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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Bug's Life, A: Collector's Edition (1998)

Bug's Life, A: Collector's Edition (1998)

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Released 17-Mar-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Menu Animation & Audio
THX Trailer-Sweep
THX Optimizer
Alternate Audio-Sound Effects Only
Isolated Musical Score
Audio Commentary-John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
Main Menu Introduction-Disc 2
Featurette-"Fleabie" Reel + intro; Storyboard Pitch; Research
Gallery-Original Treatment + intro; Design + intro
Storyboard Comparisons-+ intro
Deleted Scenes-2 + intro
Featurette-Behind the Scenes of A Bug's Life;Voice Casting; Early Tests
Multiple Angles-Progress Demonstration + intros
Featurette-Sound Design
Theatrical Trailer-1.66:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:06)
Interviews-Character-+ intro
Featurette-Reframing Featurette; Reframing Examples
Outtakes-Featurette; Original Outtakes; Alternate Outtakes
Featurette-"Geri's Game"
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 91:01 (Case: 93)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Lasseter
Andrew Stanton

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Dave Foley
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Kevin Spacey
Phyllis Diller
Roddy McDowall
John Ratzenberger
Bonnie Hunt
Jonathan Harris
David Hyde Pierce
Richard Kind
Denis Leary
Madeline Kahn
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $39.95 Music Randy Newman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Isolated Effects Track Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Let me see now. First I got the Region 1 plain Jane version. Then I got the Region 4 plain Jane version. Then I got the Region 1 collector's edition with all the extras that should have been on the first release. Now I have the Region 4 collector's edition release. Aside from the fact that this is exactly the stupid game that the distributors want us to play, what have I learned from the episode? Well, the movie itself is still a really enjoyable view for one. Second, familiarity breeds contempt (sort of) - the more I watch the film the more faults I find in the transfer. Third, nearly everything included in the extras is not very good, as it adds little if anything to the film. Moral of the story? Always wait for the Collector's Edition if extras are important to you - eventually the release will come - and never be surprised when the extras are not worth the wait. Sorry to be so cynical, but the more I thought about the four versions of the DVD release I now have, the more convinced I am that extras are generally a waste of DVD space. Sure there are exceptions, such as gems like Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, but extras of such quality seem to be rarer than groundbreaking animation films these days.

    Since there may actually be someone, somewhere who has yet to see the film, I remind you that this was the second blockbuster feature length computer animated film to come from Pixar Animation Studios. The first was of course Toy Story, but in terms of animation this leaves that historic film for dead. As for the story, this simplistic little tale is best divulged by quoting verbatim my review of the earlier plain Jane Region 4 release.

    Erstwhile hero Flik (Dave Foley) is a worker ant (who dreams of greatness) in a colony subjugated by a band of ravenous grasshoppers led by Hopper (Kevin Spacey), who annually descend upon the colony to partake of a food offering. After a particularly problematic annual visit, as a result of Flik destroying the annual food offering, the Queen's daughter, Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), agrees to send Flik off in search of warrior bugs to rid the colony of the grasshoppers - at least that is what Flik thinks; she really just wants to get rid of the meddlesome inventiveness of Flik. As a result of his mission, Flik hires a flea circus troupe of bugs believing them to be mighty warrior bugs, and when they arrive back at the ant colony they are greeted as saviours. What follows is the confrontation between the ant colony and the grasshoppers, as the ants come to realise that the natural order of things is not what they have been led to believe, and the warrior bugs are definitely not what they thought.

    Whilst I still do not believe this is anything superior in the story stakes, the fact that even after repeated viewings of the film (I must have watched this about thirty times now - five times in this review session alone) it remains an enjoyable romp suggests that the story tellers at Pixar did their job par excellence. Animation as an art form I suppose allows the story to be refined far more than normal film if time is not of the essence, and it would seem that this was the case here.

    I seriously doubt too many people have not seen the film, and equally doubt that many would not have the film in their collection already. Since it has taken about two years to get the Collector's Edition released in Region 4, I equally doubt that those people really interested in the extras would not have already sourced the excellent Region 1 release. So exactly where does this DVD release fall in the cosmic scheme of things? Basically, too little serious quality, far too late would be my view. However, if you have not indulged the film in any previous DVD incarnation, then you should certainly be looking at indulging this as soon as it becomes available at a special price. Another recommendation for those who don't have the film yet.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    One thing that has always struck just about anybody who has seen the transfer in its various DVD incarnations has been the superb quality of it. After all, this is a digital to digital transfer and therefore should be perfect, right? Well I used to think so, but five viewings of the feature this time round has certainly drawn my attention to the flaws in this transfer. As such, since I am not going to go back right now to compare all three previous incarnations that I own, the suggestion would be that this is not just a straight port of the earlier Region 4 release but is a new remaster - and one that is not without some blemishes.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.30:1, very close to its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. In the hunt for space for the myriad of soundtracks on the DVD, the Full Frame version found on the earlier Region 4 release has been lost. To some extent this is a shame, as it is certainly referred to in the extras and it was like no other Full Frame presentation seen, as it was genuinely a reframing to retain as much as possible of the original look of the film. Anyone want to bet on a Special Collector's Edition with it restored into the package?

    The original Region 4 release had superlatives tossed at it with gay abandon by just about every reviewer, and justifiably so. How much has changed on this new release? Not a lot really. Whichever way you look at it, the original release remains one of the best transfers ever seen in Region 4, and this is no slouch either. There is nothing at all wrong with the superb definition, the shadow detail is exquisite as you would expect in digital animation, and the transfer is as clear as clear can be. There is not the slightest indication of grain and if you were to even suggest there being any low level noise present, the bods who put this gem together would be baying for blood.

    The colours in the earlier transfer were simply without peer, despite my minor qualms about the slightly muted, pastel look that I have always believed should have been done slightly differently. Still, it is Pixar's film, not mine, so they did it the way they wanted and there is no doubt that this looks the goods throughout. The sublime wonder of the colours is best evidenced by the change in Heimlich's colour as he watches the kids play about the warrior bugs vanquishing the grasshoppers. This rarely works in film but you sure cannot miss it here. The suggestion that there might of course be a slight hint of over-saturation or colour bleed in the transfer would likely invoke the wrath of the Pixar gods. There ain't any.

    So we get to the bit where everything is not perfect and the reason why I am suggesting that this might be a remastering and not just a direct port of the earlier Region 4 release. Whilst there remains nothing in the way of MPEG artefacts in the transfer, five viewings of the film for this review has indicated that aliasing is certainly present in the transfer. Now it is not really of great issue and I will admit that five quick views in a few days would certainly have contributed to how easy my eye picked up the instances. Nonetheless, Hopper's eyelids (as well as others) seem to have a slight propensity to aliasing, as does various parts of Slim's anatomy at times. Instances of this aliasing can be seen at 12:52, 14:01, 18:32 and 20:35, to which can be added some aliasing in the bird's nest at 40:13. Again, I stress that this is not major stuff, but on my equipment it is certainly present. Adding slightly to the troubles is some pixelization of the ground at 1:38 and 50:39, both during camera motion forward or backward. Aside from these minor issues, there are no other problems with the transfer. Film artefacts are of course completely absent as this is a digital to digital transfer.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD, but unfortunately I have not been able to verify where the layer change is located. There was no obvious issue during playback to indicate the presence of the layer change.

    There are two subtitle options available and I sampled both the English and the English for the Hearing Impaired efforts. These are very good and have no significant issue with them.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, an English dts 5.1 soundtrack, an Isolated Effects Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, an Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. I listened to all the soundtracks, since I felt like being a masochist for the session.

    Whichever soundtrack you choose to listen to, there are absolutely no complaints whatsoever. Dialogue, music and effects are very clear and easy to understand. Whilst this is animation, every effort has been made to match the animation to the spoken words and the result is something that is definitely as close to in sync as you can get with animation.

    The score by Randy Newman, who seems to be heading to composer-in-residence status at Pixar, is good and it contributes well to the film, especially with the recurring use of the main themes throughout the film. Whilst his music is, like so many other film composers, developing a familiarity about it, it generally seems to suit the films all too well. The isolated music score demonstrates how well the music has been integrated into the film. Whilst it is not the best soundtrack to try and listen through completely, you certainly do gain a degree of appreciation for the task that was accomplished so well.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack seems to be the same as that presented on the original Region 4 release and is quite excellent. It has always been one of the genuine demonstration efforts as far as I am concerned, and a soundtrack guaranteed to wow anyone who dared come near my system in the earlier days. Several years on the soundtrack has certainly not lost any of its impact, with the only minor qualm being that it is not at the full 448 kb/s bitrate. This is a gloriously detailed soundtrack with some wonderful use of the surround channels, especially echo effects through the rear channels. Some of the subtlety in the soundtrack was a joy to listen to, and I still feel this to be a better soundtrack than the Region 1 version. The overall soundscape is quite wonderful, and you certainly are made to feel part of the whole presentation. The bass channel provides some really solid support to the whole soundscape. For the style of film, I really don't think you could wish for better.

    The dts 5.1 soundtrack, even at the half bitrate of 768 kb/s, is one gorgeous effort too. To my ears it has more body and presence than the Dolby Digital soundtrack, and perhaps a degree more detail too. This seemed to be immediately evident to my ears in the opening ten minutes or so of the film, where there just seemed to be oodles of subtle ambient insect noise floating out of the rear channels in particular. The sound also seems to have slightly more clarity to it, which I am presuming is a function of the additional bitrate (but hey, I am no expert!). Everything that is so good about the Dolby Digital soundtrack is here too and possibly slightly better. My demonstration soundtrack is no longer the Dolby Digital 5.1 effort but rather this dts 5.1 soundtrack.

    The Isolated Effects Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is quite an interesting listen. Whilst I don't think for one moment that I will ever watch the film with just this soundtrack playing again (you can by the way have English subtitles on during this soundtrack, so you can still make sense of the film), I am certainly glad to have listened to it once. It provides a glorious understanding of how the effects were employed in the film, and just how good they are when the dialogue and music are stripped away from the overall sound mix. I have no problem at all with any aspect of this soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    When Disney put their mind to it, they can put together an extras package that not just keeps up with the rest but sets new standards that the rest have to aspire to. I am thinking along the lines of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs here, but this is not the only example to date. Such packages are certainly heavy on quantity but also on quality. That, my friends, is what the problem is here. The quantity here is fine but the quality just leaves me with an unquenched thirst. The more I thought about what I was going to write here, the more I came back to the point that there was really very little here that made me sit up and take notice. Most of it is now ho-hum sort of stuff and adds little to the enjoyment or understanding of the film. Maybe that is a result of the length of time that it has taken for this package to be released here, and thus it has been overtaken by other, better packages. Whatever the reason, this is a good but by no means great package in overall quality.

    Unless otherwise stated, the extras are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, are not 16x9 enhanced and come with good Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The extras involving dialogue usually have German subtitles too.


    Nicely done throughout, quite simple but very effective, especially with the moderate audio and animation enhancement.

Disc One:

THX Trailer - Sweep

    Almost as bad as the Dolby Digital City trailer that Columbia TriStar likes to use. What exactly is it supposed to do apart from annoy the listener as they scrabble around the settee looking for the remote to turn the blast of noise down?

THX Optimiser

    For those who still believe that THX might actually have some value in the overall home theatre thingy.

Isolated Sound Effects Track

Isolated Music Score

Audio Commentary - John Lasseter (Director), Andrew Stanton (Co-Director) and Lee Unkrich (Supervising Film Editor)

    For those familiar with the incumbents at Pixar, courtesy of commentaries on other DVDs (albeit possibly not in Region 4), you know what you are about to receive. Now don't get me wrong, these guys are really enthusiastic about their work and it nearly always shows. It's just that I am finding their schtick just a little bit grating. Still, if you can hang in there, you might find some kernels of wisdom that might just enhance your enjoyment of the film. Then again, perhaps you will not. By their standards, a typical effort.

Disc Two:

    This disc contains the bulk of the extras in the package and is split into six distinct sections:

    Each section will be discussed in turn, but the overall comment is that once again there is nothing in this somewhat disjointed effort that really adds to the film experience. Re-reading my review for the Ultimate Toy Box, I note that I made a very similar comment regarding that effort. It is a bit of a worry that obviously talented people cannot come up with a more cohesive approach to substantive extras about the ground-breaking films they make. The extras disc starts with an introduction from John Lasseter (Director), Andrew Stanton (Co-Director), Darla Anderson (Producer) and John Reher (Producer), that leads into the main menu.

Pre Production:

"Fleabie" Reel

    After a 1:04 introduction from John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Darla Anderson and John Reher, and of course Fleabie, that explains what the Fleabie Reel is about, we actually get to see all 3:21 of the reel. This is basically a very rough pitch of the story that was done to show to the higher ups what was intended with the film that was at that time known as Bugs, and the progress thereon up till that time. The quality is pretty mediocre and I am sure that the higher ups must have wondered what sort of people were employed at Pixar!

Story and Editorial

    This section is broken down into five sub-sections:

Research (5:26)

    After another introduction from the directors that leads straight into the body of the film itself, we get to see footage that was shot mostly with a miniature camera at bug-eye level of grass and stuff. There is also some documentary footage inserted of things such as insects. The purpose of the footage was to give the animators some bug-eye level reference material with which to understand the nature of simple stuff like grass to vastly smaller fauna. Inserted into the footage too is some of the completed film to show how the research footage directly influenced the film. The inserted footage suffers from aliasing at times and the documentary stuff is somewhat blighted by film artefacts. The research footage itself is a tad grainy, but given the nature of the film this is perhaps to be expected. It is also not of the best quality - again to be expected.


    This section is broken down into four main sub-sections:


Featurette - Behind The Scenes Of A Bug's Life (3:31)

    A wholly inadequate EPK-style presentation that does not in anyway do the film any justice whatsoever. I mean three and a half minutes for a film of this stature? Waste of time and a waste of space. The film excerpts included are very prone to aliasing.

Featurette - Voice Casting (4:16)

    Whilst slightly more interesting and slightly less intolerable in length, this EPK-style presentation is once again woefully inadequate. The interviews with the voice stars is too short and the humour and input that is referred to so frequently in the audio commentary is simply absent here. The audio commentary certainly gives the impression that there was a heck of a lot more than could and should have been included in this. Technically nothing really awry.

Featurette - Early Tests (5:28)

    Precisely what it says it is - a look into the early tests undertaken to see if the film would actually work and indeed if it was actually possible. Interesting enough but (repeat after me) woefully inadequate! Technically quite good.

Multiple Angles - Progression Demonstration

    This looks at the Flaming Death sequence (2:14 in length) with respect of four aspects of the production: the Storyreel, Layout, Animation and Shaders and Lighting. Again, nothing that we have not seen before and even the marvels of Pixar animation cannot wholly overcome the fact that this is even now becoming quite trite. Each of the four segments is preceded by an introduction from persons involved with that aspect of the production. These introductions run 1:50, 0:47, 0:56 and 0:52 respectively. Whilst you can watch each segment in its entirety, you can also switch between segments by using the angle function on your remote. Technical quality is very good.

Sound Design:

    The only section in the extras package that is self-contained. This runs for 13:12 and looks at where the sounds used in the film were sourced and mixed. Mostly this is split into segments which start with the raw sound recorded and then show how this sounded in the final mix after processing. Quite interesting in many ways, although some of the sound sources are way too obvious. I doubt that too many would not recognise the unmistakable sound of the UH-1 Huey helicopter as the source of the sound for Dim's flying noise. Quite interesting though as this is still not an overly common extra.


Theatrical Release

    This is split into three sub-sections:

Video Release

    This is split into two sub-sections, which interestingly both deal with an aspect of the video release that we do not have included in the Collector's Edition - the reframed Full Frame presentation. Bit bizarre really...


Featurette - End Credit Outtakes (3:49)

    A short EPK-style presentation detailing the success of the outtakes and the decision to do a second set for use in the film three weeks after release - in order to encourage people to come back again to see the film of course. Mainly interview material with various people associated with the production detailing their choice for best one. If you had never seen the outtakes (yeah, right), this gives them all away just about. Technical quality is fine.

Original Outtakes (2:35)

    Full Frame presentation of the original outtakes.

Alternate Outtakes (2:35)

    Full Frame presentation of the alternate outtakes.

Geri's Game:

    Absolutely nothing to do with the film, but a superb example of digital animation from Pixar that won the 1997 Oscar for Best Animated Short. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 that is 16x9 enhanced. Excellent stuff as far as the film and animation is concerned, but it is somewhat afflicted with aliasing, most notably involving the table and Geri's glasses.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version misses out on:

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

    For those whom dts sound is the bee knees, then obviously the Region 4 release is the way to go. For those whom something not quite hacked in framing is the bees knees, then the Region 1 release is the way to go. To add to the confusion, the Region 1 release has the Isolated Effects track only available on the Full Frame version, with the Isolated Music Score and Audio Commentary only available on the widescreen version of the film. For those who have no version of the DVD in their collection, then I would suggest the Region 4 release is the way to go based upon the additional, and quite excellent, dts 5.1 soundtrack. Certainly there is nothing significant in the video transfer to detract much from the choice. We are assuming that the Region 1 re-release of the DVD due shortly (27th May, 2003) has no significant change to the previously released version.


    As pure entertainment, A Bug's Life is an essential inclusion in any DVD collection. However, unless you are desperately in need of dts sound there is no reason to replace your earlier Region 1 or Region 4 release, as the extras might be long on quantity but are decidedly short on real quality.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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