Which Came First, the Ant or the Bug?
June 11, 2015 9 Comments
You remember back toward the end of the century it seemed all the movie companies were copying each other?
It was Dante’s Peak vs. Volcano, Armageddon vs. Deep Impact,and perhaps the biggest showdown of all was DreamWorks’ Antz vs. Disney/Pixar’s A Bug’s Life.
I don’t know the story behind what went on with the volcano and the astroid movies (although I can say that Armageddon is the best out of all of them), but I can at least give you the rundown as to what really happened with the two really big insect movies.
At the time, only one fully-CGI animated movie had hit the big screens – Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story – and I don’t need to tell you how much of a success that was.
There was this guy named Jeffrey Katzenberg who worked under Michael Eisner at Disney, whom we actually have to thank for The Lion King. Eisenberg and Katzenberg had many, many fallings out (all of which can be read in Disney War by James B. Steward). Katzenberg finally had enough in the summer of 1994 and decided to leave Disney and start a competitive animation studio with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, which became known as DreamWorks SKG.
That’s why the big debate over who stole the insect idea first was so intriguing. Did Katzenberg leave the idea with Disney before he left and Disney used it anyway?
No. Katzenberg had never heard of A Bug’s Life before he left. In fact, he stay in touch with John Lasseter (Pixar founder and chief creative officer). Lasted, a jovial, spirited, trusting man who wanted to maintain a friendship with Katzenberg answered Katzenberg’s questions about what films he was doing next…
Around 1996, Lasseter realized the gravity of his mistake when he heard that DreamWorks was working on their own CGI movie (their first) about an ant being its lead character. When Lasseter called Katzenberg up to inquire about the rumor, he admitted it was true and lied, “We had the idea long ago.”
Katzenberg later admitted that he sped up the production of Antz, which actually beat A Bug’s Life to theaters by six weeks. Despite the rushed product, Antz was favorably accepted by critics and audiences, raking in $91 million domestically.
But A Bug’s Life was much more epic, colorful, and mind-blowing. Richard Corliss of Time wrote that A Bug’s Life made DreamWorks’ film seem like radio by comparison. Rightly so, A Bug’s Life did twice as well as Antz, grossing $163 million domestically.
So there you have it. The whole buggy story. Which one did you like better?