A BUG'S LIFE
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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