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A Bug's Life

A Bug's Life
A Walt Disney Home Video Release
1998, 95 Minutes, Color, Rated G

Starring:  Dave Foley, Phyllis Diller, Julia Louise-Dreyfus, Kevin Spacey, John Ratzenberger, David Hyde Pierce, Madeline Kahn, Dennis Leary
List Price:  $34.99 USD, released 04/20/99
Packaging:  Keepcase, Region 1 NTSC
Disc Format:  Single Sided, Dual Layered (DVD-9)
Aspect Ratio:  1.33:1 (Recomposed), 2.35:1 Widescreen
Audio Formats:  English 5.1
Subtitles:  English
Closed Captioning:  English
Features:  Geri's Game Animated Short, Two Sets of Outtakes, Interactive Menus, Scene Selection

The same folks that created Toy Story now bring to your home theaters a new 3D animated movie, A Bugís Life. In this genre the story line is more or less merely an excuse to show off the computer animation, but A Bugís Life manages to be more than eye candy. Itís a lively and entertaining experience for kids with oodles of beneath-the-surface humor for adults. Just try and find all the hidden "bug"-related references, both visual and audible! The classic timeless fable of the grasshoppers and the ants is retold with imagination and originality. But in the end, everyone that Iíve seen this with hasnít come away impressed with the just the story. No, theyíre overwhelmed by the absolutely fantastic computer animation. Thereís no way to adequately describe the quality and detail that went into this movie without actually seeing it.

And so we come to the best way to watch this film Ė on DVD. The minds at Pixar have made the first purely digital DVD transferr, creating what is possibly the best looking disc to date. The software that rendered the theatrical version was again used to create a new version at the proper resolution for DVD, from where it was compressed with MPEG at a higher than average bitrate. With no analogue in-between steps such as those involved with a traditional film transfer, the end product is virtually perfect. No dirt, grain, noise, color shifts, scratches or flickering. Since antialiasing was enabled on the computer side there are no jagged lines or "crawling" on the edges of sharply contrasting objects.

Whatís more, the disc contains two unique film versions: the 2.35:1 widescreen theatrical presentation and a recomposed full-screen version. No, this isnít merely pan-and-scan or a full-frame composition. It actually involves creating a second version of the movie with many of the characters repositioned so they properly fit on television screen proportions. Scenes where important bits would normally have been cut off on a traditional pan-and-scan have been tweaked and adjusted so that everything fits properly. Both film versions feature the same eye-popping quality and bright, cheery colors. 22 chapter stops are spread across the 95-minute film, and as a nice bonus the mandatory FBI warnings at the beginning of the disc can be fast forwarded.

Much attention has been paid to the audio side of this disc as well. A lively orchestral score is complemented by countless humorous sound effects and well-read dialogue. All 6 channels are actively used throughout the movie with aptly placed directional effects. No background hiss, static or pops can be heard anywhere: this is one movie that you can crank up the volume and not be disappointed. The disc features Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and english subtitles.

Unlike every other Disney DVD to date, A Bugís Life actually includes a few extras. Youíll find the four-and-a-half minute long 1997 Academy Award winning animated short Geriís Game in 1.85:1 widescreen, plus both theatrical sets of end-credit "outtakes". These are very amusing and are the perfect ending to the movie, so itís a pleasant surprise to find them included. Reel one is presented in both widescreen and fullscreen versions, however reel two is only available as letterboxed (although according to Pixar a recomposed version was mastered). As a slight disappointment, no theatrical trailer is included. The disc is dual-layered and holds a total of 7.7 gigabytes.

Even though I would have enjoyed more extra features, such as a making-of featurette, design sketches, commentary track or isolated music score, I am still very impressed with this disc. It comes highly recommended to viewers of all ages.

- Reviewed by Daniel Tonks on May 18, 1999.

Video Quality:
Audio Quality:
1-Poor 2-Fair 3-Good 4-Excellent
System Equipment
Sony DVP-S500D DVD Player
Sony STR-GA8ES 5.1 Receiver
Sony KV-27V65 27" Television using S-Video
Nuance Spatial & Star Series Speakers

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