A Bug's Life



Cute animated tale with some mild peril and scary bugs.
Popular with kids
  • Review Date: May 19, 2003
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1998
  • Running Time: 95 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

A very elementary look at insects: each species has a purpose and a place in the circle of life. In this film, individual bugs are given personality, identity and purpose, which may help engender kids’ respect for nature.

Positive messages

Teamwork, resourcefulness, and courage can defeat a seemingly stronger enemy. Solutions to great problems can come from unlikely sources. It’s important to believe in yourself and have faith in your abilities. Nature has a certain order which is to be respected: "The sun grows the food; ants pick the food; grasshoppers eat the food; birds eat the grasshoppers."

Positive role models

Family relationships are important and special even in the insect world. Mothers provide for and protect their offspring. Flick, the hero ant, is smart, caring, loyal, and so brave that he’s willing to sacrifice all for the sake of his colony. At first he faces ridicule and self-doubt, but ultimately he saves the day, and everyone learns to value and respect him. Other species rise above their fear and join the team in order to survive.

Violence & scariness

In cartoon terms, there are scary, intimidating bugs and birds, as well as some jeopardy to the film’s heroes involving fire, rain, falls, and capture. A troop of grasshoppers led by the fierce Hopper threatens the ant queen’s life, bullies the ant colony, swarms menacingly several times, and captures key ant players. Birds, looking for food, are enemies to all the insect species and swoop down perilously close to those most vulnerable. Flick, the bravest ant of all, is set upon by lots of other characters. He’s hit, captured, and nearly killed. There are numerous clever, nail-biting rescues, and the chief baddie is the only fatality.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable

A few instances of "poo-poo," "butt," and "damn."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there’s lots of "good bug-bad bug" cartoon action and some images that could be scary to very young children who have not yet differentiated make believe violence from real violence, or to sensitive kids who are not comfortable with suspense or jeopardy. Scowling, threatening grasshoppers loom over and swarm toward a colony of vulnerable ants, the heroes of the story. The insects contend with fire, rain, predatory birds, as well as the power hungry grasshoppers. Older kids will enjoy the clever humor and the unique view of the insect world, as well as the interspecies conflicts.

What's the story?

When Flik inadvertently loses the food tribute set out by the ants for the predatory grasshoppers, he must find a way to protect his community. In the spirit of The Magnificent Seven, he goes off in search of warrior bugs to fight the grasshoppers. He mistakenly hires a group of unsuccessful vaudevillians from (of course) a flea circus, who think they are being booked for a performance and have no idea he expects them to fight. But they turn out to have just the right stuff to help the ants fight the grasshoppers after all, and Flick gets to prove that he is a hero at heart.

Is it any good?


Oddly enough, this wasn't the only computer-animated movie about bugs to come out in the fall of 1998 -- Antz was released just a month before. The difference between the two animated bug movies is exemplified by their lead characters. Antz has Z, voiced by Woody Allen as -- well -- Woody Allen, angst-ridden, in analysis, searching for individual identity in a world of conformity. A BUG'S LIFE has NewsRadio's Dave Foley providing his voice as Flik, an All-American ant-next-door type who is inventive, brave, and loyal.

Helped by outstanding voice talent, the rest of the movie's characters are quirky and endearing enough to make you forget they are computer-animated. Lending their voices are Seinfeld's Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Phyllis Diller, Kevin Spacey, Spin City's Richard Kind, Frasier's David Hyde Pierce, and John Ratzenberger of Cheers. Antz was largely brown, but this movie uses a paintbox of color to produce stunning images with luminous tones. You'll need to see it twice to appreciate the scope of the movie's visual wit and technological mastery.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the bug world. How many bugs can you name? How do bugs communicate in real life? Why do you think ants and bees live in such big colonies? How do they benefit the earth?

  • Families can also discuss bullies, and how to deal with them. What was Hopper's perspective on power? What did the ants do to combat the bullies? Have you ever encountered real-life bullies?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 25, 1998
DVD release date:May 27, 2003
Cast:Dave Foley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Spacey
Director:John Lasseter
Studio:Pixar Animation Studios
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Bugs, Misfits and underdogs
Run time:95 minutes
MPAA rating:G

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bydan4 April 9, 2008

Cute movie, some iffy language

We have a two daughters - a 5 year old and a 2 year old. Obviously there are certain words & phrases that we do not use in our house - two of them are "stupid" and "shut up", both of which were used quite a bit in this movie. The movie is very cute - our girls loved it, but they, especially the 5 year old, caught every "bad" word and pointed them out to us each time they were mentioned. I probably wouldn't have let them watch this movie if I known ahead of time that these words would be used.
Parent of a 5 year old Written byzelita May 16, 2010

would never 5-8 year olds see this

If you remove the little bug creatures, this movie becomes an adult movie, with all its ingredients of violence and language abuse. The gang mentality to squash or diminsh other groups; the beating up; the threatening. Replace Hoper and the little ant heroe during his beating by Hoper for human beings, try to imagine it as you hear the sounds, and then decide for yourself you if would ever want your young children to see this. When we start at such early age to expose our children to such level of aggression, we are actually working towards disensitizing them.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent of a 5 year old Written bybenjaminb February 28, 2010


The creators of this movie could have accomplished far more in making a worthwhile children's movie if they omitted all the unnecessary violence, humiliation, name calling, hostage taking of a child bug, reference to suicide, etc.. How removed these movie makers are from what childhood is about. Just another typical bad modern kid's movie.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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