Antz vs A Bug’s Life: Battle of the Ant Story

In October 1998, Dreamworks Pictures released Antz (1998), one of the first computer animated films about a worker ant named Z, who longed for something more meaningful in his life. Just over a month later, Disney released A Bug’s Life (1998), a film with a similar premise featuring a worker ant named Flik who sets out to find a solution to the menacing grasshoppers who harass his colony. Antz was directed by Tim Johnson and Eric Darnell and stars Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sylvester Stallone, Danny Glover, Gene Hackman, Jennifer Lopez, Christopher Walken, and Dan Aykroyd. A Bug’s Life was directed by John Lasseter and stars Dave Foley, David Hyde Pierce, Kevin Spacey, Bonnie Hunt and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Both films were one of the first to feature computer animated characters and both films were about how a single ant changes the lives of his ant colony. Talk about seeing double! YouTubers Ben from the channel SuperCarlinBrothers, AniMat from his channel ElectricDragon505 and Couch T, discuss their reviews and comparisons of the two animated films.

Ultimately, Disney would push the release date of A Bug’s Life up one month from December to November, getting it out just 43 days after the release of Antz. And at that point, it was really up to the public to decide and honestly, the winner, not super clear.

YouTuber Ben dives a little deeper into the history of the two animated films citing the rivalry dates back to Jeffrey Katzenberg’s departure from Disney. When Katzenberg, a former producer at Disney who is responsible for hit classics such as The Little Mermaid (1989), Aladdin (1992), Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Lion King (1994), was passed up for the role of President of Disney animation, he left the company to create his own called Dreamworks SKG. Meanwhile, after the success of the first Pixar animation film Toy Story (1995) by producer John Lasseter, the two film studios have started to dabble more into the usage of computer animation and through sheer coincidence or stolen ideas, the two studios are now in the production of releasing films featuring the life of ants.

Naturally and quite fairly if you ask me, Lasseter assumed that Katzenberg had stolen their idea … Katzenberg claiming that the idea came from a pitch from a development director long before.

A predictable plot, uninteresting main character, but with an engaging story and nice animation, is how YouTuber AniMat describes A Bug’s Life. It's your typical underdog story, says the YouTuber who finds the emotionally charged moments is what makes the film much more attention grabbing despite having an unoriginal theme.

They did succeed in conveying the emotional aspect. Making many of the scenes feel intense, charming, heartwarming or just plain enjoyable.

Animation wise, the YouTuber does recognize the film was in very early stages of computer animation, but praises its ability to bring to life these creative background settings and even smaller details in the characters in how each of the different bugs are created and move about in the bug universe.

The best aspect of the animation is definitely the background. Making the most ordinary small things look larger than life. It successfully captures how birds and rain are considered a threat to ants and taking stuff like cans and boxes and turning them into buildings.

Antz featured a similar story premise but one aspect that stands out most is the all-star voice cast that seem to outshine their representative characters, making the film feel more like he was watching the actor’s performances rather than the characters they were playing, according to AniMat.

Yes they do fit the role well, but maybe they fit too well. The characters have so much in common in terms of their personality and trait to their voices that you can only see the actors and not who they’re playing.

One major difference between the two films is the way the ant and bug characters look visually, says the YouTuber. A Bug’s Life is full of colorful varied scenery and bugs that look more cartoonish, whereas in Antz, they are portrayed in a more humanlike ant/hybrid with darker color tones of browns and greys.

If I do have to put in some criticism here, it would be more on the character design. It would seem like it’s trying a realistic route by making a human ant hybrid and although it's admirable that they can make them look individually different, there is a bit of an uncanny feeling how they try to look like something that should be in our world.

Ultimately YouTuber AniMat rates both films a 7/10.

YouTuber Couch T. cites small but impactful differences in the main characters of the two films. They are both worker ants who end up falling in love with the princess ant, but go about pursing their love interest very differently. In A Bug’s Life, Flik is a shy guy who lacks the confidence to show the princess what he’s capable of, while in Antz, Z is an overconfident guy who makes his moves right away despite coming off as sometimes arrogant.

In both films the main ant is fighting to win the love of her royal highness or whatever. With Flik being the skinny silent type, he misses golden opportunities to get her digits like the part where they’re on the dance floor and everybody’s doing the macarena and he’s too shy to dance with her. But with Z being a more, in your face, let me take you to my place kind of guy, he starts slow grinding on the princess and stuff.

In the end, the ants realized the power they have in numbers and band together to finally rid their colony of the menacing bugs threatening them. However, each film run time in which they realize their worth is quite different, according to Couch T.

The villain's worst nightmare comes true in both animated features. All of the ants realize that they’re the workers that control the means of production and they should be the ones in charge. But it takes them about 44 minutes to discover this in Antz and about an hour and 20 minutes for it to sink in, in A Bug’s Life.

Both films feature a fully computer animated cast of characters about the life of one ant and how his decisions impacted the life of his ant colony, yet are visually different in their presentation of colors, depiction of characters, and the background scenery of the insect world. Is there a clear winner?

YouTubers Ben from SuperCarlinBrothers, AniMat from ElectricDragon505 and Couch T., review, rate and compare movies and TV shows on their channels regularly.