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|Kevin Krock, editor|
In terms of reviews, this one is about as easy as it gets: If you already have the original collector's edition DVD set from a few years ago, keep it and do not bother with this updated set. The only differences between the two sets are the addition of two minor set-top games and one Finding Nemo trailer. In the first game, you help Heimlich eat a melon by matching melon pieces. The other game is a trivia game with Francis the Lady Bug. Neither of the games held my attention, and my 4-year-old did not care for them either. As for the Nemo content, it is a lot less than I had anticipated based on the DVD cover and press release and a bit disappointing.
While these additions do not warrant upgrading, if you do not own this set yet, read on and be sure to pick up this new set. Besides the minor content additions to the already outstanding collection, the price of the set was reduced to Disney's standard MSRP of about $30, so you should be able to find it for around $20. As you will see below, the content is top notch, and the price is reasonable enough that it should be part of your home video library.
I've lost count of the number of times I've watched this movie on DVD. I really enjoy the animation, the environments, the colors, the sounds, the characters, the... you get the idea. The folks at Pixar truly are master storytellers with their computer canvases.
The story starts with an island-bound colony of ants and their annual task of providing food for a bunch of mean ol' grass hoppers. An independent-minded ant named Flik and one of his inventions cause some serious trouble for the colony, and to help remedy the situation, he suggests that he leave the island to find "warrior bugs" that will help them fight the grass hoppers.
Through a series of miscommunications, Flik finds a group of circus bugs that return with him, and the rest of the movie revolves around the interactions of this colorful band of bugs and their new ant friends as they all prepare to deal with the grass hoppers. It all makes for a fun and enjoyable "underdog versus the villain" storyline that works well with the computer animation.The Goodies...
If it's goodies you want, the Collector's Edition (CE) certainly delivers a full dose! This two disc set has multiple versions of the movie on one disc and the supplemental material jammed onto the other. The Gold Classic Collection is a very watered down version of the movie disc in the CE package, and for what you get for the price, upgrading to the CE version is worth every penny.
CE Disc #1
Heck, the first CD disc alone is worth paying a little extra for... First of all, you get your choice of the movie in widescreen or full-frame (I'll talk about the details later). Then, after you've watched the movie, you can watch it again in widescreen with the great running commentary by John Lasseter the director, Andrew Stanton the co-director and co-writer, and Lee Unkrich the supervising film editor. The commentary has all sorts of cool little insights like how a scene was developed or changed over time. It's obvious that these folks have a lot of fun working their magic.
The other two features are interesting additions, and they round out the first disc quite well. The first is an isolated music track - no dialogue, no sound effects, just Randy Newman's soundtrack. The second is an isolated sound effects track - like the music track but only the sound effects. Cool stuff.
CE Disc #2
This is where the hard-core, "Super Genius" DVD edition of "A Bug's Life" really takes off. All of the features are listed in the column to the right, so I'm just going to mention a couple of my favorite supplements. The first is the early presentation reel "Fleabie." This was used to show industry people how Pixar was progressing during the development of the movie, and it gives the viewers a good sense of the fun and hard work that goes on behind- the- scenes.
Another is the great section on story development and the storyboarding process. And, I can't forget to mention the 1997 Academy Award-winning short "Geri's Game." I absolutely love the facial animation. (Keep an eye out for Geri in Toy Story 2 as the toy repairman...)
However, I think my absolute favorite feature of the second disc is the section on the outtakes. There is a featurette on how the concept was developed, and several of the filmmakers talk about their favorite outtakes. Best of all, both sets of the outtakes are independently accessible and in full-frame. No more looking at them as part of the credits! You get all of the hilarious scenes filling up your entire screen. It's a wonderful touch.
As Disney and Pixar's first attempt at a CE on DVD, this collection of supplemental material set the reference mark for what constitutes a Disney Collector's Edition, and there is a ton of cool stuff to keep you busy for hours. Younger kids may not find some of this stuff interesting, but it's worth having the material around when they do start to ask about how a film like this is made - it makes great reference material.The Video, Audio and Interface...
This DVD was the first to be produced completely in the digital domain. By that, I mean that the original digital animation files were directly used to generate the compressed digital files that are stored on the DVD. This differs from the "normal" way of creating the compressed digital movie files on a DVD because usually those files are created from a digitized version of the master film print. Doing this can cause loss of fine detail color imbalances, and other picture degradation. However, by keeping everything digital or on a computer, the result is an amazingly clear and detailed picture throughout the movie. The colors are bright and saturated, and even on a regular TV, this DVD looks fantastic.
Actually, there are two different versions of the movie available on the first disc. There is the widescreen version, which is enhanced for widescreen TVs, and there is a full-frame version. While some folks like the widescreen version, like me, Pixar wanted to take the computer animation technology one step further and create a full-frame version just for the home video release that had all of the visual impact of a widescreen version. To do this, they basically had to "reshoot" the entire movie by digitally moving characters around the set, creatively panning the camera, cropping scenes and adding additional animation to the top and bottom of the widescreen image. This is stuff that just can't be done with conventional movies, and the result is a version of the movie that stays true to the filmmaker's vision and looks good on a regular TV. There is a nice featurette on the "recomposing" process on the second disc.
Sound-wise, you couldn't ask for any more. Both versions of the movie on the first disc are in 5.1 Dolby Digital, but they still sounded great after being down-converted by my DVD player to Dolby Pro-Logic (2.0 channel). Even in plain stereo it sounds good! The isolated Dolby Digital 2.0 music track is coupled to the widescreen version of the movie, and the isolated Dolby Digital 5.1 sound effects track is only available with the full-frame version. However, all this really means is that you'll get to watch the movie in both full-frame and widescreen to fully appreciate the audio features of the first disc. In all cases on the first disc, the sound is clear, well balanced and just plain great, and the quality of sound on the second disc is equally top notch.
The user interface is simple and functional. The backgrounds of most of the menus are animated with softly swaying trees, leaves, grass, and so on, and it has some ambient, yet subtle, "nature noise" playing in the background as you move through the menu screens. Between the beautiful menu backgrounds and the birds chirping, it really makes you feel like you are out in a field. Ah, the magic of surround sound... Selecting movie chapters from the menus on the first disc is easy, and changing the set up to any of the other audio or video options is equally easy.
The menus on the second disc have a bit deeper hierarchy because of the volume of material, but they are well structured and easy to navigate. There aren't any audio or video "options" to set on the second disc, so the menus simply direct the viewer to the various supplemental items.
The Final Evaluation...
This movie was a big hit when it was originally released, and a lot of that was due to the beautiful animation and environments, the characters, and the story. With the CE version of "A Bug's Life," the viewers not only get to watch this movie again and again but also get an excellent behind-the-scenes look at the very talented people and hard work that went into creating this movie.
The goody package is one of the best that I've seen, and I hope Disney's other CE versions meet this high standard. Technically, the video and audio are virtually perfect - I certainly didn't notice any problems or glitches. The interface is simple and clean, and just about everyone should be able to get around, including kids.
My personal recommendation - just buy the Collector's Edition and forget the other version. Yes, it costs a bit more, but you just get so much great stuff! Even if you never watch the supplement disc, the stuff on the movie disc alone is worth it.
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