Therapist: Excellent! You've made a real breakthrough!
Z: I have?
Therapist: Yes, Z! You are insignificant.
Z: I am?
Antz is a computer-animated film created by DreamWorks Pictures in 1998, the first feature film by DreamWorks Animation and the third feature-length CGI movie ever released (after Toy Story and the Brazilian movie Cassiopeia). 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. Nevertheless, it was successful, and in fact was one of the first non-Disney animated films ever to gross over $100 million worldwide.
The protagonist is a worker ant named Z 4195—simply known as "Z" (voiced by Woody Allen). He is somewhat neurotic, pessimistic 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 go on about some place called Insectopia, where food is plentiful, there are no rules, and everyone lives in peace. Z and his soldier friend Weaver (Sylvester Stallone) snicker at the old ant behind his back and think the idea of an "Insectopia" is hilarious.
Meanwhile, the lovely Princess Bala (Sharon Stone) is living in the palace, but finds it dull and does not happily anticipate her upcoming marriage to General Mandible (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 (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 (despite not doing anything and left traumatized), he is ecstatic.
When Z meets the Queen (Anne Bancroft) and Bala again, she recognises him as the worker from the bar, unknowingly blowing his cover. 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.
However, General Mandible has much more sinister plans in mind, both for Z and Bala, and for the entire colony...
- Actor Allusion: General Mandible says "Damn good" in an extremely similar manner to Lex Luthor from Superman: The Movie.
- 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.
- It's different to be forced into a role than it is to choose that same role.
- "Think for yourself instead of blindly following orders."
- Alliterative Name: Colonel Cutter
- All-CGI Cartoon: Following suit with Pixar's Toy Story.
- 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.
- Against the Grain: The movie revolves around Z, a worker ant who is dissatisfied with his place in ant society and longs for something more. He meets and falls in love with Bala, the ant colony's princess who also feels stifled in her role.
- Amicable Ants: Z, who saves the whole colony from a treacherous ant soldier who plans to overthrow the queen and wipe out the worker ants.
- Ant War: Mandible manipulates the hive into going to war with a colony of termites. It ends up a massacre with both armies wiping each other out, 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. Male ants also have wings, so all the guys should have looked like the "scouts" like Colonel Cutter.
- Also, all the ants in a colony tend to be the queen's offspring (except in slave-making ant species), and are usually sterile, so all the romantic relationships in the film would be quite incestuous... In reality, ants generally mate with drones from other colonies.
- 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, and ironically, spraying acid is more of an ant trait.
- In fact, ants are typically the predators of termites, and in fact individually outclass them in size, strength and durability.
- The queen is depicted as being the same size as the worker ants, but with a hugely bloated abdomen. Real queen ants are much bigger than the workers, and while having big abdomens to house the ovaries, is more easily distinguished by her enlarged thorax, which formerly held her wing muscles.
- The ant larvae, which have eyes and stubby legs and are shown crawling about. In real life, ant larvae are pretty much just an immobile tube with a mouth and anus.
- Queen ants do not actually make decisions in a colony; her only goal is to produce more ants. The workers are actually the decision-making members of the colony, and it is not unheard of for the workers to kill the queen if she doesn't produce enough eggs.
- Cutter is depicted as having wings, as are the large, unidentified flying ant... helicopters during the ant march to the termite colony. In an actual ant colony, the only winged ants are the princess and one or more rather wasp-like drones. When the time comes to establish a new colony, the princess takes flight accompanied by her flying drones. It would make more sense for Mandible to have wings, given he's the princess' fiance.
- In Insectopia, a ladybug mother is shown leading her children through the fields of garbage. Her children are depicted as miniature beetles, but ladybugs have grub-like larvae (for all insects, except mayflies, wings only appear when they are completely grown). Also, she's shown eating garbage, but ladybugs are not scavengers, they are voracious predators.
- The praying mantis is missing the three small eyes it should have in the middle of its forehead.
- Chip is depicted with a stinger, despite being a male wasp. A wasp's stinger is evolved from the ovipositor, the siphon-like organ used by most insects for depositing eggs, and therefore male wasps cannot have them.
- 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. The Twin Towers are also shown being side-by-side, even though in actuality they were diagonal to each other.
- 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.
- General Mandible dies by falling on a branch, hitting it with a heavy thud. Anyone who knows the slightest about ants know that they have extremely light bodies and thus won't die from a fall.
- Attack! Attack! Attack!: Standard soldier ant tactics, and said word-for-word by Z when trying to impress Bala and the Queen.
- Bait-and-Switch Silhouette: The movie opens with a silhouette of New York City buildings as Z talks about his life in the city, only to reveal they're actually blades of grass.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: At the beginning of the movie, Z says that he was not cut out to be a worker. 20 minutes later, he gets his chance to be a soldier, 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 a very tardy 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.)
- 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.
- Blunt "Yes": A variation of it.Cutter: Attack termite colony? But sir, that's suicide!
- 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 creature," not "anus."
- Also on the ad, Z says "Who the heck is that?" rather than "Who the hell is that?"
- 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.
- Bug War: An unusual example in that both sides are bugs, but still played straight in that the termites are far less anthropomorphized than the ants.
- 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. The termites are, however, at least implied to be sapient, since it's mentioned that the ant colony has been "at peace" with them.
- Chekhov's Skill: Z never has a plan; he simply knows what he wants or intends to do. However, the bar dance scene shows that he's actually capable of thinking on the fly and under pressure. His making things up as he goes is what ultimately saves the colony and helps him learn to appreciate himself both as an individual and as a part of something bigger.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Mandible tortures Weaver for Z's location. Weaver takes the punishment ("I ain't tellin' you nothin'"), but changes his mind when they threaten Azteca.
- 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. This is partially Truth in Television though, when a person is pulled out of the water the first thing you're supposed to do is give rescue breaths to stimulate a response to get them to cough the water out. Again, these are ants not people, but any lifeguard will tell you this is proper protocol in such a situation.
- Cry into Chest: Azteca cries into Weaver's chest during the film's climax as Bala mourns a drowned Z. Of course, this is right before Bala does the successful CPR that is seen below, and Z responds with a kiss.
- 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.
- DreamWorks Face: The dance sequence sees the birth of this trope. It's relatively guileless and appropriate here, but one wonders why or how a facial expression inspired by Woody Allen's nervous grin became the marquis "look" of CGI critters.
- 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 really isn't a children's movie, at least not one for younger kids.
- Everyone Has Standards: Towards the end of the film, Cutter begins to doubt General Mandible's plans and eventually pulls a Heel–Face Turn.
- Exercise Excuse: When someone steps on Z's foot at a dance, he leaps in the air, exclaiming, "Yowch!". Then, to cover it up, he tries to make it seem like a dance move by saying, "Yowch!" again while doing finger guns.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Z does this when he and Bala reunite and (quite literally) piece together Mandible's plan.Bala: Z… we can't go. Mandible's insane. He keeps talking about "washing away the filth" and-and "changing history"… (grabs a pile of maps and puts them on the table) and I think he's going to try to kill my mother.
Z: Not just your mother… everyone.
Bala: What's going on?
Z: Look. (straightening out the maps) Here we are safe in city, but they're gonna seal everybody off in the Mega Tunnel. And… here's the lake.
- 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.
- Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better: While the ants have six limbs, four of them are legs that move together, giving a moderately bipedal appearance. Other talking insects are similar, while the termite antagonists are monstrous.
- 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, requesting him to get more firewood.Z: Hey, ever wonder why they call you guys "pests"?
- 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.
- 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. It doesn't last long thanks to General Mandible making it look like Z kidnapped Princess Bala for selfish reasons.
- Heel–Face Turn: Colonel Cutter right at the end.
- As well as the other soldiers who were on Mandible's side.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: In order to quash the revolution that Z unintentionally started, General Mandible portrays Z as this, making him sound like a selfish kidnapper.
- 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 sound effects from the 1938 The War of the Worlds broadcast) 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 teenage boy’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.
- Idiot Ball: The scuffle that leads to Bala and Z being accidentally ejected from the colony together all happened because Bala decided to happily admit to both her mother, the Queen, and her fiancee, that she went to a bar and danced with a worker, the same one standing before them pretending to be a soldier. Poor Z tried shushing her, but to no avail.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice:
- General Mandible, after his Disney Villain Death, falls straight onto a root.
- How Barbatus saves Z from a termite.
- Informed Flaw: Mandible points out to Cutter that the latter has issues with lower orders, such as closing off the tunnels as part of Mandible's plan.
- Informed Species: As pointed out under Artistic License – Biology, the termites in the movie look nothing like real-life termites.
- 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 Queen: The Queen, who is both royalty and the literal mother of the colony.
- I Should Have Done This Years Ago: Cutter states this after he punches Mandible to protect Z.General Mandible: Cutter...what are you doing?
Cutter: Something I should've done...a long time ago!
- In Their Own Image: What General Mandible wants to create is a more militaristic colony using his and Bala's offspring when she becomes queen. To do this, he must first dispose of all the soldiers loyal to the current queen and drown her along with all the workers who are constructing the Mega Tunnel.
- 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."
- Later, the Foreman
- 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.
- Leaning Tower of Mooks: The Ants are trying to reach an opening high up in the chamber they are in. Of course, combining their efforts to achieve great things is their hat.
- Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: Bala and Z leave Chip and Muffy alone when they become distracted by their affections.Z: Oh brother. Suddenly 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.
- Magical Negro: Barbatus, (voiced by Danny Glover) who is killed off a few minutes after his introduction, with his dying words being words of inspiration for Z to not live life following orders.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Barbatus. Truth in Television, however, in that an ant will live a while if reduced to just its head.Barbatus: I can't feel my legs.
- The Millstone: Bala's two main functions in the movie are to be bitchy and to get into trouble so Z will need to rescue her.
- 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: Perfect. 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.
- 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".
- 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 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. But still about bugs.
- 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.
- Mandible when he learns of the survivor of the battle against the termites.
- Z and the other worker ants during the finale when they realize that the water is about to trap the colony as part of Mandible's plan.
- One-Letter Name: Guess who. No, the first twenty-five guesses don't count.
- Although technically his name is actually Z-4195, because some (though not all?) worker ants have serial numbers for names.
- One-Word Title: A pun on "Ants", and Ant Z, the protagonist, so sort of a Protagonist Title.
- Pair the Spares: Weaver and Azteca.
- Parents Suck at Matchmaking: Princess Bala is not comfortable with her engagement to General Mandible, since they have nothing in common and her attempts to be amicable are met with indifference. Her mother, however, insists that, deep down, he cares about Bala because he was "very persistent" on asking her hand. It is revealed that the General cares only about Bala to spawn a new generation of ants after he drowns what he sees as "the weak elements of the colony" (read, the working class). The Queen ends up supporting her daughter against him after she learns about the genocidal monster he is.
- Please Wake Up: Bala, to Z, followed by a quick mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
- Product Placement: Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Mr. Goodbar, and Reebok make appearances, albeit believable and unobtrusive ones.
- Protagonist Title: If the title is interpreted as Ant Z, instead of Xtremely Kool Letterz variant of Ants.
- Punch-Clock Villain: Colonel Cutter. Probably a decent guy, if he wasn't taking orders from the Big Bad.
- Punny Name: As noted by Word of God in the DVD Commentary, the wasps are rich W.A.S.P.s (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants).Chip: Not another crusade, Muffy!
- 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.
- Running Gag: "Yowch!"
- For clarification, during the scene where Bala asks Z to dance with her, someone steps on Z's foot and he yells "Yowch!". When Bala looks at him to see what's up, in an effort to hide his clumsiness and attempt to impress her, he insists he's just making things up as he goes since it's no fun dancing like everyone else. He continues to reference it occasionally throughout the movie.
- Save the Princess: From the mess you got her into, and later from General Mandible.
- To Independence Day, when the kid with the magnifying glass vaporizes a dumb soldier ant who thinks the light is beautiful, a take-off on a similar dialogue. The sound effects are directly from War Of The Worlds 1938.
- Metropolis, the scene where they try to drown the workers.
- Any resemblance to Starship Troopers during the termite battle scene is a coincidence, according to Word of God.
- The film also has strong elements from The Red Badge of Courage.
- There are several subtle shout outs in dialogue to Star Wars:
- "I hope you know what you're doing." "Yeah, me too."
- "The Colonel is not as understanding as I am."
- "Aren't you a little short for a war hero?"
- "Who's the bigger idiot? The idiot or the one who gets kidnapped by the idiot?"
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: The wasps, Chip and Muffy. From mild bantering to "Cuddly Widdles" and "my big, strong pheromone factory".
- Siding with the Suffering: Colonel Cutter, the right-hand man of the evil General Mandible, assists the General throughout the film but is noticeably bothered by his brutal actions. This eventually leads to his Heel—Face Turn when Mandible tries to drown almost the entire colony in order to secure power for himself.
- 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.
- Spanner in the Works: Mandible's plan to kill off the soldiers loyal to the queen and wipe out the termites that would hinder his own militant colony goes off largely without a hitch... until word reaches him that a single soldier, Z, survived the battle. Z goes on to completely derail everything from that point forward.
- Species Title: The movie is set in an insect perspective where ants are the main characters.
- Speech Impediment: Z has one where he stutters. He also has a small tiny lisp that's not very noticeable.
- 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 (1938).
- 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!]
- When Cutter arrives in Insectopia, he is immediately greeted by a hippie bug.
- Tall Is Intimidating: In the bar, Z asks Bala if she's crazy for provoking an ant much larger than them, since he's "built like a pebble".
- That's No Moon: That's a mantis.
- There Are No Therapists: Averted. As shown by the page quote, Z was seeing one before the start of the film, though the sessions didn't seem to be helping much. At the end of the film, his closing narration mentions he found a new one to help him get in touch with his "inner maggot".
- 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!
- Too Injured to Save: Barbatus stops Z from trying to save him after the war on termites because he can tell from Z's eyes that it's hopeless, even before Z considers trying to find and reattach the rest of his body to his severed head.
- 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.
- Two Scenes, One Dialogue: After Z and Bala discover General Mandible's plan to drown a majority of the colony, they split up to warn everyone; Bala going to her mother and Z going to the workers digging the Mega Tunnel.Z: Hold up, everyone! Stop! Stop digging!
Foreman: On whose authority?
Z: On your own authority! If you break through that wall, we're all gonna—
[cut to Bala and the Queen]
Bala: Drown! This tunnel is going to flood!
The Queen: (urgently) Then we've got to get everyone out of here!
- Übermensch: Z gradually develops into something like this.
- Unpleasant Animal Counterpart: The termites are painted as the unpleasant counterpart of ants while the ants are portrayed as highly anthropomorphic and intelligent, the termites are monstrous creatures with jaws full of sharp teeth and showing no sign of intelligence on the surface. The truth subtly comes out through some dialogue which implies that the termites are more intelligent than they seem, with the Big Bad of the movie who is an evil ant military commander being the one who actually instigated the war with them, completely subverting the dichotomy.
- 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: Mandible loses whatever little sanity he has left when Cutter turns against him and tries to help the ants the general attempted to drown.General Mandible: Cutter...what are you doing?
Cutter: Something I should've done...a long time ago! This is for the good of the colony, sir! (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.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: The title, when it's spelled as Antz, looks like a "hip" way of spelling "ants". If it's spelled as AntZ, it's more clear that it's about an ant named Z.
- 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 Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Antz's reaction when he tries to argue against the Foreman's obsession with following orders by asking him what he would do if he were told to "jump off a bridge," to which the Foreman pauses to decide, since the answer he was asked was apparently rethoric to everyone but him.Foreman: Look, I got orders, and those orders say "dig."Z: What if someone ordered you to jump off a bridge? Ju-Ju-Ju... [the Foreman starts thinking about it] Oh, brother, I'm asking the wrong guy here. Look, think for yourselves!
- 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.
- You Said You Would Let Them Go: A variation happens when Mandible is interrogating Weaver for Z and Bala’s location. He reassures Weaver that he won’t hurt Z since "he’s not important". When Weaver still refuses to say anything, Mandible has his men torture Azteca, which finally makes Weaver relent. Mandible then orders Cutter to bring Bala back safely.Mandible: And as for Z… kill him.
(Weaver and Azteca gasp in horror)
Weaver: But you said he didn't matter!
Mandible: It's for the good of the colony. You made the right decision.
- Zerg Rush: Soldier ant tactics amount to overwhelming the enemy with superior numbers. (Ants really do fight like this, minus the tiny spears obviously.)