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Friday, 5 February, 1999, 11:50 GMT
A Bug's Life: Disney does digital
BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson in Washington reviews Disney's latest animated blockbuster.

Disney is the king of low-tech animation. When computers were rooms full of vacuum tubes barely capable of basic math, the magicians at Disney sucked us into a fantastic world of lush images and compelling story lines.

Now Disney with computer co-creators Pixar has staked claim to the throne of high-tech animation. While all those pixels of eye candy often lead to plot rot, Disney and Pixar have continued to show that technology doesn't have to get in the way of a good story.

Heimlich is an endearing circus bug
The film built on the success of the film Toy Story, posting a record first weekend of $45.7m.

First off, the computer-generated landscape is full of lushness even a Luddite would love. From the swoop of the opening scene to the final fantastic chase through a richly rendered downpour, this is a high-tech tour de force.

But Pixar walks the talk of its corporate motto that "no amount of technology can turn a bad story into a good one."

OK, the story trades on a retooled version of the David and Goliath story. An ant colony living on an idyllic island is terrorised by a swarm of hopped-up grasshoppers, but the characters even more than the time-tested story bring the film to life.

Flik, with the vocal talents of Dave Foley, has more mental muscle than co-ordination. Looking to work smarter and not harder, he wants to develop tools to help with the harvest, even though most of the food goes to the greedy, good-for-nothing grasshoppers.

Hopper, voiced by Kevin Spacey, is the villain
Unfortunately, he trips over his own invention and loses the grasshoppers' half, but he offers to make things right and bring in the troops. Unfortunately, Flik and a group of circus bugs have a misunderstanding over the meaning of "knock 'em dead."

The circus bugs are a collection of endearing quirks, and the vocal talents really shine. Denis Leary is a ladybug with an overdose of testosterone. Don't hit on this ladybug. He hits back.

Kevin Spacey lends his vocal talents to gravely voiced grasshopper honcho Hopper. Hopper wouldn't have to squash a single bug to make the viewer believe that he was evil on six legs.

This is a feast with a starter, a main course and a dessert. For the starter, Pixar shows off its Academy Award winning short, Geri's Game. In this chess game, an elderly man finds more than his fair match.

But don't rush for the doors when the feature is done. The dessert shows that even computer-animated characters make mistakes.

A Bug's Life is on release in the UK from 5 February.

Pictures courtesy of Disney/Pixar

See also:

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