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Western Animation / The Ant Bully

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The Ant Bully is a 2006 CGI animated movie based on the book of the same name by John Nickle. The film was written for the screen, produced by Tom Hanks and directed by John A. Davis (Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius) and stars the voices of Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep and Paul Giamatti.

The film is about a boy named Lucas Nickle who, after being picked on by some bullies, takes out his anger on an anthill. The ants who live there don't take too kindly to this, and magically shrink him down to ant size so that they can punish him. Initially they want to kill him, but the Queen Ant steps in and insists that he live among them for a while. He begins to learn how to live as an ant, and develops friendships with some of them.

The film also stars Regina King, Bruce Campbell and Lily Tomlin.

The Ant Bully contains examples of:

  • Abled in the Adaptation: Lucas doesn't wear glasses in the film.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Lucas is a chubby young boy with glasses and a propeller hat in the book. The movie makes him skinny, removes his glasses (at least when he's shrunk), and he has no hat at all.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film is based on a children's book that's about thirty pages long.
  • An Aesop: Size doesn't matter. Also, don't become a bully yourself when you get bullied.
  • Amicable Ants: Hova is a motherly, kind female ant that takes upon herself the responsibility of teaching Lucas the ant's way. There's also the Queen, that gave him a chance of redeeming himself and gives him an ant name after Lucas helps saving the colony from being poisoned by Stan Beals. Zigzagged with the other ants, who had good reasons to distrust Lucas because he mistreated them when he was in his normal size, but become friendlier to him after he becomes a better person.
  • Androcles' Lion: In his efforts to save Lucas from the stomach of a frog that swallowed him, Zoc also manages to free a beetle, fly, and glow worm that were also trapped in the frog's stomach. While the fly gets swallowed by another frog mere seconds after being free from the first one, the beetle and glow worm reappear at the film's climax to help in the effort to stop Stan Beals, and provide crucial help by flying up Beals' pant leg and biting him in the groin just as he is about to gas the ant hill and provide the heroes with the opening they need to defeat Stan.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Frogs have no uvulas in real life, as this extension of the soft palate is exclusive to humans. Also notably, the frog's tongue attaches to the front of its mouth, not the back as in mammals, as to have a longer reach.
    • Only females (with underdeveloped reproductive system) can be worker/soldier ants. Male ants are winged, wasp-like drones, whose only purpose in the colony is to mate with a virgin queen, and die a few days afterwards. It's possible that the inspiration came from termites (who are not even relatives to ants), whose young males do help workers until they are ready to mate.
    • The Queen Ant is depicted as still having wings. In real life, queens only use wings during their nuptial flight, after which they bite them off, as their wing muscles will be digested to help nourish the first brood (and as she spends the rest of her life underground, she has no need for them anyway).
    • The Glow-Worm is of unspecified gender, but has a male voice. In reality, glow worms are in fact wingless female fireflies, while the males have wings and are capable of flight.
    • Ironically, a winged firefly is also present in the film (Zoc's pet), but is somehow about 1/20 the size of other insects.
    • Red forest ants (Formica rufa) indeed do shoot liquid acid, but they do it from their own abdomen, not using larvae. The sticky goo produced by larvae is also real, but it's used by South-American leafcutter ants to glue their nests together.
    • Red ants, and most of the ants in fact, build their anthills from foraged plant matter, not sand, because the anthill must be well ventilated to be habitable.
    • Queen ant is not the actual queen of the colony: while she certainly is its most distinct member, it's the worker ants who do all the "thinking" decisions (and may even drag the queen around against her will). In fact, the council of high-ranking ants is more accurate than it seems.
    • A slacking ant (on vacation) in reality would be killed on the spot: yes, ants actually execute foragers that do not bring anything home.
    • Ants do not sleep per se: instead they take quite a lot of "power naps" every day, each lasting for less than a minute, so at least 80% of workforce is awake at any time.
    • Ants do have a complex system of communication that allows sharing information, giving orders etc., but they rely on pheromones (i.e. scent) and touching each other with antennae, not sound.
  • Bad Boss: Steve is quite abusive towards his "friends". This leads to them turning against him in the end.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Combined with a Freeze-Frame Bonus for Lucas. The creators didn't do a great job utilizing Scenery Censors for the scenes where Lucas is nude before being brought to the anthill's court, and there are at least a few times where you can clearly see that he has a featureless crotch. Doesn't stop the ants from commenting on the attributes he apparently still has in their eyes.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Fugax and Kreela. They spend most of the movie getting on each other's nerves — mostly, Kreela finds Fugax an irritating blowhard — but they get together by the end.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Averted; the entire time he is shrunken to ant size, Lucas does not wear his glasses yet he can see perfectly fine, which makes you wonder why he would need his glasses when he is at normal size.
  • Body Horror: Stan Beals' body violently convulses, contorts and ultimately deforms as a result of being injected with the shrinking potion.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Lucas borrows Zoc's frustrated utterance of "Kraznots!" as his own.
  • Break the Cutie: You have to feel sorry for Lucas. He's bullied, he has no friends, his parents don't know how to relate to him, his sister shows absolutely no interest in him and he has no other enjoyment but to torture animals all day. And that's before he gets shrunk and kidnapped in the middle of the night by giant ants that push him down various incredibly (comparatively) great heights and then threaten to eat him alive when he is completely helpless. All while he's completely naked. No wonder his eyes start leaking. Just as well the experience with the ants facilitates his growth into a better person and allows him to get rid of his bully while earning the respect of his peers in the process.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: The only part of Fugax visible when he's in the phone receiver are his eyes.
  • By Wall That Is Holey: How Fugax survives an attack from a phone receiver — he very luckily ends up in one of the receiver's holes.
  • Cassandra Truth: Only the grandmother realizes that Lucas has been shrunk by what she believes to be aliens. Tiffany thinks she's just crazy.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Alca root, introduced early on as an equivalent of Alka-Seltzer of Zoc's devising. Zoc uses it on the frog to save both Lucas and himself by making it belch him and Lucas out.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Mommo and the nameless "Smiley" water beetle.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Just how much resistance did the exterminator expect while packing all those weapons?
  • The Dog Bites Back: The ants get their own back at Lucas for his myriad torments and acts of cruelty. Then, Lucas himself turns the other kids against his tormentor, Steve, after one insult too many.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: The "Cross your heart" bit.
  • The Eeyore: The glow worm, who's quite glum in comparison to the smiley cloudcuckoolander beetle.
  • Enemy Mine: The ants and wasps, longtime enemies and competitors, ally to take down the exterminator.
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Stan Beals is last seen barely outrunning an angry swarm of wasps while on a tricycle.
  • Fantastic Livestock: The ants use caterpillars as livestock, specifically farming them for their honeydew.
  • A Father to His Men: The Wasp Leader is like this to his soldiers after he becomes enraged after one of his soldiers fell victim to Stan's poisonous fumes.
  • Forced Transformation: Lucas and the ants beat Stan Beals by turning him into a deformed version of himself, so misshapen that he can barely walk at the end.
  • Foreign Queasine: Lucas loves honeydew until he finds out what it is — excreta from the caterpillars the colony uses as livestock.
  • Friendless Background: Lucas is shown to not have any friends, which may also have been a motivation for him to bully ants.
  • Garden Garment: Since his clothes don't shrink with him, Lucas creates a new outfit using plants and shed bits of exo-skeletons.
    Kreela: Why is he covered in trash? Is he crazy? Because I don't teach crazy ants.
    Hova: No, no, no. He calls the trash "clothes". They like keeping their gender traits hidden. He's male.
  • Going Native: And going under 1 inch tall while you're at it.
  • Groin Attack: The Beetle and Glowworm fly up Stan Beals' pant leg during the battle to defend the colony. Searching for a target, the Glowworm remarks, "That looks vulnerable..." and the Beetle opens its mouth very wide. Cut to a view of Stan; there's a small but audible crunch, and suddenly the man grabs his crotch in pain, and his whole body distorts into an anguished-yet-silly posture.
  • Growling Gut: After eating honeydew and realizing that it's essentially caterpillar poop, Lucas' belly can be heard gurgling and rumbling up a storm as he fights back the urge to puke. Hova comes to the rescue with some alca root to settle his stomach with... albeit at the cost of making him burp after taking it, which is heralded by an even louder stomach growl.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: Lucas when he grows big again at the end.
  • Hartman Hips: Lucas' mom has them to a ludicrous extreme.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Wasps do this after teaming up and helping the ants against the Exterminator.
  • Held Gaze: Zoc and Hova have a particularly lingering one after Zoc has redeemed himself in Hova's eyes by putting his life on the line for Lucas.
  • The High Queen:
    • The Queen Ant is a wise and benevolent ruler, and while she's displeased by Lucas's actions towards her colony, she elects to give him a chance at redemption rather than just have him killed.
    • The Ant Mother, the first queen and ancestral figure of the ants, is portrayed as this in her worship.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Lucas' expression after eating honeydew and finding out what it actually is pretty much screams this before it culminates into him becoming Green Around the Gills.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Lucas, courtesy of the ants' shrinking potion, is reduced to the size of an ant himself.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Paul Giamatti as exterminator Stan Beals. Almost no difference — the goatee, the nose, the eyebrows.
  • Insect Gender-Bender:
    • The queen is female and huge, as queen ants are, but the other ants are bigendered — worker ants are exclusively female in real life.
    • The Glow-worm is a male. Glow-worms are actually all females — their male counterparts are the winged fireflies.
  • Insult to Rocks: Inverted for laughs. After the ants are attacked by tarantula hawk wasps and Lucas finds and uses a firecracker to scare them away, Fugax praises him by saying he now knows why Lucas is nicknamed "Peanut": "Because his brain is the size of a PEANUT!" To a human this would be insulting, but since ants are much smaller than humans, making peanuts comparatively much larger, it serves as a compliment among the ants.
  • Jerkass: Lucas, at first, but after his Character Development he becomes a Nice Guy by losing his emotional baggage and seeing the ants as people rather than easy targets for his post-bully rage. Steve, the bully in question, however, is a jerk even to his "underlings", and Stan Beals, the exterminator.
  • Magic Pants: Averted. Lucas' clothes don't shrink with him, so he's forced to make new clothes out of shed exoskeletons. The same occurs at the end when Lucas is returned to human size and his ant clothes do not grow with him. He quickly finds himself standing completely naked in the front garden.
  • Magic Staff: Zoc carries a staff topped with a green, glassy stone everywhere he goes. He can use it to shoot energy bolts, and can make it glow brightly to function as a light source.
  • Meaningful Rename: The Queen Ant gives Lucas the name "Rocai" as his ant name when he saves the colony from Beals.
  • Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: Lucas is known to the ants as 'Peanut the Destroyer' for his actions when he was full-sized. The Peanut part being a nickname from his mother.
  • Mirror Character: Lucas and Zoc. The former gets picked on by the latter in much the same way Lucas picked on the ants.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: This is the reason why Steve's gang turns against him courtesy of Lucas.
  • Mouse World: Inside the anthill.
  • Naked Freak-Out: Lucas tries desperately to cover himself once he's too small for his clothes, first by using a potato chip and later with a small leaf.
  • Naked on Arrival: Lucas' clothes do not change size with him when he is shrunk and reverted.
  • Naked People Trapped Outside: When Lucas grows back to his normal size, he finds himself stark naked in the front garden.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: The wasps. Unlike the other insects in the film, who are caricatured, the wasps look exactly like real wasps apart from their psychedelic coloration.
  • Official Couple: Though they have their differences, Zoc and Hova are shown to have an affectionate and caring relationship.
  • Oh, Crap!: Uttered word-for-word by a fly after getting swallowed again by a frog.
  • Oh, My Gods!: The ants often say "Praise the Mother" as an exclamation of joy or relief. Lucas thinks they're referring to the Queen Ant, but Hova tells him they mean the Ant Mother, "the Queen of queens" and the mother of the first ant colony.
  • Out of the Frying Pan: One of the bugs that escapes the frog with Lucas and Zoc cheers about being free before immediately getting eaten by another frog.
  • I Owe You My Life: The Wasps do this with Lucas after he saved the life of a soldier wasp from Stan Beals' poisonous fumes.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: Lucas is not afraid of the bully anymore after his experiences with the ants, which gives him the courage to stand up to him.
  • Product Placement: Jelly Belly™ jelly beans are the ants' favorite food.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Stan Beals' ultimate fate seems very harsh considering his actions are not really all that different from Lucas'. In fact, Stan was hired by Lucas to take out the anthill, meaning he's doing it for work, unlike Lucas who did it purely for his own sadistic satisfaction. He may be taking a bit too much pleasure out of his job, but he is unaware that the ants are intelligent creatures. At the end, Lucas gets to go home while Stan presumably has to live the rest of his life with a pretty serious disability. A deleted scene does try to show Stan's more of an Asshole Victim by showing that he never had permission from Lucas' father and in fact, his whole motivation for wanting a contract is so he could have one with every house in the neighborhood, meaning Stan exploited Lucas' own insecurities all for his own selfish gain.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: When you think about it, the exterminator is just doing the job he was hired to do. By Lucas, no less. Though he did bully Lucas into illegally signing the contract...
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Hova does this when she demonstrates what ants do instead of crying when they're sad.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Queen Ant, who simply decides that Lucas should live like an ant to learn the error of his ways. Likewise, the same would occur for Hova, who opts to give Lucas a chance to prove himself, while, her mate, Zoc would rather not.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Hova gives one to Zoc on his racism towards humans after the latter chases Lucas away.
    Zoc: I did it for you, for the colony....
    Hova: (sharply) You did it for yourself.
  • Rent-a-Zilla:
    • Early in the movie, Lucas is the monster "Peanut the Destroyer", who the ants perceive as a building-sized monster that regularly rains destruction on their colony.
    • Later on, the exterminator comes around and takes his place.
    • The frog fits this as well, to a lesser extent, from the point of view of the insects it swallows.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Zoc, a jaded, irritable wizard, and Hova, a kind and outgoing healer.
  • Scenery Censor: The animators makes use of this to maintain Lucas' dignity after he's been shrunk but before he creates his makeshift outfit. It's not entirely successful, as it occasionally displays his Barbie Doll Anatomy.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: Lucas wakes up in the middle of the night, shrunk down to the size of an ant. As he explores his surroundings he literally stumbles across his now-enormous pair of underpants that he shrunk out of.
  • Shot in the Ass: A very subtle example when Lucas gets pushed into the anthill. The ants repairing the colony take it in turns to guide the falling Lucas towards the Queen by shooting a web-like goo on him, the first stream of which hits Lucas straight in the butt.
  • Shout-Out: Lucas' outfit he makes after being shrunk, and for the final battle against Stan Beals, resembles Ant-Man.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • When Lucas asks Hova to cross her heart, she crosses her abdomen instead of her thorax like Lucas does, explaining to Lucas that her heart is in her abdomen. This is true about ant anatomy.
    • Some species of ants do "farm" other insects for honeydew, having something of a symbiotic relationship. Most ants that keep around "livestock" use aphids, but one family of butterflies does symbiote with ants while they are still caterpillars, the Lycaenids.
    • Ants do care for their wounded comrades: if an ant loses a limb, others will feed their crippled sister as long as she is able to beg for food with her antennae.
    • Ants do indeed have hierarchy among the workers: active foragers do the scouting and give orders to passive foragers (who do the heavy lifting but do not really look for the target unless ordered).
    • Ant vs. wasp clashes are very real, and red ants do use their acid to blast the enemy from the sky. Even the reason is realistic: wasps do hunt caterpillars, including those that prefer to hide among ants.
    • An ant, while small, can indeed drag something relatively large across a vertical surface.
    • While ants do not form "relationships" (that's a termite thing), they do recognize their fellow ants (i.e. specific individuals) and engage in complex communication, even trading resources with other ant colonies.
    • Ants have complex eyes. In the film, most insects have pupils, but you can see their eyes are made of small facets. When Lucas makes a lens out of a "discarded" eye, it shows the world in multiple facets as it's supposed to. It's also saying much that an ant seeing Stan's truck can recognize the movement very well, but not the details: this is how ant eyes work.
    • Unbelievably, ants use not just chemical weapons, but other objects against enemies they cannot defeat with their mandibles alone, such as soaking the noxious coating of slugs with pieces of sand. Be glad they are not human-sized indeed.
  • Toilet Humour: When reading off Lucas's List of Transgressions, among them is one only referred to as "the dreaded yellow rain!" Lucas contests that he really had to go that day.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The beetle, fly, and glow worm Lucas meets inside the frog's stomach don't seem especially shocked at the sight of a human child shrunk down to their size and in the same predicament as the three of them.
  • Villainous Badland, Heroic Arcadia: The ants live in the middle of a green and well-tended lawn, while the wasps nest in a patch of sandy desert dotted with cacti... and sitting rather incongruously in the middle of a manicured suburban garden.
  • Wedgie: The neighborhood bully gives one to Lucas in the beginning of the movie. It is made clear that Lucas gets them on a regular basis from the bully, as he complains that he's running out of underwear.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: No one knows what happened to Stan Beals after he got chased away by wasps.
  • Wicked Wasps: The chief recurring danger for the ant colony, besides Lucas himself, are the wasps also living in the garden, who regularly conduct raids on the ants and carry off their caterpillar livestock — and sometimes the ants themselves — as food. Notably, they're far less anthropomorphized than the ants: while the ant characters are depicted with human mouths and eyes and as standing upright and using their foremost legs as hands, the wasps are portrayed much more realistically with no grasping limbs and with sideways-opening jaws and blank compound eyes, giving them a much more alien and menacing appearance.


Video Example(s):


Ant Bully Teaser Trailer

The interviewer then clears his throat and points his finger up who got the part, as Beetle looks up, we see Lucas Nickle (with a mean look on his face) from Beetle’s POV, then it cuts back to Beetle, but from a different camera angle. It then cuts back to Lucas from Beetle’s POV as he proceeds to step on him. After he stomps on him, it then transitions to the film’s logo, along with text fading in, saying "STOMPING INTO THEATERS SUMMER 2006". Afterwards, it cuts back to Beetle, who managed to survive from Lucas stomping on him. Lucas steps on him again, as we only see his shoe. The beetle then weakly says “CUT!”.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / GiantFootOfStomping

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