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A Kid Could Learn A Lot From Ants
Hanks and Goetzman were in sync with Davis on presenting the story's multiple themes and life lessons without talking down to young viewers.

"Trying to teach kids a lesson cannot be jack-knifed into a movie,” states Hanks. "The meaning of a fable has to be part and parcel to the story being told. What Lucas learns from the ants—that being part of a good family is irreplaceable—is what The Ant Bully tells, not preaches, at its core.”

Davis, a longtime fan of the classically edgy Warner Bros. cartoons, has always strived to maintain a certain level of sophistication in his work, ever mindful of the fact that "kids grasp a lot more than people give them credit for. When I was a kid, I always knew when I was being talked down to and I resented it. The truth is kids are pretty sharp and insightful.”

True to his word, Davis admits there were times during production when staffers brought their children in to view early footage and he found they provided worthwhile feedback – in one case even influencing Davis' ultimate revision to the end of the story.

"First and foremost, you want to make something entertaining and fun to watch,” he says. "But along with that, there should also be a purpose, some message that kids and parents can walk away with and feel good about. Otherwise it's just frivolous, and the experience is over the minute you leave the theater.” Speaking not only from a writer's point of view, but as a moviegoer, he says, "It's always more interesting to see characters change throughout the telling of a story, to see them go through struggles and learn something.”

The Ant Bully, notes Davis, "has several related themes that are equally important. Not only does Lucas learn about teamwork, friendship, courage and the value of community when he's working with the ants, but he also learns about the abuse of power and what it's like to be in someone else's position. Originally, when he looks at the ants, he disregards them because they are small and seemingly insignificant, which he feels gives him permission to do whatever he likes with them. It's not until he sees the ramifications of his actions that he starts to think about how maybe that isn't the right thing to do.”

First, in his skirmishes with bully Steve that always leave him on the losing side, and then later, when he privately pummels the ant hill in retaliation, Lucas alternately plays the roles of victim and bully in the story. It takes him awhile and some very interesting experiences to discover this humbling irony. From that moment of realization, Davis says, "You could then, if you want, extrapolate beyond the level of neighborhood bullies and 10-year-old kids and apply it to other things going on in the world because it's very much a universal concept. Just because you have the power or the upper hand doesn't automatically grant you the right to use it.”

Meanwhile, in his miniature form, Lucas is constantly surprised, delighted or horrified, and sometimes all three, to learn that things are not always what they seem. Ants can have feelings, frogs that are fun to chase can be fearsome predators, and his own familiar lawn— formerly to Lucas a dull expanse of dry grass between his house and the sidewalk—is actually a territorial battleground abuzz with activity and life-and-death drama like a primeval jungle. Who knew?!

By changing his perspective, Lucas sees every single thing around him in a whole new way, even things he's taken for granted his entire life.

For this Next Scene, Could You Pretend You're an Ant Being Swallowed By a Frog? And Then Regurgitated? Thank You.

While retaining the charm and meaning of the John Nickle book, "and staying true to the journey it takes,” grants Davis, The Ant Bully expands the scope of Lucas' adventures to include additional characters and relation

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