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A Bug’s Life

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A Bug's Life (1998) starring Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey
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A Bug’s Life (1998) starring Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey

A Bug’s Life – Can a dreamer save his colony from bullies? Can second-rate circus bugs prove to the world — and themselves — they have worth?


Buy from Amazon A Bug’s Life is one of Pixar’s finest movies. It tells several interlocking stories, and tells them well. The audience genuinely cares about the animated characters. Even one of the bullies. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In a sense, A Bug’s Life is The Magnificent Seven, animated, with a lot of comedy. Only the Seven think of themselves as zeroes, not heroes. They’re recruited by Flik, the central protagonist. He wrongly thinks they’re a group of great fighters. Actually, they’ve all just been fired from a third-rate circus, after an act went horribly wrong. But, they wrongly think he’s a talent scout, so they go along.

Once they’re at the colony, they find themselves gradually starting to care about their clients. And, once Flik realizes what they aren’t, he works out a plan for what they can be. And, rescue the colony. Of course, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. So, being performers, they improvise! And, it works.


  • Dave Foley (Sky High) … Flik. The central protagonist. An inventor, whose inventions rarely work. But, he’s determined to help the rest of his ant colony against the bullies. Especially the lovely Princess Atta.
  • Kevin Spacey (Superman Returns) … Hopper. Chief antagonist. The leader of the grasshopper bullies, that come and steal the ant colonies’ food annually, leaving them barely enough to live on. He know what the ants don’t: they greatly outnumber the grasshoppers, and if they stand together, can stand against them.
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld) … Atta. The princess, next in line to be queen. She’s trying very hard to be ready to accept her responsibilities. Too hard. But, she’s a kind, likable bug.
  • Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) … Dot. Atta’s younger sister, who’s almost got her wings. Young, inquisitive, trying to grow up too soon. A sweet kid.
  • Phyllis Diller (Eight on the Lam) … Queen. One of my favorite roles for Phyllis Diller. Still funny (“It’s our lot in life. It’s not a lot, but it’s out life!”), but also caring & concerned. for both her daughters & the entire colony.
  • Richard Kind (Inside Out) … Molt. Hopper’s younger brother, whom Hopper barely keeps himself from murdering. He doesn’t have the killer instinct. The most likable of the grasshoppers. I love his happy ending.

The circus bugs

The circus bugs in "A Bug's Life"
  • David Hyde Pierce (Hellboy, Treasure Planet) … Slim. The stick bug. Who wants to be more in the circus than a prop.
  • Joe Ranft (Toy Story) … Heimlich. The very overweight caterpillar.
  • Denis Leary (Ice Age) … Francis. A very sweet character. A male lady bug, who’s tired of being mistaken for a girl. But, with the help of the young ants, he gets in touch with his feminine side.
  • Jonathan Harris (Lost in Space, Battlestar Galactica 1978) … Manny. I absolutely love this performance as the pompous, but not very good, magician. Though by the end, he absolutely shines in his performances for the grasshoppers, in a critical distraction. “Manny’s getting good!”
  • Madeline Kahn (Clue) … Gypsy Moth. Manny’s assistant. A nice person.
  • Bonnie Hunt (Zootopia, Cars) … Rosie. The nicest black widow spider you’d ever want to meet. Kind, friendly, even protective.
  • Michael McShaneTuck / Roll. The gymnasts, who speak their own language. That nobody else understands.
  • Brad Garrett (Gleason) … Dim. the large rhino beetle, that Rosie looks after. Very large, but childish. Almost a baby.

Other bugs

  • John Ratzenberger (Toy Story) … P.T. Flea. The understandably grumpy owner of the circus. He fires the circus bug for extreme, and painful, incompetence. Later, he tracks them down and blows their cover at the ant colony.
  • Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes) … Mr. Soil. One of the Queen’s helpers and advisors. A great performance by a great actor.
  • Edie McClurg (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) … Dr. Flora. Another of the Queen’s advisors.

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