The Ant Bully (film)

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The Ant Bully
The Ant Bully theatrical poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn A. Davis
Screenplay byJohn A. Davis
Based onThe Ant Bully
by John Nickle
Produced by
Edited byJon Price
Music byJohn Debney
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • July 7, 2006 (2006-07-07) (Lowe's Motor Speedway)
  • July 14, 2006 (2006-07-14) (Hollywood)
  • July 19, 2006 (2006-07-19) (Los Angeles)
  • July 28, 2006 (2006-07-28) (United States)
  • September 7, 2006 (2006-09-07) (Brazil)
Running time
88 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$50 million[1]
Box office$55.2 million[1]

The Ant Bully is a 2006 American computer-animated fantasy adventure comedy film written and directed by John A. Davis and based on the 1999 children's book of the same name by John Nickle. Starring the voices of Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti, Regina King, Bruce Campbell and Lily Tomlin, it was produced by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman's Playtone, Davis and Keith Alcorn's DNA Productions, and Legendary Pictures in their first animated film, and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Set in suburban Las Vegas, The Ant Bully follows Lucas Nickle, a 10-year-old destructive boy who is neglected by his family and bullied by Steve and his friends. He attacks the nearby ant colony out of frustration, but Zoc, a wizard ant, creates a potion to shrink Lucas. After being shrunk by Zoc, Lucas Nickle must join forces with his new friends to defeat Stan Beals, an exterminator who threatens their colony. It was released on July 28, 2006.

Shortly before its release, most of the DNA employees were laid off and the studio was closed (as the result of their second and final film to be made after Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius). It was also the last film role by Ricardo Montalbán, before his death on January 14, 2009. The film received mixed reviews from critics, with praise aimed at the vocal performances, animation, and humor, but criticism for its dialogue and script, its lack of faithfulness to the source material and the execution of its premise. The movie was also a box-office disappointment, grossing $55.2 million against its $50 million budget.


Lonely 10-year-old Lucas Nickle is left with his older sister, Tiffany, and his grandmother, when his parents go to Puerto Vallarta. Neglected by his family and tormented by a local bully named Steve and his friends, Lucas takes out his frustration on an anthill and attacks it with a squirt gun, terrifying the colony. One ant, Zoc, an eccentric sorcerer, tries to fight back. His girlfriend Hova, a nurse ant who is fascinated by humans, attempts to communicate with Lucas. He drops his gun on the grass, and kicks the anthill with one of his sneakers, sending the colony flying into the grass. Hova tries to communicate to him, but she is almost crushed before being saved by Zoc. The leaders of the colony decide to use a potion Zoc has recently created to shrink Lucas down to ant size.

The local exterminator, Stan Beals, convinces Lucas to sign a contract to kill the vermin. Later that night, Zoc and a small troop of ants pour the potion into his ear; Lucas wakes up and discovers that he is shrunk, and naked and is carried to the anthill for the court. Zoc insists that he should be studied then eaten, but he is overruled by the Queen, who sentences him to hard labor. Hova volunteers to train Lucas alongside her friends Kreela and Fugax, much to Zoc's mortification, and they both learn about the differences between ants and humans. The ants are later attacked by tarantula hawks. Lucas finds a firecracker discarded by Steve and uses it to scare the wasps away. This earns him the admiration of all the ants except Zoc.

Lucas is shown a painting that depicts the Great Ant Mother and the exterminator, and is told that the Great Ant Mother will return and shower the ants with honeydew, while the Cloud-Breather will spell destruction for all of them. Lucas, Hova, Fugax, and Kreela return to his house, where Lucas tries to cancel Beals' contract, but accidentally calls a pizzeria instead. Tiffany then enters the kitchen, and attacks Lucas and company where it flees.

When Zoc finds out that Lucas put Hova in possible danger, he accuses him of further treachery, and tells him that he refuses to give him the antidote, causing him to run away in fright. Hearing what happened, Hova gets angry with Zoc scolding him for banishing Lucas from the ant colony and even that he did not put them in danger. He helps them for getting the food and angrily lashed him out for been selfish and jealous of him, and goes out to look for Lucas included Kreela and Fugax leaving Zoc alone in the cave. Once she finds him, he is swallowed by a frog. Zoc witnesses the event and realizes what he done and how much Hova cares about Lucas, so he frees him to make up for his selfishness. Afterwards, they discuss their differences. Zoc explains that ants work for the benefit of the colony, whilst Lucas states that most humans work for personal gain. Zoc is unsure as to how anything gets accomplished in Lucas' world, but then sympathizes with him when they both admit that they both used to act without thinking.

The next day, when Beals arrives to exterminate the colony, Lucas and Zoc enlist the wasps' aid; at first, the wasps want to eat them, but upon hearing that their hill is being destroyed by Beals, they agree to help. During the battle with Beals, Lucas saves the lives of Hova and an injured wasp. Both the ants and wasps are no match against pesticide, but as Beals is about to exterminate the anthill, a beetle and glowworm that Zoc and Lucas met while trapped inside of the frog's stomach bite him in the groin. As he painfully doubles up, Lucas injects him with the shrinking potion, severely disfiguring Beals, and he retreats on a tricycle while being attacked by the wasps.

The Queen pronounces Lucas an ant in honor of his heroic actions, names him "Rokai", and Zoc gives him the antidote. He returns to normal size, reunites and reconciles with his mother, and finally stands up to Steve, whose friends choose to befriend Lucas after Steve insults them. Lucas then showers the colony with jelly beans as a parting gift.

Voice cast[edit]

Additional voices were provided by Tyler James Williams, Jaishon Fisher, Tom Kenny, Neil Ross, Bob Joles, Wally Wingert, Leon Morenzie, Johnathan Cook, Clive Robertson, S. Scott Bullock, Susan Silo, Zack Shada, Max Burkholder, Benjamin Bryan, Jordan Orr, Candi Milo, Nika Futterman, Colin Ford, Nicole Sullivan, Paul Greenberg, and David Kaye


Tom Hanks originally conceived the idea for an animated film adaptation after reading the book with his child. He then sent a copy to John A. Davis due to Davis' work on the computer-animated film Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.[2] Davis came up with a potential take on the story within a few days. "To be honest, when I first looked at it, I thought Oh, why does it have to be ants again?" said Davis. "But the more I thought about it, I said, So what? It's got as much to do with The Incredible Shrinking Man as it does the other bug movies. It's a completely different story."[3]

Hanks agreed that the story could be expanded considerably (the original book being around only 2,000 words). Keith Alcorn had a similar initial reaction to the project as Davis did. "My first thought," recalled Alcorn, "was, 'not another ant movie.' But looking at the actual story, this was really about a little boy and how he learns about the world by having to live beneath the surface."[4] Davis states that he felt like something of a hypocrite when, while he was working on the script, carpenter ants infested his house and he called an exterminator.[5]

The film was rendered on DNA Productions' 1400-CPU render farm, managed by the open-source Sun Grid Engine job scheduler. The nodes started out with Fedora Core 2 Linux with a modern 2.6.x kernel, but the new AMD Opteron nodes are running Fedora Core 4. Most of the applications are commercial, including Maya, Lightwave 3D, Houdini, Massive and Pixar’s RenderMan.[6]

Along with the theatrical release of The Ant Bully, an IMAX 3D version was presented in only some of the IMAX theaters. The others continued to run the 3D version of Superman Returns. The special IMAX 3D version was remastered in three dimensions with IMAX DMR. Critics within the 3D motion-picture community have given the film high marks, as unlike Superman Returns, the entire film is projected in 3D stereo. The process to turn a pure animation film into 3D is much simpler than converting a film having live actors. Some of the production took place at C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures in Canada.


The film was theatrically released on July 28, 2006 by Warner Bros. Pictures, and was released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 28, 2006, by Warner Home Video.


Critical response[edit]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 62% approval rating, based on 118 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The website's consensus reads, "Sometimes inventive and witty, this animated adventure into an ant-sized world is a pleasant diversion."[7] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 59/100 based on 26 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[8] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "A−" on scale of A to F.[9]

Tom Long of the Detroit News wrote, "there's a sweet simplicity and humility to this film."[10]

Ruthe Stein of The San Francisco Chronicle wrote that "the brilliance of The Ant Bully is in the crafty way it delves into the minds of ants as they plot to save themselves from extermination...Davis creates a marvelously labyrinthine society for them, right below the surface of a bland suburb."[10]

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly liked Roberts and Cage in their roles, and referred to Streep's queen ant as "excellently magisterial". She also wrote that "the kind of life lessons that usually gum up the fun go down as easily as jelly beans in The Ant Bully."[11] Jeffrey E. McCants of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote that "the film's heavy-handed lessons turn it from a fun romp through a cartoonish insect world to a predictable and preachy snoozefest".[12]

Lou Lumenick of the New York Post called the film "generic" and wrote that "adults will be less than enchanted by its preachiness, talkiness, and Communist Party-line political views". Bill Muller of The Arizona Republic wrote, "The Ant Bully, in trying to match Antz or A Bug's Life, just digs itself into a big hole."[13]

Jack Mathews of the New York Daily News was positive about the film's lack of pop-culture references and thought that the film does not "talk down" to children. Additionally, he noted, "adults may be amused (or maybe not) by the Christian parallel in the ants' religion."[14]

Box office[edit]

The film opened at number five on July 28, 2006, and closed on November 16, 2006, with $28 million in North America and a total of $55 million worldwide. The estimated production budget was $50 million.[15] The film was released in the United Kingdom on August 4, 2006, and only opened on number eight.[16]


The Ant Bully: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by
ReleasedAugust 1, 2006
GenreFilm Score
LabelVarèse Sarabande
ProducerJohn Debney
John Debney chronology
Chicken Little
The Ant Bully: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Professional ratings
Review scores

The soundtrack's music score was composed and conducted by John Debney, who previously worked with Davis on Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. This film has no songs.

Video game[edit]

Games publisher Midway released The Ant Bully, the official video game tie-in to the film on GameCube, PlayStation 2, PC, and Game Boy Advance on July 24, 2006. A Wii version was released on December 5, 2006. The game was developed by the Montreal Studio Artificial Mind and Movement.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "The Ant Bully". Box Office Mojo. April 20, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  2. ^, [1], Hanks and Davis on the Ant Bully, July 27, 2006
  3. ^ Jenny Donelan, Computer Graphics World, September 2002, Volume 29 Number 9, pages 24–26
  4. ^ John Cawley, Animation World Magazine, [2], July 28, 2006
  5. ^ Kotek, Elliot V. (2006). "John A. Davis: Ant Bully's Architect". Moving Pictures Magazine. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  6. ^ Dagdigian, Chris. "Making movies with Grid Engine". Grid Engine. Archived from the original on December 14, 2006. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  7. ^ "The Ant Bully (2006)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  8. ^ "The Ant Bully". Metacritic.
  9. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  10. ^ a b The Ant Bully - Movie Reviews, retrieved September 25, 2019
  11. ^ Entertainment Weekly, July 26, 2006
  12. ^ "Jeffrey E. McCants Movie Reviews & Previews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  13. ^, [3], accessed March 25, 2006[dead link]
  14. ^[dead link]
  15. ^ "Weekend Box Office Actuals (U.S.) Aug 4 - 6 weekend"
  16. ^ "Weekend box office 4th August 2006 - 6th August 2006". Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  17. ^ "The Ant Bully - Original Score (2006)". Soundtrack.Net. Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  18. ^ Phares, Heather. John Debney: The Ant Bully > Review at AllMusic. Retrieved October 5, 2014.

External links[edit]