Shortly after the release of Toy Story, Pixar began working on their second feature film, A Bug’s Life. Directed by John Lasseter, the film stars Flik, a misfit ant who is both inventive and clumsy. After he severely messes up, he searches for “tough warriors” to protect his ant colony from greedy gangster grasshoppers who force the ants to harvest food for them every year. Although Flik finds help much faster than anyone anticipated, it turns out that he grabbed a bunch of circus bugs instead. And they’re failures as circus bugs.
Right away, there’s potential for a story and lessons behind them. There’s the lesson of being honest, something that Flik fails at throughout the movie. There’s the lesson of being too traditional, which Flik’s colony is. It’s that traditionalism that not only holds them back from progress, but also allows the grasshoppers to take advantage of them. It’s a coming of age story for both Flik and Princess Atta, who both learn that they’re stronger than they think, and they grow closer together by the end of the movie. And of course, there’s a great balance between embracing creativity and realizing that there are potential risks with being recklessly creative. And for the most part, the movie handles these messages well without sacrificing its story.