Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Eric Darnell
|Produced by||Brad Lewis
|Written by||Paul Weitz
|Story by||Tim Johnson (concept)|
|Music by||John Powell
|Cinematography||Simon J. Smith|
|Edited by||Stan Webb|
|Pacific Data Images|
|Distributed by||DreamWorks Pictures|
|Running time||84 minutes|
Antz is a 1998 American computer animated adventure comedy film produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by DreamWorks Pictures. It features the voices of well-known actors such as Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Jennifer Lopez, Sylvester Stallone, Dan Aykroyd, Anne Bancroft, Gene Hackman, Christopher Walken, and Danny Glover as various members of an ant society. Some of the main characters share facial similarities with the actors who voice them.
Antz is the first animated film, as well as the first CGI-animated film, by DreamWorks Animation and the second feature-length computer-animated film after Pixar's Toy Story. The film premiered on September 19, 1998, at the Toronto International Film Festival, and was released theatrically in the United States on October 2, 1998.
The setting for the story is an ant colony in Central Park in New York City, over the span of four days. The protagonist is Z-4195 (Woody Allen), or "Z" for short, a neurotic and individualistic worker ant living in a wholly totalitarian society who longs for the opportunity to truly express himself. His friends include fellow worker Azteca (Jennifer Lopez) and a soldier ant, Weaver (Sylvester Stallone). Z meets Princess Bala (Sharon Stone) at a bar where she goes to escape from her suffocating royal life and falls in love with her.
In order to see Bala again, Z exchanges places with Weaver and joins the army. He marches with the ranks, befriending a staff sergeant named Barbatus (Danny Glover) in the process. He doesn't realise that the army's leader and Bala's fiancé, General Mandible (Gene Hackman), is secretly sending all the soldiers loyal to the Queen to die so he can begin to build a colony filled with powerful ants. At the base of a tree near nightfall, Z realizes he's actually marching into battle, and all of the soldiers except for Z are killed by the acid-shooting termites. Following the battle, all Z can find of Barbatus is his head. Before he dies, Barbatus tells Z to think for himself rather than follow orders all his life, leaving Z saddened and depressed. Z returns home and is hailed as a war hero, even though he did not do anything and was traumatized by the fighting. He was also congratulated personally by the secretly irate General Mandible, and is brought before the Queen. There he meets Princess Bala, who eventually recognizes him as a worker. When Z finds that he has been cornered in a lie, he panics and pretends to take Princess Bala "hostage" in order to trick the queen's guards into letting him leave rather than imprison him. They escape the colony and hide, and Z begins searching for the legendary Insectopia.
Word of the incident quickly spreads through the colony, whereupon Z's act of individuality sparks a revolution in the workers and, possibly, a few soldier ants as well. As a result, productivity grinds to a halt. Seeing an opportunity to gain control, General Mandible begins to publicly portray Z as a war criminal who cares only about himself. Mandible then promotes the glory of conformity and promises them a better life, which he claims to be the reward of completing a "Mega Tunnel" planned by himself. Mandible learns Z is looking for Insectopia after interrogating Weaver. Knowing full well of the place's existence, Mandible sends his second-in-command, Colonel Cutter (Christopher Walken), to its location to retrieve the Princess and possibly kill Z. Cutter, however, slowly begins to have second thoughts about Mandible's plans and agenda and develops sympathy for the worker ants.
Z and Bala, after a misdirection and a brief separation, finally found Insectopia, which consists of a human waste-bin overfilled with decaying food (a treat for insects of all kinds). Here, Bala begins to reciprocate Z's feelings. However, during a break, Cutter arrives and flies Bala back to the colony against her will. Z finds them gone and makes his way to rescue Bala, aided by a wasp named Chip (Dan Aykroyd), whom he met earlier and has made himself drunk grieving over the loss of his swatted wife, Muffy (Jane Curtin). Z arrives at the colony, where he finds that Bala has been held captive in General Mandible's office. After rescuing her, he learns that General Mandible's "Mega Tunnel" leads straight to a body of water (the puddle next to Insectopia), which Mandible will use to drown the queen and the workers who have gathered at the opening ceremony. Bala goes to warn the workers and her mother at the ceremony, while Z goes to the tunnel exit to stop the workers from digging any further. He fails, however, and the water leaks in. Z and Bala unify the workers into a single working unit and build a towering ladder of ants towards the surface as the water continues to rise.
Meanwhile, General Mandible and his soldiers are gathered at the surface, where he explains to them his vision of a new colony with none of the "weak elements of the colony". He is interrupted, however, when the workers successfully claw their way to the surface and break through. Mandible angrily tries to kill Z but is stopped by Cutter, who finally rebels against Mandible and instead tries to help Z and the worker ants out of the hole "for the good of the colony." The enraged Mandible charges toward Cutter, who is, however, pushed away by Z at the last moment. Mandible inadvertently takes Z with him back down into the flooded colony, and is killed when he lands upon a root while Z falls into the water. Cutter, taking charge, orders the other soldier ants to help the workers and the queen onto the surface while he himself rescues Z. Although it seems that Z has drowned, Bala successfully resuscitates him. Z is lauded for his heroism and marries Bala. Together they rebuild the colony with Cutter as their General, transforming the colony from a conformist military state into a community that values each and every one of its members.
- Woody Allen as Z-4195 "Z", an individualistic but meek worker ant.
- Gene Hackman as General Mandible, the manipulative and deluded supreme commander of the ant military.
- Sharon Stone as Princess Bala, the Queen Ant's daughter.
- Sylvester Stallone as Corporal Weaver, a soldier ant and Z's best friend.
- Jennifer Lopez as Azteca, another friend of Z's. a worker ant who becomes Weaver's girlfriend.
- Christopher Walken as Colonel Cutter, Mandible's moral and intelligent advisor who starts to question the general's actions.
- Anne Bancroft as The Queen Ant, Princess Bala's mother
- Dan Aykroyd as Chip the Wasp
- Grant Shaud as The Foreman
- Danny Glover as Staff Sergeant Barbatus, a soldier ant who befriends Z.
- John Mahoney as Grebs, the Drunk Scout
- Jane Curtin as Muffin "Muffy" the Wasp, Chip's wife
- Paul Mazursky as Z's psychiatrist
The cast features several actors from movies Allen wrote, starred in and directed, including Stone (Stardust Memories), Stallone (Bananas), Hackman (Another Woman), and Walken (Annie Hall). Aykroyd later co-starred in Allen's The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.
Production began in May 1996 after production commenced on The Prince of Egypt. DreamWorks had begun their longtime partnership with PDI after launching the film in Palo Alto, California. Much of Woody Allen's trademark humor is present within the film. Allen himself made some uncredited rewrites to the script, to make the dialogue better fit his style of comedic timing. An altered line from one of his early directed films, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) was included – "I was going to include you in my erotic fantasies..."
Feud between DreamWorks and Pixar
During the production of Antz, a public feud erupted by DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steve Jobs & John Lasseter of Pixar. Katzenberg, former chairman of Disney's film division, had left the company in a bitter feud with CEO Michael Eisner. In response, he formed DreamWorks SKG with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen and planned to rival Disney in animation. After DreamWorks' acquisition of Pacific Data Images (PDI)—long Pixar's contemporary in computer animation—Lasseter and others at Pixar were dismayed to learn from the trade papers that PDI's first project at DreamWorks would be another ant film, to be called Antz. By this time, Pixar's project was well-known within the animation community. Both Antz and A Bug's Life center on a young male, a drone with oddball tendencies who struggles to win a princess's hand by saving their society.
Lasseter and Jobs believed that the idea was stolen by Katzenberg. Katzenberg had stayed in touch with Lasseter after the acrimonious Disney split, often calling to check up. In October 1995, when Lasseter was overseeing postproduction work on Toy Story at the Universal lot's Technicolor facility in Universal City, where DreamWorks was also located, he called Katzenberg and dropped by with Stanton. When Katzenberg asked what they were doing next, Lasseter described what would become A Bug's Life in detail. Lasseter respected Katzenberg's judgment and felt comfortable using him as a sounding board for creative ideas. Lasseter had high hopes for Toy Story, and he was telling friends throughout the tight-knit computer-animation business to get cracking on their own films. "If this hits, it's going to be like space movies after Star Wars" for computer-animation companies, he told various friends. "I should have been wary," Lasseter later recalled. "Jeffrey kept asking questions about when it would be released."
When the trades indicated production on Antz, Lasseter, feeling betrayed, called Katzenberg and asked him bluntly if it were true, who in turn asked him where he had heard the rumor. Lasseter asked again, and Katzenberg admitted it was true. Lasseter raised his voice and would not believe Katzenberg's story that a development director had pitched him the idea long ago. Katzenberg claimed Antz came from a 1991 story pitch by Tim Johnson that was related to Katzenberg in October 1994. Another source gives Nina Jacobson, one of Katzenberg's executives, as the person responsible for Antz pitch. Lasseter, who normally did not use coarse language, cursed at Katzenberg and hung up the phone. Lasseter recalled that Katzenberg began explaining that Disney was "out to get him" and that he realized that he was just cannon fodder in Katzenberg's fight with Disney. In truth, Katzenberg was the victim of a conspiracy: Eisner had decided not to pay him his contract-required bonus, convincing Disney's board not to give him anything. Katzenberg was further angered by the fact that Eisner scheduled Bugs to open the same week as The Prince of Egypt, which was then intended to be DreamWorks' first animated release. Lasseter grimly relayed the news to Pixar employees but kept morale high. Privately, Lasseter told other Pixar executives that he and Stanton felt terribly let down by Katzenberg.
Katzenberg moved the opening of Antz from March 1999 to October 1998 to compete with Pixar's release. David Price writes in his 2008 book The Pixar Touch that a rumor, "never confirmed", was that Katzenberg had given PDI "rich financial incentives to induce them to whatever it would take to have Antz ready first, despite Pixar's head start". Jobs was furious and called Katzenberg and began yelling. Katzenberg made an offer: He would delay production of Antz if Jobs and Disney would move A Bug’s Life so that it did not compete with The Prince of Egypt. Jobs believed it "a blatant extortion attempt" and would not go for it, explaining that there was nothing he could do to convince Disney to change the date. Katzenberg casually responded that Jobs himself had taught him how to conduct similar business long ago, explaining that Jobs had come to Pixar's rescue by making the deal for Toy Story, as Pixar was near bankruptcy at that time. "I was the one guy there for you back then, and now you’re allowing them to use you to screw me," Katzenberg said. He suggested that if Jobs wanted to, he could simply slow down production on A Bug’s Life without telling Disney. If he did, Katzenberg said, he would put Antz on hold. Lasseter also claimed Katzenberg had phoned him with the proposition, but Katzenberg denied these charges later.
As the release dates for both films approached, Disney executives concluded that Pixar should keep silent on the DreamWorks battle. Regardless, Lasseter publicly dismissed Antz as a "schlock version" of A Bug's Life. Lasseter, who claimed to have never seen Antz, told others that if DreamWorks and PDI had made the film about anything other than insects, he would have closed Pixar for the day so the entire company could go see it. Jobs and Katzenberg would not back down and the rivaling ant films provoked a press frenzy. "The bad guys rarely win," Jobs told the Los Angeles Times. In response, DreamWorks’ head of marketing Terry Press suggested, “Steve Jobs should take a pill." Despite the successful box office performance of both Antz and A Bug's Life, tensions would remain high between Jobs and Katzenberg for many years. According to Jobs, Katzenberg came to Jobs after the success of Shrek (2001) and insisted he had never heard the pitch for A Bug's Life, reasoning that his settlement with Disney would have given him a share of the profits if that were so. Although the contention left all parties estranged, Pixar and PDI employees kept up the old friendships that had arisen from spending a long time together in computer animation.
The final product of both films are generally perceived to contrast one another in tone and certain plot points. Antz carries a dark tone, featuring moderate violence and death, as well as social and political satire, geared more towards teenagers and adults, while A Bug's Life is more family-friendly and lighthearted.
Antz received positive reviews. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 95% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 85 reviews, with an average score of 7.7/10. The critical consensus is: Wonderful animation backed by humor and the vocal talents of its cast make for an entertaining movie. Antz was the only DreamWorks computer animated film to receive 90% until How to Train Your Dragon. Roger Ebert praised the film, saying that it is "sharp and funny". The variety of themes, interesting visuals, and voice acting were each aspects of the film that were praised. Roger's partner, Gene Siskel, also gave the film a positive review, ranking it No. 7 on his picks of the Best Films of 1998.
The film topped the box office in its opening weekend, earning $17,195,160 for a $7,021 average from 2,449 theatres. In its second weekend, the film held the top spot again, with a slippage of only 14% to $14.7 million for a $5,230 average and expanding to 2,813 sites. It held well also in its third weekend, slipping only 24% to $11.2 million and finishing in third place, for a $3,863 average from 2,903 theatres. The film's widest release was 2,929 theatres, and closed on February 18, 1999. The film altogether picked up $90,757,863 domestically, almost recouping its $105 million budget, but failed to outgross the competition with A Bug's Life. The film picked up an additional $81 million overseas for a worldwide total of $171.8 million, making it a box office success.
Critical comparisons to A Bug's Life
PopMatters journalist J.C. Maçek III compared the two films and wrote, "The feud deepened with both teams making accusations and excuses and a release date war ensued. While Antz beat A Bug's Life to the big screen by two months, the latter film significantly out grossed its predecessor. Antz made almost $91 million domestically against a $105 million budget (with a worldwide haul of almost $172 million) while A Bug's Life made almost $163 million domestically against a $120 million budget (with a worldwide haul of over $363 million). Rip off or not, Antz‘s critical response has proven to be almost exactly as positive as what A Bug's Life has enjoyed."
Antz was released to DVD and VHS on March 23, 1999, becoming the first CGI animated film to be available on DVD. However, the DVD release was not 100% digital, as a 35mm print of the film was used to create the copies, rather than using the original computer to encode the movie directly to DVD.
Awards and nominations
|AFI's 10 Top 10||Animated||Nominated|
|1999 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards||Top Box Office Films||Harry Gregson-Williams, John Powell||Won|
|16th Annie Awards||Individual Achievement in Directing||Eric Darnell, Tim Johnson||Nominated|
|Individual Achievement in Music||Harry Gregson-Williams, John Powell||Nominated|
|Individual Achievement in Production Design||John Bell||Nominated|
|Individual Achievement in Writing||Todd Alcott, Chris Weitz & Paul Weitz||Nominated|
|52nd British Academy Film Awards||Best Special Visual Effects||Philippe Gluckman, John Bell, Kendal Cronkhite, Ken Bielenberg||Nominated|
|1999 Golden Reel Awards||Best Sound Editing of Music in an Animated Feature||Adam Milo Smalley, Brian Richards||Won|
|Best Sound Editing of an Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Golden Satellite Awards 1998||Satellite Award for Best Animated or Mixed Media Feature||Brad Lewis, Aron Warner, Patty Wooton||Nominated|
|1.||"Opening Titles / Z's Theme"||1:59|
|6.||"There is a Better Place"||1:19|
|8.||"The Antz Go Marching to War"||3:48|
|9.||"Weaver and Azteca Flirt"||1:53|
|10.||"The Death of Barbados"||2:06|
|11.||"The Antz Marching Band"||1:15|
|12.||"The Magnifying Glass"||1:58|
|14.||"Mandible and Cutter Plot"||2:05|
|15.||"The Picnic Table"||2:43|
|16.||"The Big Shoe"||2:08|
|17.||"Romance in Insectopia"||2:29|
|18.||"Back to the Colony"||2:26|
|19.||"Z to the Rescue"||7:43|
- "Antz (1998) – Box Office Mojo". Retrieved April 22, 2011.
- "Antz DVD – Review – Just a big kid". ciao!. January 30, 2001. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
- Neville, Ken (August 29, 1998). ""Antz" Crashing Toronto Film Fest". E! Online UK. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
- "Antz". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 2013.
- Isaacson, Walter (2011). Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 307. ISBN 1-4516-4853-7.
- Price, p. 170
- Price, p. 171
- Burrows, Peter (November 23, 1998). "Antz vs. Bugs". Business Week. Archived from the original on February 10, 2011. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
- Price, p. 169
- Isaacson, Walter (2011). Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 308. ISBN 1-4516-4853-7.
- "Of Ants, Bugs, and Rug Rats: The Story of Dueling Bug Movies". AP. October 2, 1998.
- Price, p. 163
- Price, p. 172
- Price, p. 173
- Price, p. 174
- Isaacson, Walter (2011). Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 309. ISBN 1-4516-4853-7.
- "Antz". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
- Maçek III, J.C. (14 February 2014). "Instantly Familiar: Hollywood's Great Duopolies". PopMatters.
- "AFI's 10 Top 10". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Antz|
- Official website archived from the original on October 13, 1999
- Antz at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- Antz at AllMovie
- Antz at the Internet Movie Database
- Antz at Rotten Tomatoes
- Antz at Metacritic
- Antz at Box Office Mojo