Classic CrawlersJohn Lasseter Discusses the New Bug’s Life Blu-ray

Fans of Pixar’s 1998 holiday movie A Bug’s Life had reason to rejoice this week as Disney released a new Blu-ray High-Def edition of the movie on Tuesday. Directed by John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, Pixar’s second feature was a follow-up to the hugely popular Toy Story and was often considered to be far superior to DreamWorks’ CG-animated insect movie, Antz, which was released in October of the same year.

“We are so proud of what we were able to achieve with A Bug’s Life,’ says John Lasseter during an early morning phone interview from his car as he drove to Pixar. ‘It was such a big advance from Toy Story‘the wide screen, the depiction of the crowds, the animation of the organic insect world was quite challenging. I think we all felt that the movie was kind of treated as the child that people had forgotten about, with other movies like Toy Story, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Cars being more in the limelight. In fact at the studio there’s this impromptu thing that we call the Bug’s Life Appreciation Week.’

Lasseter, who attended the special opening night screening of Pixar’s 10th feature Up at the Cannes Film Festival last week, says he and his team knew that the technology they were working with on A Bug’s Life was advancing at a tremendous pace. ‘We didn’t worry about whether the film was going to look dated, because what was important to us was the story and the characters. That’s the lesson I learned from my mentors Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston at Disney. What makes the movie succeed is the story and the characters that entertain an audience. Looking back, I think it’s one of the most beautiful movies we’ve made, despite the fact that animating organic shapes and nature was such a challenge after the simpler toys in Toy Story.’

The new Blu-ray release offers a high-definition, newly re-mastered version of the feature, which takes the ants vs. grasshoppers story to new comedic and adventure territories. Some have even suggested that the storyline pays homage to Akira Kurosowa’s masterpiece The Seven Samurai. As expected, the team at Disney/Pixar has packed the release with numerous extras and fun features.

‘All the extras included in the previous DVD release are on the Blu-ray, but we also like to offer new material,’ notes Lasseter. ‘There’s a filmmakers forum/roundtable where you’ll find the film’s co-director Andrew [Stanton] and producer Darla Anderson, Kevin Reher and I reminisce about the making of the film’it’s funny and entertaining. When we first began working on the story, the main character Flik was actually part of the circus troop’in the final version, he is part of the ant colony and he hires the circus performers to fight the grasshoppers. So we went back to the original storyboard and made a little movie based on the original premise, and Dave Foley (who plays Flik in the movie) has done a great job of narrating it. I think it’s interesting to sit back and watch it as the camera moves between the drawings.’

The Blu-ray disc (retail price: $39.99) also includes a story treatment intro by Lasseter, the Oscar-winning Pixar short Geri’s Game, Disney’s Silly Symphony short The Grasshopper and the Ants (1934), storyboard-to-film comparisons, outtakes, character interviews and a DisneyFilm Digital Copy of the movie (iTunes and Windows Media formats)

Although our brief interview time was drawing to a close, we were lucky to get Lasseter’s take on Disney’s exciting new year. ‘I think it’s pretty evident that there’s a lot of animation out there and lots of techniques and so on,’ he adds. ‘We’re really excited about pushing the barrier in 3-D films’we made Knick Knack in 3-D back in 1989, but there were no theaters that we could show it in. We are really happy with the reception Up has been getting’which is Pixar’s first 3-D movie.’

Disney’s chief creative officer is also looking forward to November when the studio releases The Princess and the Frog, its first return to traditional animation since 2005′s less-than-stellar Home on the Range. ‘It’s a musical fairy tale by the team of Ron Clements and John Musker who did The Little Mermaid, and I have to tell you it feels great. I love it’I've always loved it’and the feeling was why aren’t we making these films? What’s old is new again. The music is by the amazing Randy Newman’.it’s going to be unlike anything you’ve ever seen!’

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