A Bug's Life

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

A Bug's Life is the second computer-animated film from Pixar. It's something of a twist on the fable "The Grasshopper and the Ant" meeting The Seven Samurai with a bit of Three Amigos thrown in for good measure.

The movie begins in a peaceful ant colony, which yearly is terrorized by a biker gang-esque group of grasshoppers (led by the intimidating Hopper), and the ants are forced to give them an offering of food. One year, an ant named Flik (considered a nuisance by the rest of the colony due to his inventions, which often cause more trouble than they're supposed to) accidentally knocks the offering into the nearby creek. Hopper forces the ants to re-gather double the usual amount of food, giving them until the end of autumn (or "when the last leaf falls"). The ants are worried, particularly because they won't have enough food for themselves over the winter if they gather enough for the grasshoppers, so Flik volunteers to redeem himself by recruiting "tough bugs" to fight Hopper and his gang. Seeing an opportunity to get Flik out of the way so he doesn't mess anything else up, the colony's ruler-to-be, Princess Atta, lets him go on his quest.

Flik travels to "the city" (a bug city underneath a trailer), where he meets a bunch of recently-fired circus bugs. After seeing them perform one of their acts, Flik mistakes them for warriors, and takes them back to the colony. The circus bugs are initially shocked when they find out why they're there, but eventually begin to love living in the colony, and agree to help Flik come up with a plan to defeat the grasshoppers.

A Bug's Life, like most Pixar films, was a critical and financial success, and, with its Hilarious Outtakes, also started the Credits Gag tradition in Pixar movies. It did not, however, receive the universal acclaim of Toy Story. Its Rotten Tomatoes grade was the third-lowest of any of their films (at a rating of 91%) for the longest time, with only Cars and Cars 2 having lower grades before films like Brave, The Good Dinosaur, and Lightyear came out. Even with worse-performing films coming out, it's not as widely remembered as their other films and is considered their most underrated.

But after spending over two decades away from the spotlight, Pixar would finally throw it a bone with A Real Bug's Life in 2024. However, it isn't really a sequel or even a spinoff so much as it is a documentary about insects that uses its branding. Still, it's something!

Tropes used in A Bug's Life include:
  • Adorkable: Flik, in spades! Especially thanks to some really wonderful character animation.
  • Anyone Can Die: Played with in form of the junior ants. First, they make a painting of the good warrior bugs and bad grasshoppers battling, and they painted one of the good guys dead because their teacher said it would be more realistic that way. Then, they perform a play of the battle, in which apparently, everyone dies.
    • The scene where they show them the paintings becomes a Funny Aneurysm Moment, as the one they depicted dead was Heimlich, who was voiced by Pixar mainstay, Joe Ranft. Ranft passed away in 2005.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Tuck and Roll speak complete gibberish. While their nationality is left ambiguous in the film itself, some promotional material refers to them as Hungarian.
    • The closed captions for the DVD say "Speaking Foreign Language."
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The goldfinch.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: At the end of the film, The Queen gives her crown to Atta, thus marking her as the new queen of the colony, and Dot takes Atta's former "Princess Crown" for herself.
  • Ax Crazy: Hopper, especially when he's pissed. Thumper in general.
  • Bamboo Technology: All of Flik's inventions, including some complex gear-based devices, are done with twigs and grass and whatnot.
  • Batman Gambit: How Flik tricks Hopper into getting himself killed. Also doubles as a Kansas City Shuffle because Flik "looked left" and Hopper "fell right".
  • Battle in the Rain: With an interesting twist--because these are tiny bugs, the raindrops are enormous and fall like bombs.
  • Becoming the Mask: The circus bugs go from pretending to be warriors to fighting alongside the ant colony.
  • Black and White Morality: Pixar's most prominent example, particularly because Hopper is truly evil, without a Freudian Excuse or sympathetic motivations.
  • Blunt Yes: In the outtakes.

Hopper: Are you saying I'm stupid?
Atta: ...YES! Ah hah hah...

  • Book Ends: Opens and closes with shots of the ant island from a distance.
  • Brick Joke: "Pretend it's a seed, okay?"
  • The Brute: Thumper. He's so vicious the other grasshoppers have to keep him on a leash for most of the time.
  • Burping Contest: Between Tuck and Roll in the Hilarious Outtakes. It ends with a fart.
  • Bullying a Dragon: While the grasshoppers are much bigger than the ants, the ants are far more numerous, and by the end of the film they just decide they've had enough, stand up to them and force them to run away. Hopper is somewhat Genre Savvy about this and actually bullies them to make sure they stay intimidated, but knows if they ants were stand up to him together than there would be nothing he could do about it.
  • The Cameo: |Woody appears in one of the outtakes.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Tons. The spider and the praying mantis get along just fine with the other bugs, though all bugs are afraid of birds. The outtakes reveal that the bird is non-sentient (it's a giant mechanical prop).
  • Catch Phrase: Manny's "HOW DARE YOU!"
    • Tuck and Roll's "You fired!"
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: A three-way one with Molt's line:

Molt: And the birds eat the grasshoppers!

    • The protagonists get attacked by a bird. And then build a massive mecha-bird. And then trick Hopper into getting eaten by a bird.
  • City of Gold: P.T. Flea sings "the streets will be paved with golden retrievers".
  • Darkest Hour: The colony brought it upon themselves by ostracizing Flik and P.T. Flea's entire circus when the truth about the "warriors" was revealed. They're accepted again when they become Big Damn Heroes (P.T. Flea's circus by putting on an act for the grasshoppers and rescuing the Queen from being squished by Hopper by way of Manny's magic act, and Flik by unleashing the bird he, the circus, and the rest of the colony built to scare the grasshoppers).
  • Description Cut:

Atta: The caterpillar's using himself as LIVE BAIT!
Ant: How brave!
Heimlich: Ahhhhhhhh!

  • Disappeared Dad: Atta and Dot's father is nowhere to be seen.
    • Justified, because it's an ant colony, and male ants who mate with the queen die shortly afterwards.
  • Disappearing Box: A variation is used by Manny to help the queen escape from her execution.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Watch the first scene with Hopper and Atta. Go ahead, watch it as many times as you like. It will soon start sounding like a conversation between an abusive boyfriend and his scared-shitless girlfriend.
    • Maybe this scene will remind you of something less sexual and more political.

Hopper: You let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up! Those "puny little ants" outnumber us a hundred to one. And if they ever figure that out, there goes our way of life! It's not about food. It's about keeping those ants in line. That's why we are going back!

Atta: Not every bug would face a bird. I mean, even Hopper's afraid of 'em.
Flik: Yeah, well you know it was... (Beat) Say that again.
Atta: I said, even Hopper's afraid of birds...

  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Apparently the only reason Hopper hasn't killed his brother Molt yet. It seems she made him promise her on her death bed that he wouldn't kill him - possibly because she knew he'd do it if he didn't promise. Also involved in a Crowning Moment of Funny.

Hopper: I swear, if I hadn't promised mother, on her death bed, that I wouldn't kill you, I would kill you!
Molt: And believe me, no-one appreciates that more than I do.
Hopper: Shut up! I don't want to hear another word out of you while we're on this island. Do you understand me?
(Molt whimpers)
Hopper: I said, do you understand me?!
Molt: Well, how can I answer? You said I couldn't say another word!
(Hopper growls with increasing rage and raises his fist)
Molt: Aah! Remember Ma!
(Hopper spins around and punches another grasshopper to the ground)

  • Even the Dog Is Ashamed: Averted; after Flik wound up ostracized by the colony for hiring circus bugs to defend them, Dot is the only one who still believes in him - and is the one who, after hearing the Queen's life was in danger, snaps him out of his Heroic BSOD.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Princess Atta and Princess Dot, who were Pixar's first and only princesses before the introduction of Merida from Brave.
  • Executive Meddling: For the confrontation in the bar, Pixar's animators had planned out a large, anime-esque sequence, not unlike the one later seen in the movie Horton Hears a Who!. Disney suits didn't understand the scene as it was laid out to them, and the gag was reduced to Francis saying, "Shoo, fly, don't bother me."
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Hopper meets his fate via this trope. Though it isn't "pursued" so much as it is "eaten alive by its babies".
  • Exposition Cut: Played for laughs. Slim says that Flik can explain on the way. It then cuts to Flik finishing his explanation to...Tuck and Roll, who don't speak a word of English.
  • Famous Last Words: "Are there a bunch of cute girls in this one too? Hello, girls!"
  • Funny Foreigner: Tuck and Roll, also The Unintelligible.
  • Gentle Giant: Dim, the rhinoceros beetle.
    • And Molt, Hopper's dim-witted brother. He might technically be on the bad guy's side but you never see him do anything but eat and make himself look like an idiot.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • One of the Fly Brothers to Francis the Ladybug (before discovering that "she" is actually male): "Hey, cutie! Wanna pollinate with a real bug?!"
    • When Flik is trying to distract Atta from his meeting with the other bugs, he uses various acronyms, like "FYI" and "BYOB". "BYOB" is a message generally given with party invitations, and it means "Bring Your Own Beer".
    • Hopper kills three of his own henchmen during the bar scene. Graphically. Entirely onscreen.
  • Go, Ye Heroes, Go and Die: The little ants make an anticipatory victory mural for the circus performers. It's... not as hopeful as expected.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Slim, being a stick insect, is often used as a prop/weapon by the other circus bugs - both in and out of the circus. He's very unhappy about it.
  • Grotesque Cute: The cute widdle fuzzy goldfinch chickies that eat Hopper alive at the end.
  • Heel Face Turn: Molt. At first it seems as though he's fleeing Ant Island with the other grasshoppers, but in the last scene he's shown to have become a part of P.T. Flea's circus as their strongman (it's been his dream ever since he first saw it perform during Hopper's failed attempt to oppress the ants).
  • Heroic BSOD: Flik before the climax.
  • Huddle Shot: The circus bugs huddle up and decide to play along with Flik's expectations that they're the "warrior bugs" that he's looking for.
  • Insect Gender Bender: Most prominently displayed with Gypsy, a female gypsy moth whose coloration is that of the male members of her species.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Flik and Dot.
  • Interspecies Romance: Manny and Gypsy.
  • Ironic Echo:

Hopper: Now let me tell you how things are supposed to work: The sun grows the food, the ants pick the food, the grasshoppers eat the food...
Molt: And the birds eat the grasshoppers!


Princess Atta: You see Hopper, Nature has a certain order. The ants pick the food, the ants keep the food, and the grasshoppers...leave.

  • Kid Appeal Character: Little princess Dot.
  • Large Ham: Manny "Oh the pain!". Helps his actor got famous playing one of the most famous hams in television, Dr. Smith. Heimlich is quite hammy too.
  • Love Epiphany: Its implied that Flick has had a crush on Atta for a long time, but soon as the Circus Bugs save Dot from the bird, Atta begins treating Flick much more respectfully, talking with him about her own personal issues, realizing that perhaps they are Not So Different, and apologizing for how she'd treated him in the past. Then she gives him his Eureka Moment, and he kisses her on the cheek before running off, leaving Atta wide-eyed and caressing the spot where he kissed her.
  • Lovely Assistant: Gypsy Moth is this to her praying mantis husband, Manny.
  • Magnificent Seven: Spoofed and subverted - the seven "heroes" are circus performers who think the ant hill wants to entertain their grasshopper guests. Also, there's nine of them (Rosie, Heimlich, Gypsy, Manny, Tuck and Roll the pillbugs, Dim, Francis, and Slim).
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: In the Hilarious Outtakes, Hopper is a perfectly nice guy who is reduced to tears when he can't seem to do his scene with Atta properly.
    • Also in the Hilarious Outtakes, Thumper is a much less intimidating guy who asks if his screaming is okay.
  • The Millstone: Flik is this for most of the film.
  • Minion with an F In Evil: Molt, that loveable goofball.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: After Flik's beating, the ant colony unites against the grasshoppers.
  • Mouse World: Naturally the film's setting, since its characters are bugs.
  • Never Say "Die": Zig-zagged. It's never used when the good guys are referred to (Flik asked Dim to "squish" him after he found out about the truth of the circus bugs and the grasshoppers deciding to "squish" the Queen), but the words "kill" and "die" are used in humorous contexts.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Near the climax, when Hopper lets Thumper loose on Flik, then finishes the job. It's so nasty we even see his brother Molt flinching.
  • No Name Given: The Queen.
  • Non-Action Guy: All the circus bugs put themselves to good use during the fight with the goldfinch... except Manny, who just sits on Dim's back and then takes some of the credit for fighting the bird. He is also the only circus bug who has wings he can use and doesn't actually use them. However, he is one of the first circus bugs to pretend to be dying during the attack, and he did prove himself useful earlier with the Disappearing Box trick. Presumably, it's his old age that keeps him from being an active combatant against threats like the bird and the grasshopper.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Atta's chest is curved in a way that resembles human breasts, same with Rosie's.
  • Noodle Incident: Flik's Tunnel-Within-A-Tunnel Project.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: The climax. Hopper's worst fears are realized when Flik stands up to him, and inspires the ants to finally drive off the grasshoppers that have been tormenting them for so long.
  • Oh Crap: The Grasshopper's reaction to the Constructed Bird, and Hopper's reaction to the real one.
    • The Grasshoppers' general reaction of that above development as they realize that the Ants are getting pissed off at last and are about to Zerg Rush them.
    • Flik's reaction as he helplessly watches the food offering tumble into the water after his harvester knocks it over.
  • One-Gender Race: Subverted with Francis, a male ladybug.

First Fly: (to Francis) Hey cutie! Wanna pollinate with a real bug?!
(Flies laugh. Francis flies up to them, eyelids batting, then...)
Francis: SO! Being a Ladybug automatically makes me a GIRL! Is that it, fly-boy? HUH?!
Second Fly: YIKES!!
First Fly: She's a guy!

  • Pan and Scan: Inverted with the fullscreen version of the film. The most noticeable example is the scene where they show two young ants climbing up a leaf; in the original widescreen version you couldn't see the second ant at all, but in the fullscreen version you actually do.
  • Playing a Tree: Slim, the walking stick, constantly gets these roles in the circus acts, much to his annoyance.
  • Psycho for Hire: Thumper is more than enough to fix this trope.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Molt. When the food's collected and the circus is performing, he happily claps and plays along, rather like a child.

Molt: The circus, the circus, I love the circus!

Francis: When your grasshopper friends get here, we are gonna KNOCK! THEM! DEAD!!!

  • Read'Em and Weep: Dot says this to Francis while playing a game with him while he was getting better from an injury.
  • Refuge in Audacity: As Hopper points out to his gang, they actually stand no chance against the ants in a fight due to sheer numbers. The entire plot revolves around them keeping the ants on their back foot so they never realize this and the grasshoppers can continue extorting them.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: Thumper to Hopper. He is also almost dog-like.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Atta, though not at first. Once it becomes clear that Flik has a plan to scare off Hopper that could actually work, she's 100% behind him and takes an active role in creating the fake bird. Once that plan fails and Flik stands up to Hopper, she, too, finds the courage to do the same (as well as the rest of the ants), and goes after him when he grabs Flik during the final battle.
  • Scarecrow Solution: The fake bird.
  • Science Marches On: Dim was supposed to be a fictional variety of generic rhinoceros beetle. And then years later, scientists would find a rhino beetle that sort of looks like him.
  • Shout-Out: The dumb, goofy Gentle Giant, Dim. Dim being really dim...
    • In the Hilarious Outtakes: "|To infinity and beyond!"
    • The (failed) attempt at intimidating the flies that attempted to harass Francis, which was the reason why Flik even mistakenly believed they were warrior bugs in the first place, was a spoof on Robin Hood. Also, after they demolished the bar in their attempt to flee, Francis pulls Slim out in a parody of King Arthur pulling out Excalibur.
    • This quote from Hopper.

Hopper: (to Atta) It's a bug-eat-bug world out there, Princess, one of those 'circle of life' kind of things.

  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: P.T. Flea does this twice: not only does he accidentally reveal the identity of the warriors, which gets them and Flik ostracized by the colony, but later he incinerates the bird, thinking it was the real deal -- however, that latter moment is subverted in that the beating Hopper dishes out on Flik in response, resulting in his Rousing Speech, actually rallies the ants into sending the grasshoppers packing for good.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Hopper breaks down when the ants stand up to the grasshoppers.
  • Visual Pun: Flea circus anybody?
    • Invoked by P.T. Flea with Slim the Walking Stick.

Slim: You always cast me as the broom! The pole! The stick! The splinter!
P.T. Flea: You're a walking stick! IT'S FUNNY! Now go!!

    • When the ants rebel, Molt jumps out of his skin.
  • Welcome to the Big City: Flik doesn't get mugged or attacked (it's hardly as if he had anything on him), but he does get mocked by a couple of street performers and runs into a cricket who's lost his wings.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Played straight with most of Hopper's minions, as nobody knows where they went into hiding; averted with Molt, who joins P.T. Flea's circus as its new strongman, Tiny.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Both played straight and averted: ugly and cute bugs are counted among the heroes' ranks, but it's no accident that every villainous character is either far more rugged and monstrous-looking than your usual bug, or straight-up ugly in the flies' case.
  • Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises: Flik, often seen during one of his freak-outs.
  • World of Cardboard Speech: Flik delivers one to Hopper in the climax of the film.

It's you who need us. We're a lot stronger than you think we are... and you know that, don't you?

Hopper: You think it's over? All your little stunt did was buy them time!
Flik: No, please! Please, Hopper!
Hopper: I'll get more grasshoppers and be back next season, but you won't.
[A bird shows up]
Hopper: Well, what's this? Another one of your little bird tricks? Is there a bunch of little girls in this one, too? Hello, girls!

  • Zerg Rush: Hopper fears the ants will realize their advantage in numbers and attack this way. They do.