
- Everyone Has Standards: Flik and Atta have to cover their eyes in horror before even a monster like Hopper getting eaten alive by a bunch of baby birds.
- Exact Words: Flik's response to Hopper.Hopper: Well what's this? Another one of your little bird tricks?
- The Exile: When P.T. Flea exposes the truth, Flik and the circus bugs are exiled from the colony.
- Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Hopper meets his fate via this trope.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In a heroic sense, Flik has a "Eureka!" Moment when he stands up to Hopper, even as he is greatly outmatched.
- 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.
- Eye Cam: When Francis is chewing out the fly hecklers for assuming that he's a lady ladybug, there's a shot of him from the perspective of a fly's compound eye.
- 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!"
- Fantastic Fauna Counterpart: The Ant Queen keeps an aphid as a lapdog, while P.T. Flea uses millipedes as oxen to pull his circus train.
- 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.
Hopper: If you let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up. Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one. And if they ever figure that out, there goes our way of life!
- 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:
- 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.
- Fly in the Soup: "Hey, waiter! I'm in my soup!"
- Four-Legged Insect: Played straight with the ants, in order to appear more relatable and sympathetic to a human audience, and averted with the grasshoppers, who, as the antagonists, keep their six limbs in order to appear more alien to humans.
- Zig-zagged with other species. Among the circus bugs, the flea, the ladybug, the mantis, and the moth have four limbs. Although his species wouldve been recognizable with four limbs, the walking stick has the standard six. The rhinoceros beetle, whos not as anthropomorphic as his friends, keeps his six legs. The caterpillar and pill bugs are a downplayed example; they respectively have ten limbs instead of twelve, and eight instead of fourteen. Six of the spiders limbs act as legs, and the other two act as arms.
- When it comes to species represented by minor or background characters, there are multi-legged centipedes/millipedes, four-legged fireflies, mosquitoes, and flies, as well as six-legged roaches.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling:
- Molt is the Foolish Sibling to Hopper's Responsible.
- Averted with Atta and Dot, though Atta is arguably more responsible due to being older than Dot.
- For Want of a Nail: If Tuck and Roll hadn't been arguing during the preparation for the "Flaming Death" act, the circus bugs wouldn't have been fired, Flik would likely not have met them and they wouldn't have helped the ants drive the grasshoppers out.
- Freudian Trio:
- Flik, Atta and Dot, the three most important characters in the film, form one. Dot is the energetic and passionate Id who is eager to prove her worth by trying to fly before her wings grow in, Atta is the neurotic and easily stressed Superego who has a worry that she may not fare well with her new royal responsibilities, and Flik is the Ego, for he has purely good intentions and wants things to go well for the colony, but is very clumsy and often ends up creating bigger problems than before. All of them experience significant growth as the movie progresses, however.
- This can also be seen with Francis (the aggressive and surly Id), Slim (the snarky and pessimistic Superego) and Heimlich (the Ego, who is a bit on the kooky side but more gentle-natured than Francis).
- Friend to All Children:
- Flik. Whenever Dot is threatened by Hopper, it's him, out of all the other ants, who speaks up and orders him to leave Dot alone. He also forms a fast friendship with Dot and use her and the Blueberries to fly the bird.
- Francis is revealed to be this as well, as he saves Dot in the riverbed sequence and later becomes the Blueberries' den mother and forms a proper bond with them.
- Friendly Neighborhood Spider: Rosie, the black widow spider, is the gentle Team Mom of the circus bugs.
- 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.
- Get Out!:
- After Flik's deception is inadvertently revealed at the worst possible time, Atta is left with no choice but to tell the former to leave the colony for good. Predictably, it doesn't last.
- Towards the end of the film, Atta tells Hopper and the grasshoppers to leave their colony just before the ants' Zerg Rush.
- Glowing Flora: How to light the ant's cave, and thereby show the action, without inventing some ludicrous ant tech? Plenty of conveniently glowing mushrooms!
- 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.
- HeelFace 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.
- High-Voltage Death: Implied between the bug called Harry after his encounter with the bug zapper as Flik arrives at the city.
- Huddle Shot: Princess Atta and the council debating and ultimately deciding to let Flik leave the island.
- Humongous Mecha: The mechanical bird that the ants and circus bugs build could be considered one of these from an insect perspective, though certainly not a human one.
- Hypocrite: The ants exile Flik for lying to them about bringing warrior bugs who were actually circus bugs, ignoring the fact that they lied to him earlier about needing to find warrior bugs just to keep him out of their way. This comes back to bite them when Hopper and his gang return.
- Idiot Ball: Atta grasps it when she learns about Flik's deception. Her decision to exile him and the circus bugs around the same time the grasshoppers return results in Hopper taking over the colony.
- "I Can't Look!" Gesture: Flik and Atta turn away in horror at the sight of Hopper being fed to the mother bird's chicks.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Flik remains completely loyal to his colony and his desire to help and protect it. The only time he gives up is when he and the "warriors" are sent away by Atta, but he gets back on his feet.
- Ink-Suit Actor:
- Flik has Dave Foley's wide elastic smile.
- Atta has Julia Louis-Dreyfus' distinctive eyelashes.
- Hopper has Kevin Spacey's baggy eyes.
- Subtle, but Molt sports Richard Kind's large, expressive mouth.
- The Queen has Phyllis Diller's wrinkled face, her flower-crown looks like her distinctive hair, and throws her head back when laughing as she does.
- Insect Gender-Bender: A film about a male worker ant, from a colony of male and female worker ants. (In real life, worker ants are all female.) Also, Princess Atta gets together with said male worker ant, rather than a winged drone.
- Insect Queen: The ants are led by one, the Queen of the Ants, who later her daughter Princess Atta who is given the crown at the end.
- Insult to Rocks: Hopper's prejudice against ants is so great, he considers calling Flik a piece of dirt an insult to dirt.Hopper: You piece of dirt... no, I'm wrong, you're lower than dirt—you're an ANT.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Flik and Dot.
- Interspecies Romance: Manny and Gypsy. (A praying mantis and a gypsy moth, explicitly stated to be husband and wife.)
- 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.
- Hopper instills the rules to the ants at the beginning: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...
- Near the climax of the movie, the ants hear Flik realizing Hopper needs the ants more than the ants need them. Atta comes to defend Flik and the rest of the ants and bugs prepare to fight back, but not before she twists what Hopper said above and delivers this:Princess Atta: You see, Hopper, nature has a certain order. The ants pick the food, the ants keep the food, and the grasshoppers...leave.
- Near the climax of the movie, the ants hear Flik realizing Hopper needs the ants more than the ants need them. Atta comes to defend Flik and the rest of the ants and bugs prepare to fight back, but not before she twists what Hopper said above and delivers this:
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Francis. He really doesn't like being mistaken for being female, and comes across as crabby and callous quite a bit. Despite that, he's still good friends with the other members of the troupe, saves Dot's life and forms a bond with the Blueberries.
- 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.
- Laser-Guided Karma: For both the ants and the grasshoppers.
- Princess Atta and the Queen banish Flik and the other bugs from the anthill after it's revealed that they were from the circus, despite the fact that they lied to Flik earlier about wanting him to find "warrior" bugs. The result: they're not present to deal with the grasshoppers when they arrive early and decide to take over, leaving all the ants completely at Hopper's mercy.
- Hopper pushes his luck too far once the fake bird is burned. He orders Thumper to beat Flik up in front of the entire colony to send a message about how weak they are. It backfires when Flik stands up and declares that ants don't serve grasshoppers even after he's almost been beaten into the ground. This rallies the whole ant colony together to oust Hopper and his gang for good.
- Last Villain Stand: After Flik leads the ants against his grasshoppers and chases them off, Hopper kidnaps Flik for revenge and ends up being chased by Princess Atta and the circus bugs.
- Let Us Never Speak of This Again: After Flik is revealed as a liar, the queen insists that the colony hides all this and pretends it never happened, and the bugs were never here. It doesn't last.
- Liar Revealed: One of the most painfully Played Straight examples of this trope in animation history. It inevitably happens to Flik once the colony discovers the truth about the "warrior bugs".
- Light Is Not Good: The bug zapper, seen just as Flik is arriving at the bug city.A bug: NO! HARRY! NO! DON'T LOOK AT THE LIGHT!
Harry: [entranced] I can't help it, it's so beautiful! [ZAP]
- Looking a Miffed Animal in the Mouth: After failing to chase off the Grasshopper gang with their giant false bird puppet, Flik and the rest of the ant colony stand up to Hopper and his gang, chasing the majority of them off. When a freak rainstorm (which is akin to a meteor shower strike due to the insects' sizes) prevents them from humiliating Hopper and driving him off for good, Hopper chases Flik and Atta through a grass forest until he finally corners Flik, intending to kill him. He just happens to come across the same bird that Flik and the Circus Bugs encounter earlier in the film. Thinking it's another false bird puppet:Hopper: Well, what's this? Another one of your little bird tricks?
Hopper: Are there a bunch of little girls in this one, too?
[looks up at the bird, in mocking singsong] Helloooo, Girrrrls!
[The bird loudly chirps (or rather, 'roars') in his face]
Hopper: AAAAAHHHHHH!!! [attempts to run away]
- 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.
- The Magnificent Seven Samurai: 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).
- Maybe Ever After: It isn't made clear if Flik and Princess (now Queen) Atta end up together, though it can be interpreted as that from the way they hold hands as they wave good bye to the circus bugs.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor:
- Meaningful Echo:
- "You lied to us!" - Francis when the circus bugs discover that Flik's "job" is not a circus performance for the colony. The Queen says the same line when the ruse gets exposed.
- Early in the movie, Dot thinks shes too little to do anything, so Flik tries to find a seed to motivate her with. He cant, so instead picks up a nearby rock and tells her to pretend its a seed. Dot does the exact same thing to motivate a downhearted Flik to come back home after she discovers Hoppers plan. It works.
- The Millstone: Flik is this for most of the film, with a bit of All of the Other Reindeer thrown in as well.
- 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 colony is secluded on a very small "island" with a tree, but the bug city occupies trash underneath a trailer. As an example, the "bar" the troupe goes to after their failed show is actually a tin can.
- Mugging the Monster: Near the end, Hopper mocks the bird Flik has led him to, thinking that it's another fake prop. Predictably, it ends badly for him.
- The Napoleon: P.T. Flea. The ringmaster of the circus bugs and the smallest of the lot (save for Tuck and Roll).
- 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.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Flik confusing the circus bugs as heroes and selling them as such to his people before discovering the truth. And before that destroying the offering by accident. And before that when we first see him and his invention causes the stalks of grain to land on Atta.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Molt revealing Hopper's fear for birds is what ultimately gives the bugs a hint on how to scare the grasshoppers away.
- 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 More Holding Back" Speech: Flik delivers this and "The Reason You Suck" Speech both simultaneously, along with a No, You, to Hopper towards the end 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 say we are... and you know it, don't you?
- No Name Given: The Queen
- No-Sell: Dot, during her final confrontation with Thumper, refuses to even flinch when he flares his body and shrieks at her. She even proceeds to Dope Slap him afterward!
- No, You: Flik, as part of his "The Reason You Suck" Speech at Hopper.Flik: Who's the weaker species? Ants don't serve grasshoppers! It's you who needs us!
- 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, as are several other female ants.
- 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: A heartfelt conversation has Flik and Princess Atta discover that they're this.Atta: The whole colony... it's like, they're all watching me. Just... just...
Flik: ... waiting for you to screw up.
- Oblivious Guilt Slinging:
- Atta sends Flik out to find some bugs to fight Hopper, not expecting him to actually find anybody willing to defend an ant colony (as well as just to get Flik out of the picture). When Flik returns to the colony with the "warriors", Atta, though shocked by this turn of events, decides to go along with Flik's "success" anyway. During the welcoming ceremony, Flik sincerely thanks Atta for "believing in him" and Atta smiles awkwardly.Flik: Thank you, Your Highness. Oh, sure, I'd like to take credit for all of this, but, well, that wouldn't be right. Because it was you, Princess Atta. You believed in me, and you sent me on my quest.
- Later, Atta asks Flik if she can talk to him in private, leading to this exchange.Atta: You don't think I've offended the warriors, do you?
Flik: What? You? No!
Atta: Oh, good. 'Cause you see, when you first brought them here, I thought you'd hired a bunch of clowns.
Flik: Y-Y-Ya did? (laughs nervously)
Atta: Don't tell them I said that.
- Atta sends Flik out to find some bugs to fight Hopper, not expecting him to actually find anybody willing to defend an ant colony (as well as just to get Flik out of the picture). When Flik returns to the colony with the "warriors", Atta, though shocked by this turn of events, decides to go along with Flik's "success" anyway. During the welcoming ceremony, Flik sincerely thanks Atta for "believing in him" and Atta smiles awkwardly.
- Oddball in the Series: It, for the most part, lacks the emotional plot lines signature of Pixar, as well as having Black-and-White Morality for the heroes and villains.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Flik's reaction as he helplessly watched the food offering tumble into the water after his harvester knocked it over.Princess Atta: What did you do?!
Flik: Uh...it was an accident?
- Flik's reaction after realizing that the warrior bugs he brought to the colony are actually circus folk.
- "TWEET TWEET! TWEET TWEET!"
- Heimlich when he gets stuck in the crack in the riverbed sequence, with the bird coming towards him.
- When the circus bugs return to the ant colony...Slim: We were invited by Princess Atta as a surprise for your arrival.
Hopper: Squish 'em.
(Slim and Francis gasp, while Dim tries to back away.)
- The Grasshoppers' reaction to the Constructed Bird, and Hopper's reaction to the real one.
- The Blueberries and Flik's reaction after P.T. sets the bird on fire with them in it.
- The Grasshoppers' reaction as they realize that the Ants are getting pissed off at last and are about to Zerg Rush them.
- A split-second one at the climax, where an injured Flik sees Hopper flying right at him in a rage.
- Flik's reaction as he helplessly watched the food offering tumble into the water after his harvester knocked it over.
- Off-Model: The line "You're dad's right, he's gonna die" is lip-synced to the wrong ant.
- One-Gender Race: Subverted with Francis, a male ladybug. Helps that Francis is voiced by Denis Leary.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.
- Paper Tiger: The primary reason why the grasshoppers use scare tactics to keep the ants in line. The ants outnumber the grasshoppers by a significant margin and could run them off anytime. Sure enough, when they finally decide to fight back, the grasshoppers are sent flying for the hills, and had a rainstorm not occurred right as they were about to get rid of Hopper, his prediction would have been completely accurate.Hopper: You let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up! Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one. And if they ever figure that out, there goes out our way of life!
- Playing a Tree: Slim, the walking stick, constantly gets these roles in the circus acts, much to his annoyance.
- Poor Communication Kills: Almost literally in this case. Because P.T wasn't in on the plan with the fake bird, upon seeing it, he shot fire at it, not only nearly killing Flik and the girls, but also exposing the ruse to Hopper.
- Precision F-Strike: The final theatrical trailer has one for when Francis confronts the flies for getting his gender wrong: "CHRIST! She's a guy!" This was toned down in the final version to "YIKES! She's a guy!"
- Psycho for Hire: Thumper is a deranged, almost feral grasshopper that works for Hopper. Though his boss keeps him in check, he looks only a second away from chowing down on the ants whenever he's on screen.
- 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!
- While the rest of the grasshoppers are malicious and have no problem with pushing the ants around, it's hinted at that they wouldn't go out of their way to do so if not under Hopper's orders.
- Molt. When the food's collected and the circus is performing, he happily claps and plays along, rather like a child.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:Francis: When your grasshopper friends get here, we are gonna KNOCK! THEM! DEAD!!!
- Pushed at the Monster: At the end, Hopper corners Flik and Atta, Filk tells her to stay hidden. Hopper grabs Flik telling he'll return the next year with a larger swarm of grasshoppers, just then a bird peeks its head out of its nest, and Hopper asks if it's another trick. When the bird "roars," Flik makes a run towards Atta's hiding spot, while Hopper, the bigger insect, gets captured and served to the bird's hungry chicks.
- Rapid-Fire "No!": Flik when his invention destroys the ants' entire offering.
- Recycled IN SPACE!: Seven Samurai WITH BUGS!
- Red Right Hand: Hopper's discoloured right eye.
- Relative Ridicule: Discussed; Flik is terrified of his children being mocked for being associated with him if people find out the "warriors" he brought to defend the colony were actually just circus performers.
- Repulsive Ringmaster: Downplayed. While P.T. Flea isn't evil, he is certainly the most jerky out of all the Circus Bugs.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: From the audience's perspective, the bird's chicks look cute as all heck. From the perspective of any of the bugs, however, you're bound to hear disagreement. Especially from Hopper.
- 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: The Queen and Princess Atta both directly supervise the worker ants and give them directions when they don't know what to do. Princess Atta herself also becomes a Warrior Princess later in the movie, putting her flying skills to use against Hopper and his gang.
- Rule of Drama: In-universe example. When the kid ants show a drawing of how they believe the battle between the grasshoppers and the circus artists will end, one of the kids explains that their teacher told them to portray a hero dying to add drama.
- 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.
- Screams Like a Little Girl: This trope applies to not Francis, ironically, but Flik. For example; when Flik shrieks upon seeing all the food falling off the offering stone or when he notices he and the circus bugs are standing by a bird's nest.
- Sensory Tentacles: Hopper lays his antennae on Princess Atta's face, saying that she's not the Queen, "at least you don't smell like the Queen." This piece of realistic insect behavior is not shown anywhere else in the movie, making Hopper all the creepier.
- Shipper on Deck: The Circus Bugs are all for Flik/Atta.
- Shoot the Messenger: Invoked and Subverted in A Bug's Life, where three of Hopper's goons voiced their disagreement of returning back to Ant Island when they have the food for the winter and a concern of the raining season. They get Molt to tell Hopper by persuading him that he's "vice president" of the gang since he's Hopper's brother, and also Hopper would take his anger at him instead of them. Molt tells Hopper the plan but when he caved by his fury, Molt tells him that it was their idea, in which he Make an Example of Them.
- 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. The music that plays in that scene sounds similar to the Master Sword theme from The Legend of Zelda.
- Hopper's demise bears some resemblance to General Woundwort's end in Watership Down, or Lewis's death from The Lost World (1995).
- 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.
- The fly's POV of simultaneous images of Francis yelling at him seen through his compound eyes is a nod to The Fly (1958).
- The "Casey Junior" animal cracker box that serves as the Circus Bugs' trailer is a clever nod to the train in Dumbo.
- One of Flik's previous disasters was his "tunnel within a tunnel", a clear reference to Steve Jobs' infamous "store within a store" concept.
- Dim's terrifying bellow that scares off Thumper audibly incorporates the T-Rex's iconic roar from Jurassic Park.
- The circus bugs include a very hungry caterpillar and a grouchy ladybug, both echoing titles of books by Eric Carle.
- Shut Up, Scary Thing: Dot is threatened by Thumper once again during the climax. As he snarls at her, she shows how much she's matured by slapping him on the nose and telling him "Bad grasshopper! Go home!" This just makes Thumper mad, but fortunately for Dot he gets scared away by Dim's roar.
- 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.Flik: I will be branded with this mistake for the rest of my life! My children's children will walk down the street and people will point and say, "Look! There goes the spawn of Flik, the loser!"
- 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: This is Manny the praying mantis's role in the circus, and he takes much pride in his work.
- Summon Bigger Fish: Flik "enlists" the aid of the Goldfinch to deal with Hopper once and for all.
- Surfer Dude: One of the grasshoppers (the one that finds Dot's bandanna) speaks with this kind of voice.
- Sympathetic P.O.V.: The grasshoppers are depicted as dreaded thugs against the ants for most of the film. A brief scene in the middle movie however shows them relaxing and getting along affably in their base, even considering letting the ants off since collecting food is so tiring, until Hopper very bluntly intimidates them into going back to the ant hill, even killing some of his own men to get his point across.
- Swallowed a Fly: In one of the Hilarious Outtakes, this happens... to another, larger bug.
- Tempting Fate:
- Hopper assuming the bird before him is another of Flik's tricks. It doesn't end well for him.
- Earlier on, three of Hopper's fellow minions didn't learn to keep their mouths shut when they suggest that Molt question Hopper's motives for Ant Island.Axel: What if Hopper doesn't like it?Loco: Then at least the "genius" will get smacked, and not us!
- Also happens to Atta the beginning,Dot: It's not my fault, she's so stressed out!Atta: [sighs in frustration] I know! I know! I'm always acting like the sky is falling.Random Ant: LOOK OUT!!!(A stalk falls, landing square on top of Atta)
- 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 refers to himself this way: "Dim don't wanna go."
- Thrown from the Zeppelin: Three grasshoppers try to convince Hopper (by using Molt) to not bother going back to collect food from the ants. Hopper makes an example out of them by crushing them under a pile of grain.Hopper: Does anybody else wanna stay?
- Toilet Humor: "Hey! Who ordered the poo-poo platter?" (a bunch of flies swarm over to it)
- Training the Peaceful Villagers: The "warriors", Flik, and Atta all work with the colony to devise their plan to scare off the grasshoppers once and for all.
- Tranquil Fury:
- P.T. Flea after being burned during the "Flaming Death" act. His line, "You're all fired" is said without him raising his voice, but you can tell by his voice just how pissed off he is.
- Princess Atta does this twice: first, on the trial against Flik and second, when banishing Flik once the colony finds out about his mistake.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Manny and Gypsy, respectively. Not hard to see why, given that Manny is older than Gypsy and Gypsy is possibly the most attractive character in the film.
- Undying Loyalty: Alone among the colony, Dot idolizes Flik and, instead of putting him down, feels that there is good in him through thick and thin. After Flik is ousted from the colony for hiring circus bugs to defend them, she is not only the only one who still believes in him, but is also the one who, after hearing the Queen's life is in danger, tracks him down and snaps him out of his Heroic BSoD.
- Unsettling Gender Reveal: Some (male) insects try some pick-up lines on Francis, taking him for a female, and react shocked when he answers them with his clearly male voice.Insects: Yikes! She's a guy!
- Unusual Euphemism: When one of the ants says the following (also counts as a Shout-Out):Thorny: Jiminy H. Cricket!
- Unwanted Assistance: Due to Flik's inventions backfiring or malfunctioning, many feel this way to him. Because of this, when on trial for what happened to the offering, Flik mentions that he only wanted to help. A member of the council then replies: "Then help us: DON'T HELP US!"
- 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 to be exiled 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.
- Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey: Hopper has this dynamic with his brother Molt. The former is cruel, cunning and dead-serious, the latter is bumbling, cowardly and overall very friendly.
- Villain Has a Point: An antagonistic variation. When several grasshoppers question Hopper's motivations to bully the ant colony, he points out (after punishing the blabbermouths by death) that the ants have to be kept in line because if one of them recognizes the numbers advantage they collectively have over the grasshoppers, they'll turn on them without hesitation. He was right to worry, because at the end, they do thanks to Flik.
- Villainous Breakdown: Hopper breaks down when the ants stand up to the grasshoppers. And he breaks down even more when his attempt to kidnap Flik is thwarted (see Your Little Dismissive Diminutive below).
- Visual Pun:
- 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?: Evil/rude characters like the grasshoppers and the fly attendees of the circus do not look nearly so appealing or friendly as the ants and the circus troupe. On the other hand, a bird that looks normal and cute to the audience is actually a horrible monster to the bugs.
- Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises: Flik. Also Thumper at the end when Dim roars at him.
- Would Hurt a Child: Hopper has no compunction against threatening baby Princess Dot.
- 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 No Take Candle: Dim uses this manner of speaking.
- Your Little Dismissive Diminutive: Hopper uses three of these in the same conversation when he breaks down.Hopper: (seething with pure hatred) You think it's over?! All your little stunt did was buy them time!
Flik: (cowering) No, please! Please, Hopper!
Hopper: (grabbing Flik's throat) I'll get more grasshoppers and be back next season, but you won't.
[the sparrow looms over them]
Hopper: Well, what's this? Another one of your little bird tricks?
Hopper: Are 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.