The Ant Bully is a 2006 computer-animated film based on the 1999 children's book and produced by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman's Playtone, John Davis and Keith Alcorn's DNA Productions and directed by the aforementioned Davis. Released in movie theatres on July 28, 2006 by Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, it is based on a book by John Nickle and features the voices of Nicolas Cage, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Allison Mack, Paul Giamatti and Ricardo Montalbán (in his final film role). Concurrently with the general release, the film was offered in big screen IMAX 3D, the format also used with The Polar Express. This is also the first animated film produced by Legendary Pictures.
The story is about a lonely 10-year-old, Lucas Nickle (Zach Tyler Eisen). His parents, who fail to understand him, go to Puerto Vallarta, leaving him with his older sister and his Grandmother, who obsesses over aliens. Tormented by a local bully, Lucas attacks an anthill with a squirt gun. This terrifies the ants. One ant, an eccentric wizard named Zoc (Nicolas Cage), tries to fight back. His girlfriend, a nurse ant named Hova (Julia Roberts), attempts to communicate with Lucas. She is almost crushed but is rescued by Zoc. The leaders of the colony decide to use a potion to shrink Lucas down to ant size.
Meanwhile, the local exterminator, Stan Beals (Paul Giamatti), convinces Lucas to sign a contract to kill vermin. Later, Zoc and a small troop of ants pour the potion into his ear. Lucas wakes up and discovers that he is now tiny. He is carried to the anthill into a world of giant caves, caterpillars and ants. Zoc insists that Lucas should be studied then eaten, but he is overruled by the Queen (Meryl Streep). She sentences Lucas to hard labor. Hova volunteers to train Lucas, much to Zoc's mortification. Hova and Lucas both learn about the differences between ants and humans. But when she forces him to forage for jelly beans with Kreela (Regina King) and Fugax (Bruce Campbell) Lucas is unsuccessful. The ants are attacked by wasps. Lucas finds a discarded firecracker and uses it to scare away the wasps. This earns him the admiration of all the ants – except Zoc.
Lucas is introduced to honeydew, the feces of caterpillars. He is shown a painting which depicts the Great Ant Mother and the evil "Cloud-Breather", an exterminator. Lucas 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. He and his friends go back the house, where he tries to call the exterminator to cancel the contract but dials a pizza restaurant instead. Then Lucas' sister comes home and they are forced into hiding until dark. When Zoc finds out that Lucas put Hova in possible danger, he accuses Lucas of further treachery and tells him that he should find another wizard because there is no way that he will give Lucas the potion to turn him back again. Lucas runs away, frightened, and Hova becomes angry with Zoc. But when Lucas is swallowed by a frog, Zoc frees him. Afterwards Zoc and Lucas discuss their differences. Zoc explains that ants work for the benefit of the colony. Lucas states that most humans work for personal gain. Zoc is confused as to how anything gets accomplished in Lucas' world.
The next morning, Lucas finds the Ant Mother approaching. He discovers that the 'Ant Mother' is actually a giant balloon strapped to Stan Beals' van used as a symbol for pest control. The ants enlist the aid of the wasps; at first, the wasps want to eat Lucas, but hearing that their nest is destroyed by Beals, they agree to help. During the battle with the exterminator, Lucas saves the lives of Hova and an injured wasp. Both the ants and wasps were no match against pesticide, but as he is about to exterminate the ant hill, a beetle and glowworm manage to bite Beal. Lucas injects him with a shrinking potion. He runs away using a tricycle. The queen then pronounces Lucas an ant in honor of his heroic actions. Zoc gives him the antidote. Lucas grows back to normal size and finally stands up to the bully who runs away. Lucas then showers the colony with jelly beans as a farewell gift.
- Zach Tyler Eisen as Lucas Nickle, a boy whose family has moved into a new neighborhood where he gets tortured by a bully.
- Nicolas Cage as Zoc, a wizard ant who wishes to use his magic to go the greater good for the colony.
- Julia Roberts as Hova, a worker ant who is assigned to teach Lucas about the ways of the ant.
- Regina King as Kreela
- Bruce Campbell as Fugax
- Paul Giamatti as Stan Beals, a local exterminator who convinces Lucas into signing a contract to exterminate all the pests around Lucas' house.
- Meryl Streep as The Queen Ant
- Cheri Oteri as Doreen Nickle, Lucas' mother.
- Creagen Dow as Mullet Boy, the local neighborhood bully who likes to torture Lucas
- Larry Miller as Fred Nickle, Lucas' father.
- Clive Robertson as Wasp
- Lily Tomlin as Grandma (Mommo)
- Jake T. Austin as Nicky
- Don Frye as Soldier Ant
- Ricardo Montalban as The Head of Council
- Allison Mack as Tiffany Nickle, Lucas' older sister.
- Rob Paulsen as Beetle
- Tyler James Williams as Blue Teammate #1
- Jaishon Fisher as Blue Teammate #2
- Frank Welker as Spindle / Frog / Caterpillar
- Tom Kenny as Drone Ant
- Zack Shada as Blonde Boy (uncredited)
- Benjamin Bryan as Kid (uncredited)
- Jordan Orr as Ant (uncredited)
Hanks originally conceived the idea for an animated film adaptation after reading the book with his child. He then sent a copy of the book to Davis because of Davis' work on the computer-animated film Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. 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." Also, Hanks agreed that the story could be expanded considerably (the original book being around only 2,000 words). 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." Davis states that he felt like a something of a hypocrite when, while he was working on the script, carpenter ants infested his house and he called an exterminator.
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, Houdini, Massive and the Pixar RenderMan.
Along with the theatrical release of The Ant Bully, there was an IMAX 3D version 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 3D 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.
The film garnered a 63% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Tom Long of the Detroit News wrote that "there's a sweet simplicity and humility to this film." 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." 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." However, 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". 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 that "The Ant Bully, in trying to match Antz or A Bug's Life, just digs itself into a big hole". 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 that "adults may be amused (or maybe not) by the Christian parallel in the ants' religion."
The Ant Bully 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. Considering that studios receive just over half of the final gross, this is viewed as a box office disappointment, for Monster House and Barnyard both sold far more. The 3D version did considerably better per screen in its few playdates, though this is due partially to the higher admission prices of IMAX theaters.
Games publisher Midway released The Ant Bully, the official video game tie-in to the film on GameCube, PlayStation 2, PC, Wii and Game Boy Advance on July 24, 2006. The game was developed by the Montreal Studio Artificial Mind and Movement (A2M).
- ↑ Comingsoon.net, , Hanks and Davis on the Ant Bully, July 27, 2006
- ↑ Jenny Donelan, Computer Graphics World, September 2002, Volume 29 Number 9, pages 24–26
- ↑ John Cawley, Animation World Magazine, , July 28, 2006
- ↑ Kotek, Elliot V. (2006). "John A. Davis: Ant Bully’s Architect". Moving Pictures Magazine. Retrieved 2008-11-24.
- ↑ "Making movies with Grid Engine"
- ↑ Entertainment Weekly, July 26, 2006, 
- ↑ Azcentral.com, , accessed March 25, 2006
- ↑ Rotten Tomatoes, Top Critic Reviews, , accessed March 25, 2008
- ↑ "Weekend Box Office Actuals (U.S.) Aug 4 - 6 weekend"
- Official website
- The Ant Bully at Allmovie
- The Ant Bully at the Internet Movie Database
- The Ant Bully at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Ant Bully at Box Office Mojoda:Myremobberenit:Ant Bully - Una vita da formica