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A Bug's Life
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
Randy Newman

Orchestrated by:
Don Davis
Jonathan Sacks
Ira Hearshen

Co-Produced by:
Frank Wolf

"The Time of Your Life" Performed by:
Randy Newman

Walt Disney Records

Release Date:
September 15th, 1998

Also See:
Toy Story

Audio Clips:
2. The Flik Machine (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

4. Red Alert (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

16. Grasshoppers' Return (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

19. Victory (0:34):
WMA (220K)  MP3 (274K)
Real Audio (171K)

Regular U.S. release.

  The song "The Time of Your Life" and the score were both nominated for Grammy Awards, the latter winning. The score was also nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.

A Bug's Life
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Buy it... if you're an expressed fan of Randy Newman's predictable, but effectively jazzy scores and songs for animated films.

Avoid it... if Newman's sound for this genre borders on the generic for you, because A Bug's Life follows the composer's technique with precision.

A Bug's Life: (Randy Newman) In the battle between 1998 animated features involving insects, Disney and Pixar began production on A Bug's Life before Dreamworks did on Antz, but the latter film beat Disney to the theatres by almost two months. The proximity of their release dates begged countless comparisons between all the elements of their productions, and ten years later, the animated genre still hadn't seen anything like them. It's commonly considered that Antz features a better vocal cast with humor aimed more squarely at adults, while A Bug's Life is more lovable for the children and is visually more vivid. Both plots involve unique ants in a colony that want to make a difference or be something more, and their trailblazing actions both help save their colony by unexpected means. The music for the two productions can be compared directly as well, with John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams writing music for Antz that, in some ways, is similar to the laid back, jazzy style of Randy Newman, whose music for A Bug's Life, like the film, received far more initial recognition. Both scores are typical to the careers of their respective composers, with the Powell and Gregson-Williams entry opening the door for several future collaborations of equal creativity, while Newman was firmly establishing his own style for animation in the late 1990's. It's somewhat surprising to think back and recall that A Bug's Life was only Newman's third score for the genre (after Toy Story and James and the Giant Peach). His trademark song and score style for the genre was so familiar by 1998 that this sound was already synonymous with films like A Bug's Life.

Fans had already decided by that time to either suck up every moment of Newman's style or write it off as lame and try to ignore it. Regardless of where you fit in the equation, Newman's career was clearly at its height in 1998. He became the first person in any Hollywood field to be Oscar-nominated for three different films in three different categories in the same year. Both A Bug's Life and Pleasantville were nominated in their respective, split score categories while Newman's song for Babe 2 beat out "The Time of Your Life" from A Bug's Life for Newman's typical entry in that category. The fact that all three nominees lost was testimony to the competition and, for Newman himself, became an eventual source for jokes. Although A Bug's Life is a very effective score with a solid fan base, film score fans will likely find themselves gravitating to the more stylish sound of Antz. Only expressed fans of Randy Newman can really get into the groove of A Bug's Life, and that statement is aimed more at the somewhat tired and predictable writing style of Newman rather than the qualities of A Bug's Life itself. The main song is quite catchy, though Newman's usual slurred performance and female chorus backing will once again appeal to only his own fans. A far superior instrumental performance of this song (with snazzy percussion) was recorded within a year by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops, available on one of their Telarc compilations. The score itself makes use of the tune from this main song several times, most notably in "Flik Leaves." One of the score's more compelling secondary themes debuts near the end of that same cue, exhibiting an adventurous Western spirit for the full orchestral ensemble and receiving significant airtime in "A Bug's Life Suite" at the end of the album.

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A far more infectious secondary theme accompanies Flik's (the main ant) creativity; its high swing style rumbles through "The Flik Machine" and "The City." These two rambunctious cues offer the best and most precise performances by the ensemble. Without significant integration of any of these three themes into the score's second half, the action music contained there becomes somewhat generic. The slightly Arabic tilt to the "Circus Bugs" and some notable trumpet work in the late action pieces are exceptions. As the score loses touch with Newman's main themes and jazzy sensibilities, it wanders into Carl Stalling territory and hits you with tiresome cliches from yesteryear's cartoon scores. Newman handles these well in a technical sense, but again they lack a distinct personality. Another issue that plagues the score in several places is questionable performances by the horns. In both "Flik Leaves" and "A Bug's Life Suite," the brass are a half-tone off, and while some of this technique is intentional in the performances of the song's lazy melody, these other instances sound more like flubs. It remains possible that this consistently awkward use was meant to accent the personality of Flik's character, however. Overall, A Bug's Life could leave non-Randy Newman fans cold. His jazz is predictable and his generic orchestral animation music begs for more personality. The highlights of both Newman's own Pleasantville from the same year and the competing Antz are superior to anything heard here. If you own a healthy collection of Newman's films on DVD, from Toy Story to Cars, then you will likely enjoy A Bug's Life as much as Monsters Inc. and all his related entries. And if you fall into that category, then be aware that Newman's interests released an AMPAS promo of score music from A Bug's Life that adds a handful of additional cues to the commercial release. But for listeners tired of Newman's run-of-the-mill music for animation, then approach the general enthusiasm for this score with caution. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Randy Newman reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.06 (in 18 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.04 (in 21,268 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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Regular Average: 3.18 Stars
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 47:32

• 1. "The Time of Your Life" (3:16)
• 2. The Flik Machine (2:54)
• 3. Seed to Tree (1:01)
• 4. Red Alert (1:49)
• 5. Hopper and His Gang (3:21)
• 6. Flik Leave (2:37)
• 7. Circus Begins (1:27)
• 8. The City (2:35)
• 9. Robin Hood (0:59)
• 10. Return to Colony (1:33)
• 11. Flik's Return (1:24)
• 12. Loser (2:43)
• 13. Dot's Rescue (4:00)
• 14. Atta (1:08)
• 15. Don't Come Back (1:07)
• 16. Grasshoppers' Return (3:01)
• 17. The Bird Flies (2:38)
• 18. Ants Fight Back (2:14)
• 19. Victory (2:33)
• 20. A Bug's Life Suite (5:12)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert contains lyrics for the song, as well as the usual Disney advertisements for their other products, but no extra information about the film or score.

  All artwork and sound clips from A Bug's Life are Copyright © 1998, Walt Disney Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 2/19/99 and last updated 3/26/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1999-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.