ANTZ [1998 / 2018] [Blu-ray + DIGITAL] [US Release]
The Most Inventive and Dazzling Animated Movie of the Year!
‘ANTZ’ is the spectacular comedy adventure that was crowned "king of the hill" by audiences and critics alike. A small worker ant named Z dreams of winning the heart of the beautiful Princess Bala so he convinces his soldier ant buddy to switch places with him. Once the most insignificant of workers, “Z” may turn out to be the biggest little hero of them all! With a superstar cast including Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone and Woody Allen, everyone will dig this unforgettable family hit!
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: 1998 International Film Music Critics Award: Nomination: Best Original Score for a Comedy Film for Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell. 1999 BAFTA Awards: Nomination: John Bell, Ken Bielenberg, Kendal Cronkhite and Philippe Gluckman. 1999 Annie Awards: Nomination: Outstanding Individual Achievement for Music in an Animated Feature Production for Harry Gregson-Williams (composer) and John Powell (composer). Nomination: Outstanding Individual Achievement for Production Design in an Animated Feature Production for John Bell. Nomination: Outstanding Individual Achievement for Writing in an Animated Feature Production for Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz and Todd Alcott. Nomination: Outstanding Individual Achievement for Directing in an Animated Feature Production for Tim Johnson. 1999 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards: Win: Top Box Office Films for Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell. 1999 BMI Film & TV Awards: Win: Harry Gregson-Williams. 1999 Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA: Win: Golden Reel Award: Best Sound Editing for Music in a Animated Feature for Adam Milo Smalley (supervising music editor) and Brian Richards (music and scoring editor). Nomination: Golden Reel Award: Best Sound Editing in an Animated Feature.
Voice Cast: Woody Allen [Z-4195], Paul Mazursky [Z's Psychiatrist], Gene Hackman [General Mandible], Sharon Stone [Princess Bala], Sylvester Stallone [Corporal Weaver], Jennifer Lopez [Azteca], Christopher Walken [Colonel Cutter], Danny Glover [Staff Sergeant Barbatus], Anne Bancroft [The Queen Ant], Jerry Sroka [Bartender], Dan Aykroyd [Chip the Wasp], Jane Curtin [Muffin "Muffy" the Wasp], John Mahoney [Grebs Scout], Grant Shaud [The Foreman], Frank Welker [Termites], Charile Skanker [Termites], Jim Cummings [Additional Voices], April Winchell [Additional Voices], Marty Sixkiller [Army Vocalist] (uncredited), Eric Darnell [Additional Voices] (uncredited) and Gary Schwartz [Additional Voices] (uncredited)
Directors: Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson
Producers: Aron Warner, Brad Lewis, Carl Rosendahl, Patty Wooton, Penney Finkelman Cox and Sandra Rabins
Screenplay: Chris Weitz, Chris Weitz and Todd Alcott
Composers: Harry Gregson-Williams (music) and John Powell (music)
Executive Music Producer: Hans Zimmer
Image Resolution: 1080p (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
French: 5.1 DTS Surround Sound
French [Canadian]: 5.1 DTS Surround Sound
Spanish [Castilian]: 5.1 DTS Surround Sound
Spanish: 5.1 DTS Surround Sound
Japanese: 5.1 DTS Surround Sound
Dutch: 5.1 DTS Surround Sound
Português: 5.1 DTS Surround Sound
English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish [Castilian], Japanese, Dutch and Português
Running Time: 83 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Universal Pictures / DreamWorks Animation
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘ANTZ,’ the DreamWorks Animation animated film was released nearly twenty years ago, back in the autumn of 1998 and marked DreamWorks Animation several firsts. For starters, it was the first animated feature film the studio ever made, and the initial stepping stone toward DreamWorks’ current status as one of the major animation studios in America and some negative critics felt ‘ANTZ’ lacked a lot of the charm that has made countless Disney animated films so popular. Still, the animated film does have some good things going for it and offers a surprisingly dark yet entertaining take on a society structure within a Central Park anthill.
The setting for the story is an ant colony in Central Park in New York City, over the span of four days. The protagonist is Z-4195 [Woody Allen], is a neurotic and individualistic worker ant living in a wholly totalitarian society who longs for the opportunity to truly express himself and especially will appeal of Woody Allen's brand of humour who is always quoting ironic social commentary and is a perpetual worrying ant. His friends include fellow worker Azteca [Jennifer Lopez] and a soldier ant, Weaver [Sylvester Stallone].
‘ANTZ’ follows the barebones narrative description of ‘A Bugs Life’ but it also could be described as an animated Woody Allen film. It is am animated film with a distinctly mature sense of humour that deals a lot with our place in the world. It’s also a movie in which Woody Allen plays an overbearing creep who kidnaps the female lead, whom he’s obsessed with.
Woody Allen provides the voice of Z, the animated film's hero, and is also a neurotic worker ant who struggles with his day-to-day life in the colony and we first see Z on the analyst's couch, complaining about his feelings of inadequacy, who is a worker ant among millions of others, and longs for some individuality. While he gets along well with fellow worker Azteca [Jennifer Lopez] and Weaver [Sylvester Stallone] a soldier ant, Z still finds himself depressed. Princess Bala [Sharon Stone] decides to visit the bar the colony congregates at, and Z becomes infatuated and poses as a warrior ant. After surviving a battle with termites, he is welcomed home as a war hero, but decides to kidnap Princess Bala, who is currently engaged to the fascist leader of the army, General Mandible [Gene Hackman].
The animated film opens with our protagonist Z-4195 for a short session with a therapist, where he admits to feeling insignificant. The therapist praises this as a “breakthrough.” Z is a worker ant living in an anthill of millions, unsatisfied with what he views as a meaningless, government-dictated life in which individuality is virtually non-existent. In the anthill, ants are deemed either workers or soldiers at birth, and working and primarily digging through the earth’s soil with miniature pickaxes and is all Z has ever really known.
Things take a turn when Z comes into contact with Princess Bala who is ditching the throne for a night to explore the world of the common ant and on the dance floor and finally decides to do something to change his predicament. Z convinces his soldier friend Weaver to illegally switch places with him for a day so that he can see the princess again at the royal inspection and through a series of unexpected events, Z suddenly finds himself a war hero. From here, he unwittingly uses his new prestige to ignite a revolution within the colony just as military leader General Mandible nears completion of a sinister plan to eradicate the entire worker ant population.
The plot of ‘ANTZ’ can sometime is somewhat predictable; where the underdog rises up against authority. However, ‘ANTZ’ manages to tell it in a previously unexplored setting with an interesting juxtaposition of more mature themes with the traditionally family-friendly medium of animation. Even if you look beyond the governmental overtones and particularly relevant in light of world events today, and you have darker scenes such as a battle in which an army of giant termites shoot acid out of their foreheads, murdering hordes of pitifully underprepared ants. We also have a beheading and a magnifying glass that burns ants to bits, if you’re into that sort of thing. But we also have some fun when Z and Princess Bala finally find Insectopia, which consists of a human waste-bin overfilled with decaying food and a treat for insects of all kinds, where Princess Bala begins to reciprocate Z and her feelings towards him, because Princess Bala didn’t believe Z that Insectopia existed and where they also a greeted by a wasp named Chip and his wife Muffy, who unfortunately comes to an untimely end.
‘ANTZ’ makes a very valid attempt to show us that computer-generated features are no longer in their infancy, it’s clear that ‘ANTZ’ is actually grittier and more subtly mature than most of the animated films of recent years. The language is a little bit sharper, there are some intense visuals, like the battle scene that looks as if it were transplanted directly from 1997’s ‘Starship Troopers,’ where we see the dying decapitated head of one of Z’s friends, and a little bit of nastiness that could make an adult squirm, like a gondola ride through a rotting fish head, some bugs eating a chunk of faeces. All in all, ‘ANTZ’ is quite an enjoyable romp on many levels and there is enough cuteness and morality to keep young children involved but the humour is such that adults may even enjoy it more than their children. ‘ANTZ’ is basically a straightforward story about individuality versus group conformity. Our hero Z is uncomfortable with the over-regimented world of his fellow ants, and no one does uncomfortable better than Woody Allen. Overall, ‘ANTZ’ provides a nice little message about not being pigeonholed by society, and that no matter what your station in life you can always do better if you believe in yourself and Woody Allen provides plenty of comic relief, and the computer-generated animation is pretty impressive, especially with the visual effects are dazzling, and the vocal characterizations of Woody Allen, Sylvester Stallone, and Sharon Stone are superb. But some of the more sophisticated humour may be lost on young children, but adults will definitely find the humour more to their liking.
ANTZ MUSIC TRACK LIST
GIVE PEACE A CHANCE (Written by John Lennon) [Used with Permission by Yoko Ono]
GANTANAMERA (Written by Pete Seeger, Julian Orbon, José Fernández Díaz and José Martí)
ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE (Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner) (Music by Frederick Loewe) [Performed by Woody Allen]
I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW (Written by Johnny Nash) [Performed by Neil Finn]
HIGH HOPES (Written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen) [Performed by Doris Day]
WHEN JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME (Written by the Union Army bandmaster Louis Lambert 1829 – 1892)
Blu-ray Image Quality – DreamWorks Animation presents us with a stunning 1080p image presentation, and it is just breath-taking. The clarity of the image is stunning, so much so, that the animation almost takes on a 3D quality. It literally jumps right off the screen. There is a shot of Z and his fellow workers in a "lift” [elevator] right after the opening title that really illustrates what I'm talking about. The illusion of depth, of deep space, is amazing. The colours are gorgeous, and the image has nice subtle hues and very moody tones and the contrast is totally first rate, especially with solid blacks, that have impressive detail, even in the darkest areas of the picture.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – DreamWorks Animation gives you an awesome 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio experience, and the sound field is very natural, particularly the dialogue. That's surprising, given that most of the actors recorded their dialogue separately. The sound effects are very well mixed, such that there seems to be little separation between the front and rear hemispheres. Your subwoofer will get a good solid workout during the more intense action sequences and is highlighted with the brilliant composed film music, especially also throughout the animated film, especially when we hear thousands of ants whistling while they work over the opening titles and it is totally impressive and equally awesome.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Behind The Scenes Featurette  [1080i] [1.37:1] [4:28] Here we get to go behind-the-scene of the filmmakers at DreamWorks Animation who discuss the making of the film ‘ANTZ’ and its world perspective, some of the voice cast talks about working on the film and how much they enjoyed the experience, and the filmmakers recap on the characters and the plot outline of the animated film. Contributors include: Eric Darnell [Director], Aron Warner [Producer], Sharon Stone [Princess Bala], Gene Hackman [General Mandible], Sylvester Stallone [Weaver], Christopher Walken [Cutter], Anne Bancroft [The Queen], Chris Wietz [Co-Writer], Tim Johnson [Director], Rex Grigson [Supervising Animator], Beth Hofer [Supervising Animator] and Brad Lewis [Producer].
Special Feature: Basics of Computer Animation  [1080i] [1.37:1] [11:13] With this feature, we get to hear a fair amount of technical information from Tim Johnson [Director] and Eric Darnell [Director] for the DreamWorks Animation ‘ANTZ’ animated film, where they guide the viewer through the animated film's construction methodology, beginning with storyboards and moving on through the process to the final feature film. The two specific construction storyboard scenes we get to view are Basics of Animation: The Barn Dance Storyboard and Basics of Animation: The Water Drop Storyboard which were worked on by the Pacific Data Images [PDI]. While viewing these two items, you get an in-depth audio commentary from Tim Johnson and Eric Darnell.
Special Feature: Facial Animation  [1080i] [1.37:1] [1:14] Here we get another in-depth information of how the characters facial features were constructed in the computer in different layers relating to the ant “Z” and demonstrates the Pacific Data Images [PDI] animation system, which seems quite different to PIXAR's Renderman system. The Pacific Data Images [PDI] software constructs faces with bone structures which are then covered with virtual muscles, and the manipulation of these muscles affect the overlaying skin. This is far too short, but is very informative. The Pacific Data Images [PDI] was mainly into television commercials, shorts and visual effects for feature films; and making the leap to a fully-animated CGI feature films that made a huge challenge for the studio. Once again, while viewing this item, you get an audio commentary from Tim Johnson and Eric Darnell.
Special Feature: ‘ANTZ’ Character Design  [1080i] [1.37:1] [10:35] Here we get to view another in-depth and a thorough look through the design evolution of the different ant character designs, starting with a number of early concept drawings appearing on screen, before finally appearing in the animated film ‘ANTZ’ via lots of hand drawn coloured illustrations. We also get to hear about the animated film’s evolution development stages of the designs for the Worker Ants, Soldier Ants, Princess Bala, General Mandible and The Queen Ant and they discuss the in-depth creative process, until they were happy with the final design of the ants, which they asked Raman Hui their Character Designer to come up with thousands of drawings, so they could eventually come up with the ideal look of the ant characters. The many designs that Tim Johnson and Eric Darnell got to view, they eventually felt too many of them were over the top and a lot of the drawings were rejected, until they were happy with the final result. Once again, while viewing this feature, you get an audio commentary from Tim Johnson and Eric Darnell.
Audio Commentary with Directors Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson: Here we are welcomed by Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson, and their alternate soundtrack, in other words, their personal audio commentary to their animated film ‘ANTZ.’ Their first comment, is about the wonderful film score while watching the credits and were totally bowled over by what was produced, despite them both being hesitant in having the composers, but now they are very glad, as it all worked out so good in the end. They also very excited in working with Woody Allen and felt he nailed his character with every take, and while Woody Allen was in the recording studio and both were having a job not to stop laughing out loud, especially with how Woody Allen was interpreting the script and had a job in choosing the best bits from all of his recordings, as they were all brilliant. When we enter the massive ant construction site, both were very proud of the scale of the place, especially when they viewed it on a big screen and both were very proud of the scale of the place and by their computer animators and they based it on the film ‘Blade Runner’  and in one shot you see an estimated 60,000 ants, and again they praise the computer animators for their sterling work. When it comes to recording all the actors, they inform us that they were all recorded separately, as they had to be recorded in different studios across America and at different times and praised Stan Webber the editor for his very professional job of editing all of the different audio recordings together, to make it look so natural in making you feel that the voice actors were all in the recording studio together. When we see the scene with the gigantic magnifying glass, where it incinerates some of the ants, Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson inform us that this was in homage to the film ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’ and they also used some of the composed music from that film. When we see Z [Woody Allen] and Princess Bala [Sharon Stone] arrive at “Insectopia” and cannot access the food and suddenly the two wasps arrive Chip the Wasp [Dan Aykroyd] and Muffin "Muffy" the Wasp [Jane Curtin], and Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson say that working with those two voice actors was a totally wonderful and pleasurable experience, even though the scene is not too long. As the end credits appear Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson reel off some interesting facts, like that there were well over 1,105,59 shots in the animated film. They showed some test shots of Z to Woody Allen and he was astonished how the animation was achieved, but was equally horrified hearing his voice, as he hates seeing himself on the screen and some of his earliest films he has never viewed and he had nothing against the two directors and what they had archived. They let Gene Hackman and Sylvester Stallone see also some test shots of themselves, relating to scenes they appear together in and were totally amazed what they viewed of themselves together and thought the animation was totally brilliant, especially as they both did their voice recording in totally different studios. Overall, this is a really nice and informative audio commentary track, in which directors Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson discuss throughout the animate film, some of the difficulties of working on an animated film made entirely by computer animation. There is lots of insightful talk about the research they undertook into the real lives of ants, and found some ideas did not quite make it into the final animated film, and also praise the voice work of the actors, and loads more, and well worth listening to.
Finally, all in all, ‘ANTZ’ is a really worthwhile watch, and I feel the animated film was better suited to an older generation and its basic story have been told numerous times, but the overall look and feel of ‘ANTZ’ keeps it fresh, especially now viewed in the 1080p image presentation. It is at times very serious, at times very funny, and throughout it is a visual spectacle for its time and shame it was not able to be converted into a 3D animated film, as computer animation has advanced considerably since the animated film’s original release, but the overall design of the ant world, especially the unique small-world perspective, prevents it from aging too badly. If you have never seen ‘ANTZ,’ it is definitely well worth viewing as the DreamWorks Animation film started the revolution in computer generated animation. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso