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Working The Bugs Out
Although bugs tend to be fascinating and wondrous creatures, they are not generally known for their appealing looks and engaging personalities

Although bugs tend to be fascinating and wondrous creatures, they are not generally known for their appealing looks and engaging personalities. It should come as no surprise then that one of the biggest challenges facing the filmmakers on "A Bug's Life" was to remove the creepiness or "ick" factor from the film's leading characters and create personalities that audiences might relate to and care about. From the earliest stages of design and modeling through scripting, storyboarding and animating, a great emphasis was placed on developing believable characters that could help advance the story.

"There are a couple of people who work at Pixar who have kind of a phobia about bugs," says Lasseter. "They were our guinea pigs. We would constantly ask them, 'Does this scare you?' and we used them to judge whether we had gotten rid of or minimized the ick factor."

Stanton adds, "We worked hard to make the characters appealing. We took out mandibles and hairy segmentation yet still tried to keep design qualities and aspects of texture that made it feel like you were looking at bugs. We wanted people to like these characters and not be grossed out by them. The only liberty we gave ourselves was with the grasshoppers. As the bad guys, they were allowed to be a little icky."

One of the artistic decisions made early in the design phase was to give the ant characters two arms and two legs instead of the more accurate six appendages. The additional set of arms or legs would made the characters somewhat less appealing. Likewise, the grasshoppers were given an extra set of appendages to make them more menacing and bug-like. With four sets of appendages, Tuck & Roll required a little extra attention. Dim and Rosie, with their six legs apiece, posed a whole additional set of challenges.

A tremendous amount of research into bug anatomy, locomotion and behavior followed. Excellent documentaries such as "Microcosmos" and National Geographic specials gave the team a close-up look at the world of bugs. Entymologists, including an expert on bug movement from UC Berkeley, visited Pixar and gave talks to the designers and animators. Bug specimens, both living and preserved, were procured from a variety of supply houses and became a common sight around the Studio. A live praying mantis was even brought into Pixar and a camera was focused on it so that the artists and technicians could check in from time to time and get inspired.

Bob Pauley was the art director in charge of character design. As with traditional hand-drawn animated films, the characters for computer-animated films are first conceived on paper. Approved designs are then either sculpted into three-dimensional models or built directly within the computer.

"We looked to the bugs for inspiration," says Pauley. "The pure nature of some of the insects dictate their ability to walk and their poses. We also tried to make the characters more appealing by simplifying their basic bug-like shape and form. They're more representative of what the bug might actually look like. We then went into a lot of detail by adding textures that would really sell it. For example, the ants and flies had to have an iridescence to give them that unique insect look. Our moth character, Gypsy, has these absolutely beautiful translucent wings with iridescent pillowing. Another innovation on this film was our ability to add hair and place it wherever we n

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