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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

A Bug's Life [Blu-ray]

 

(John Lasseter + Andrew Stanton, 1998)

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Pixar Animation Studios

Video: Walt Disney Pictures

 

Disc:

Region: ALL (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:34:53.281

Disc Size: 44,687,633,665 bytes

Feature Size: 22,774,554,624 bytes

Average Bitrate: 32.00 Mbps

Chapters: 36

Case: Custom Blu-ray case

Release date: May 19th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 4617 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4617 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1-ES / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English, French, Spanish, none

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentary with Director John Lasseter

Geri's Game – in HD (4:55)

• Behind the Scenes of A Bug's Life – SD (16:45)

• Preproduction – in SD (34:10)

• A Walt Disney Silly Symphony: Grasshopper & the Ants – in HD (8:15)

• Outtakes – in HD (8:18)

• Digital Copy Disc

• Free Ticket to Pixar's upcoming movie, "UP"

 

Extras (BRD Exclusive)

A Bug's Life – The First Draft (10:49)

Filmmakers' Round Table (21:00)

• BDisney Live

 

 

Description:

Journey inside the world of bugs in this epic of miniature proportions. Crawling with imaginative characters, hilarious laughs, and colorful animation, Walt Disney Pictures Presentation of A Pixar Animation Studios Film, A Bug's Life. In this 2-disc set you'll step behind the scenes for a look at the innovation and teamwork that resulted in this ingenious film.

Bonus Features Include: Filmmakers Round Table with John Lasseter, Kevin Reher, Darla Anderson, Andrew Stanton, A Bug's Life: The First Draft full animated sequences from storyboards and Pixar's original story treatment, Story treatment introduction by John Lasseter, and more.

 

Comment:

1998 was an important year for Pixar as it demonstrated that their first feature film, Toy Story, wasn't just a fluke.  While not of its predecessor's caliber – that was an adventure yet to come – A Bug's Life certainly certified the animation studio's credentials.  A Bug's Life was also the victim of bad timing – some would say, espionage – in that Dreamworks SKG Animation released its bug anime, Antz, just seven weeks earlier.  This had to have taken a bite out of Pixar's apple, though I felt that there was plenty of room in the garden for both films – and still do.

 

A Bug's Life broke new technical ground for 3D animation in that it appears to breathe life into organic life as nothing before.  Check out the plants around bug island.  The usual plastic leaves and flowers have a responsiveness to their environment that was astonishing for its time.  Now, it's kind of old hat, though it still requires dedication and money to pull it off.

 

As with Toy Story, A Bug's Life benefits from its relentless textural density, an entertaining tale, clever dialogue, and brilliant voice casting – some from unexpected sources (e.g. Phyllis Diller), one young upandcoming star (Hayden Panettiere), a relative unknown as the lead character (Dave Foley), and a handful of character actors who breathe life into their bugs, just as Pixar does with their art work (Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus), David Hyde-Pierce, Madeline Kahn and Denis Leary).

 

 

 

The Movie : 8

The story, a parody of Seven Samurai, goes like this: A colony of ants gathers food for themselves, but also leaves a sizable portion of their best leavings for the grasshoppers who visit seasonally, eat their fill and move on.  Not this year.  Flik is an accident-prone inventor ant who inadvertently releases the entire hoard of goodies into the pond moments before the grasshoppers arrive.  The grasshoppers make it clear that bad things will happen to the ants if they don't pull their weight, foodwise, next time.

 

The ants are angry at Flik, but realize they may not be able to put together the required meal in time.  So Flik offers to go out into the world in search of warrior bugs who, it is hoped, will save the ants from the big bad bugs.  Flik happens on a team of circus performers and mistakes their act for the real thing.  The circus critters, friendly little buggers all, for their part believe they are being hired for an out of town act.

 

Image: 10/10  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.  The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

 

Well, things have been set right on this new Pixar/Disney Blu-ray.  Color saturation is vivid, without bringing attention to itself, and we don't have to wait for the circus scenes to see something resembling black.  Detail in the shadows have a life and texture that adds dimensionality to what was a fairly flat affair in it previous video incarnation.  There is a crispness heretofore entirely missing.  (Funnily enough, the DVD was advertised as the "world's first DVD created directly from the digital source – Pristine picture and sound.")  As we would expect from a transfer from an original digital source, there are no blemishes, neither are there artifacts or enhancements to take us out of the movie

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music : 9/9

Three musical scores for animated feature films were nominated for Oscars that year, the others being the beautifully rendered Mulan and the otherwise forgettable Prince of Egypt.  All lost out to Shakespeare in Love, for which the Academy kind of had a thing, as did I.  Randy Newman had done major work on Toy Story and would do so again on the sequel and for Monsters, Inc., for which he won the Oscar, and Cars.

 

The sound design for A Bug's Life is quite fascinating, as it mixes mostly stand-in effects for the whirring and buzzing that makes up a considerable part of its texture.  The uncompressed audio mix is as much an upgrade over the DVD as is the image.  Everything has weight, yet is transparent.  We can hear layers upon layers of effects, as when the grasshoppers first crash through into the anthill, sending everyone scurrying about.  The bass is full bodied, but never feels exaggerated just for effect.

 

Operations : 8

Loading time is as usual for a BD-50, perhaps a skosh quicker. The menu design may not be much to look at, but it is highly functional – up to a point.  It  provides summary information with timings, and even allows you to choose to bypass the many introductions to the various production supplements.  And here's where it gets into trouble – simply by forgetting to offer a Play All for the Behind-the-Scenes and Preproduction featurettes, each divided into five subgroups.

 

 

 

Extras : 8

Though organized differently, nearly all of the supplements from the 2-disc DVD are ported over to the Blu-ray and, in addition to a few new HD bonus features, there is the digital copy disc and a free ticket to Pixar's soon to be released "Up" (good at participating theatres until 7/31/09.)  There's a game or two not found on the Blu-ray (no biggie) and Nemo's Fishy Facts seem to have escaped the hook.  The new exclusive to Blu-ray pieces are the color storyboards with story narration for the bug movie's First Draft – very nicely done in HD.  Then there's a twenty-minute roundtable with directors John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, and producers Darla Anderson and Kevin Reher.  This recently recorded piece intercuts a sparkling 16x9 HD image for the roundtable bits with mixed quality upscaled SD archival sources of various sizes.  It's pretty much a summary of the production, detailing how things stood with Pixar after the release of the first feature, Toy Story; the first draft; the voice casting, and the sound design and animation challenges.  This is a well designed piece on its own terms and fascinating to see how success affected the neck- and waistlines of our panelists as we go back and forth across the decade.  I don't recall seeing Disney's Silly Symphony: Grasshopper and the Ant on the DVD, but it is included here, and in 1080i to boot.

 

 

Recommendation: 8

At long last we can see A Bug's Life as it was meant to be seen – and heard.  The image and sound are awesome - to the point that the overall impression of the movie has gone up a point in my estimation.  The new HD bonus features are worthy additions, especially the retrospective Roundtable with the directors and producers.  Thumbs Up.

Leonard Norwitz
May 9th, 2009

 


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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