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Without a doubt, the Collector's Edition of A BUG'S LIFE is the absolute best DVD that Walt Disney Home Video has released thus far. Walt Disney Home Video should take note of this DVD release and strive to deliver the same level of quality on each and every one of their future titles, particularly on their animated classics. That means that every animated title should be given a brand new high definition transfer, which can be down converted for DVD release. Additionally, special attention should be paid to all of the wide screen animated movies, making sure that they are enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Whenever possible, extensive supplements should be included with each animated title, or at the very least, the folks at Disney should make sure that no animated film is ever released again without the inclusion of some form of supplemental material.

A BUG'S LIFE comes from the folks at Pixar, a company that continually redefine the term state-of-the-art in the world of 3D computer animation. The plot of A BUG'S LIFE is a variation on the fable about the ant and the grasshopper with industrious ants working all summer, while the grasshoppers goof off. Of course, the fable gets turned on its ear in this incarnation of the story. Sure, the ants do all the work, but here the grasshoppers reap the rewards. In A BUG'S LIFE, the grasshoppers are running a protection racket in which the ants supply them with food and the grasshoppers protect the ants from being squished under their big bug feet. The ants don't question this yearly ritual, until an ant named Flik inadvertently causes the ant's annual bribe to the grasshoppers to be lost in a pool of water. When the grasshoppers arrive and discover that the ants don't deliver the food, Hopper, the leader of the grasshoppers, gives the ants until the end of the season to come up with more food... or else!

Unfortunately, there isn't enough time for the ants to gather food for both the grasshoppers and their own winter needs, so Flick decides to travel to the city where he hopes to find warrior bugs to defend the colony. Flick makes his way to the city, where he almost succeeds in his task. After a bit of confusion, Flick engages a troop of unemployed flea circus performers, instead of actual fighting bugs. Of course, Flick and the circus troop make it all the way back to the ant colony before he realizes his mistake, which leaves him with even less time to devise a new plan before Hopper and his grasshopper gang return to flatten the colony. A BUG'S LIFE features the fine vocal talents of Dave Foley (Flik), Kevin Spacey (Hopper), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Princess Atta), Hayden Panettiere (Dot), Phyllis Diller (The Queen), Richard Kind (Molt), David Hyde Pierce (Slim), Joe Ranft (Heimlich), Denis Leary (Francis), Jonathan Harris (Manny), Madeline Kahn (Gypsy), Bonnie Hunt (Rosie), Michael McShane (Tuck/Roll), John Ratzenberger (P.T. Flea), Brad Garrett (Dim), Roddy McDowall (Mr. Soil), Edie McClurg (Dr. Flora) and Alex Rocco (Thorny).

As I stated above Walt Disney Home Video has done a phenomenal job with their DVD Collector's Edition release of A BUG'S LIFE. The two-disc set offers the movie on one disc and the majority of the supplements on the other. Like the original movie only DVD release, A BUG'S LIFE provides both a wide screen presentation, as well as the recomposed full frame version. Each version appears on separate layer of the single sided DVD. However, unlike the initial issue, the 2.35:1 wide screen version of A BUG'S LIFE includes the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. For this release, the folks at Pixar have again utilized the original computer images to create the 16:9 master, instead of transferring the movie from a film element. Personally, I was astounded by the quality of the image on this new 16:9 enhanced presentation. As good as the unenhanced wide screen version looked on the original DVD, this version looks even better. With this release, the good folks at Pixar have created the best-looking DVD ever produced. The image is so clean, so crisp and so detailed that it truly pushes the limits of NTSC reproduction. Thanks to the stunning image quality of this presentation, the 3D animation truly looks three-dimensional. I can't wait to see what the Collector's Edition of A BUG'S LIFE looks like on a high definition display that is being fed a signal from a progressive scan DVD player. Color reproduction on this DVD is jaw dropping. Not only is the range of color fantastic, but also every deeply saturated hue virtually explodes off the screen. This kind of flawless color reproduction doesn't allow for any traces of chroma noise or bleeding. Even the blacks are absolutely perfectly rendered, thanks to this direct digital transfer. Digital compression artifacts never even enter the equation.

To complement the astounding visuals, A BUG'S LIFE features one of the best Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtracks ever created. The mix is highly aggressive, utilizing all of the discrete channels for sound effect placement. There is a fully realized sonic environment that allows the sound effects to effortlessly whiz, careen and bounce around the viewer in a full three-hundred-sixty degrees. Most impressive is how certain sound effects sneak up from behind the viewer on only one side, and then seamlessly move into the forward soundstage. The mix truly envelops the viewer in the microcosm of A BUG'S LIFE, without ever seeming claustrophobic. In fact, the sound has a wonderful spaciousness that makes ones own viewing area seem almost cavernous. The dialogue has been meticulously recorded and naturally reproduced, making it quite easy to pick out all the familiar voices behind the characters. Bass reproduction is full and deep, solidly reinforcing every impact in the film. Randy Newmanís music is pleasantly cheerful and well integrated into the mix. Other soundtrack options include a 2.0 stereo music track (on the wide screen version) and a 5.1 channel sound effects track (on the full frame version). Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English. The interactive menus are modestly animated in the style of the film and contain sound effects. Through the menus, one can access the standard scene selection and set up features. Disc one provide only one important supplement, which is a running audio commentary with director John Lasseter, co-director Andrew Stanton and film editor Lee Unkrich. The commentary track is a must listen for any fan who want to hear the creators talk about a project near and dear to their hearts.

The majority of the DVDís extensive supplements can be found on disc two. Watching all the supplements provided by the good folks over at Pixar is going to take a serious amount of time, heck the supplements run longer than the film itself. Everything presented here is quality stuff, without the kind of filler that sometimes finds its way onto other collectorís edition DVDs. Various members of the Pixar production team introduce the supplements, which are broken down into the following categories: Pre-Production, Production, Sound Design, Release, Outtakes and "Geriís Game."

Pre-Production starts off with a goofy in house progress film called the "Fleabie" Reel. Story and Editorial looks at the early story treatment of film. Research takes an actual camera down to a bugís eye view of the world where the filmmakers get their ideas for the filmís actual design. Design features the actual drawing and paintings that served as the starting point for characters and settings that would be modeled in the computer to create filmís 3D world. Production starts off with Behind-The-Scenes Of A Bugís Life, which is a featurette about the making of the film. Voice Casting introduces the viewer to the actors behind the characters in the film. Early Tests features test footage created for the purpose of actually figuring out how to animate various characters and settings and make them appear organic. Progression Demonstration utilizes the multiple angle feature of the DVD format and takes the viewer through four phases of the animation process.

Sound Design takes a look at how sound effects were created and chosen for the film. Release includes Theatrical Release and Video Release sections. Theatrical Release features Posters/Ad Campaigns, which are a series of stills and artwork. Two theatrical trailers and a specially created Character Interviews reel fill out the section. Video Release takes a look at how the movieís 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio was reframed for full screen video. This section includes a featurette and examples of the reframing process. Outtakes include a featurette about the filmís outtakes and alternate outtakes, which were part of the filmís end credit sequence, as well as the outtakes on their own. "Geriís Game" is, of course, Pixarís Academy Award winning short film for 1997. Of course, my description does not do justice to these supplements, which every fan of A BUG'S LIFE is certain to savor.

Both Disney and Pixar deserve resounding applause for the Collectorís Edition DVD of A BUG'S LIFE. I am sure such a DVD would never been produced, if it were not for the fine folks at Pixar whose overwhelming enthusiasm for the project is clearly evident in the final product. Personally, I canít wait for TOY STORY and TOY STORY 2 to come to DVD because I know that the folks at Pixar are not about to disappoint fans. The only negative thing I can say about the Collectorís Edition of A BUG'S LIFE is that the $49.98 asking price is going to scare away some consumers. Despite the high price, this is one DVD that belongs in the collection of every animation fan. Absolutely recommended.


A Bug's Life (1998)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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