Sunday, June 22, 2008

Seven Days of PIXAR: A Bug's Life

Here's part two of my personal retrospective on the PIXAR catalog. Enjoy...

I never saw A Bug’s Life during its theatrical run. To this day, it’s the only PIXAR film that I haven’t seen on the big screen. I think everyone agrees that the film isn’t one of PIXAR’s strongest, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still significant. It’s the first ever DVD release to come directly from the digital source instead of a film print. A Bug’s Life made $363 million dollars worldwide, over double the gross of another insect-themed movie, Antz, which was released a month earlier (and which I DID see in theaters).

What’s my experience with A Bug’s Life? Near as I can remember, I saw it on video sometime in the summer of 1999. My family had just moved to our current residence, and I didn’t have much to do aside from watching movies and getting to know Greensboro. I remember renting two movies that day. A Bug’s Life and Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line. I never got around to watching the latter, having opted to watch A Bug’s Life a second time instead, and to this day haven’t ever seen it.

In the years since first seeing the film, I’ve rewatched it a handful of times, and have generally enjoyed it. It’s not as groundbreaking as Toy Story (nor simply as good), but there is some breathtaking animation at work, and the story is a classic example of what PIXAR is all about: simple stories that engage kids of all ages, even cynical jerks like yours truly.

Just a year ago, I ended up writing a ten-page essay on A Bug’s Life as influenced by the films of Akira Kurosawa (particularly as a remake of Seven Samurai). The week I wrote that paper, I ended up watching the movie three or four times, and at least twice in a row. I haven’t seen the movie since then, but I’ve got a good feeling that it’ll be like a warm blanket the next time I decide to pop it in.

In the PIXAR catalog, A Bug’s Life is probably the least remembered film, which is a shame, because it’s certainly not the worst. John Lasseter’s direction is refreshingly free of the kind of irony that plagues lesser animated films, and kids films in general. It’s definitely saying something to say that even the worst PIXAR film (which this isn’t) is still better than most other cartoons out there.

Come back tomorrow for my thoughts on Monsters, Inc.

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