Hollywood has a head-scratching habit of turning out two movies within a few months of each other, that are basically the exact same film. So not only do we get sequels, prequels, sidequels, reboots, remakes, and adaptations we get White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen practically back to back, because obviously if we liked something once, we want the leftovers next month. And unfortunately that’s how it usually goes, one film becomes the dish, and the other is scrapped by audiences. Studios seem to go head to head, in a pissing contest to prove that their bland actioner is vastly superior to the same thing being developed at the same time. So let’s run through some notable ones and see how it shakes out.
ANTZ V. A BUG’S LIFE (1998)
It’s pretty clear up front which one of these is more edgy and cool because one of them (no hints) is spelled incorrectly with the ever edgy “Z” (only slightly less edgy than “X”). Dreamworks and Pixar have been the dominant animation houses for the last 15 years, with Disney making a recent resurgence (and Big Sky waking up every morning to run to the mirror and see if they turned into Dreamworks in their sleep. It hasn’t happened yet). However, their rivalry began and peaked early on in the late 90s with these two extremely similar films.
A Bug’s Life tells the story of a loser ant who needs to find warriors to save his ant mound from the evil grasshoppers. Because cartoons give 0 shits about how nature actually works. He ends up recruiting a bunch of circus performers, which of course works, and the Pixar trademark of silliness and pathos ensues, although to a lesser degree than their upper echelon films.
Antz tells the story of a neurotic ant who is tired of the caste society he lives in, bucks it, and gets the princess. So, it’s a totally different movie. It has Woody Allen instead of Kevin Spacey. I’m kidding, it’s not a different movie. This isn’t even a different paragraph. It’s just copy pasted from above. And like all Dreamworks CGI animated films that aren’t Shrek, it isn’t Shrek.
This actually has a little juicier backstory than the studios just whipping it out and comparing sizes (though it’s that too) as politics played a part. Jeffrey Katzenberg was the head of Disney’s motion picture branch, and greenlit the Pixar film in his time there. Then, feuded with Michael Eisner (the devil in mouse ears), jumped ship, and formed Dreamworks. After the more Disney-esque Prince of Egypt they rushed into production of Antz, as what I can only assume is a direct revenge ploy, because Katzenberg didn’t feel confident in his ability to have nothing to lose, and Eastwood grimace while going on a killing rampage.
Apparently there was a lot of hoopla and back and forth as release dates were toggled, but Antz got to theaters first, clearly making it the victor. Except it wasn’t. It failed to make it’s budget back domestically, while doing decent worldwide, and it did manage to impress critics. Bug’s Life came marching one by one (hoo-ra hoo-ra) into theaters two months later and eclipsed their Dreamworks rival in both box office receipts and critical acclaim. Pixar would continue this winning streak for the rest of forever.
Victor: A Bug’s Life
Posted on February 14, 2014, in Movies, personal musings and tagged antz, armageddon, bruce willis, bug's life, deep impact, Disney, hercules, hollywood, kevin costner, Kurt Russell, michael bay, Michael Eisner, mirror mirror, mission to mars, observe and report, olympus has fallen, paul blart, pixar, red planet, snow white, The Exorcist, tombstone, val kilmer, white house down, wyatt earp. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.