A Bug’s Life often ends up toward the bottom of any “Pixar, Ranked” list. Such lists are perhaps unfair, since, with only one or two borderline exceptions, the studio has yet to produce a “dud”. Still, to watch it is to watch the crawling baby that was Toy Story find its legs and run.
Flik is less of a worker ant and more of an inventor ant, who spends more time designing cool harvesting inventions than he does helping the rest of the colony pick seeds to pay off a horde of grasshoppers. After he accidentally knocks all the seeds into the river, he leaves the colony on a search for a warrior insect to help save the colony from the grasshoppers. He soon makes it to the city, where a bit of miscommunication results in him enlisting the help of a bumbling troupe of circus insects who think he is an agent who is going to give them their big break.
I remember watching this film for the first time several years ago and expecting more of a classic Pixar vibe, and being somewhat disappointed. While the animation is light years ahead of Toy Story and definitely foreshadows the great art to come, the story is far simpler and slightly less compelling than titles like Finding Nemo, Up, WALL-E, or the more recent Inside Out.
This time around, however, I found myself enjoying it a lot more. It’s still not what I would call “classic Pixar,” but it’s a solid offering nonetheless. Flik is an optimistic young soul—perhaps the kind of ant we need at a time like this, in the middle of a pandemic. He’s anything but oblivious to the situation in which he lives—something that cannot be said of the rest of the colony, who seem to find nothing wrong with being coerced into gathering seeds for lazy grasshoppers.
He spends his time inventing new methods to make the work easier and less tedious—which would benefit the colony greatly, though they see him as an outlier who doesn’t contribute much. And yet he never really notices that the colony isn’t fully behind him. Or if he does, he doesn’t show it, and it doesn’t stop him from forging ahead full steam to make their lives better.
Yes, eventually it all works out, and (spoiler alert!) some of his ideas are adopted, but what drew me in most was Flik’s upbeat, undaunted attitude—a good reminder for all of us that there’s more joy to be found in cheerfully contributing than in seeking external validation of our efforts.