We have a tradition here at Beyond The Box Set, of starting each new year with a Pixar animated classic. This year, we landed on A Bugs Life – an early classic that helped establish the studio as serious visual innovators after the success of the first Toy Story movie.
It was interesting watching this one virtually back to back with Soul, Pixar’s 2020 release which adheres more to the kind of high-concept formal experimentation that the studio have become known for. One of the most striking things about watching A Bug’s Life back, is just how modest it feels. While Soul challenges children to grapple with existentialism and the mysteries of existence, the essential message of A Bug’s Life could be boiled down to – bullying = bad.
That isn’t necessarily a criticism – there’s a refreshing simplicity to a Bug’s Life, even if it doesn’t strike nearly the same emotional chords as an Inside Out or a Coco. It feels like a children’s movie in the classic sense, and while the plot is thin, the visual humour is delightful from start to finish.
On its 1998 release, A Bug’s Life was at the centre of a messy studio dispute between Disney Pixar and their rivals at Dreamworks, who rushed out another insect-based animation, Antz, just a few months earlier. The controversy didn’t hurt the box office for either movie, but time has certainly been kinder to A Bug’s Life in the long run, particularly in terms of the visual innovations. Not having Woody Allen voice the lead character helps, too – although the presence of Kevin Spacey as a villainous grasshopper is… unfortunate.
Tune into this week’s episode to hear our thoughts on the two films, and why we think A Bug’s Life comes out ahead. As this is one of the relatively few Pixar movies untouched by the sequel machine, we also had a go at pitching some of our own. Let us know what you thought of our ideas in the comments below…
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Next week, we hit a major milestone and celebrate it with a journey back to where it all began… so until hen, happy listening and remember – you don’t need wings to be a butterfly.