It is no secret that Pixar and Dreamworks are against each other and always will be. They are the two powerhouses for 3D, CGI films, so it is obvious they will be at war. Standing from the sidelines the battle looks fairly mundane with both studios releasing films for the public to enjoy, each trying to create great films. The battle between Pixar and Dreamworks is way more than this; Pixar and Dreamworks have history…
It all starts with a man named Jeffery Katzenberg. Jeffery was brought into Disney by CEO Michael Eisner in 1984. Eisner wanted him to look into the motion picture division of Disney. At this time Disney was one of the worst performing studios in regards to film making. Katzenberg was able to turn this around by creating some more adult orientated live action movies, as well as some of Disney’s best animated films. These animated films included Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and the Lion King. It was also Katzenberg who agreed the partnership deal between Disney and Pixar.
When Eisner’s second in command died in a helicopter crash, Katzenberg was not promoted to the free position of president. Katzenberg fell out with Eisner, and left Disney in 1994. He also even attempted to sue his old company for money he felt he was owed. This breakup inspired Katzenberg to seek revenge, eventually leading him to create Disney Pixar’s mortal enemy, Dreamworks.
Thus commences the biggest movie studio rivalry known in the business, and a fairly shady movie battle too…
Bug’s Life vs Antz
Hyped up by the success of Toy Story, Pixar started work on its next film, A Bug’s Life. Remember that Katzenberg knew John Lasseter and Steve Jobs after Toy Story and Pixar’s collaboration with Disney. To be honest, Katzenberg hindered the process of Toy Story by wanting it edgier and appeal more to adults. It wasn’t until he left Pixar to it, when they were able to create the film they wanted. Katzenberg had already had a run in with the Pixar staff, so when Katzenberg invited John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton for a meeting after his founding of Dreamworks, they should have smelt a rat. Katzenberg was asking them a lot of questions about their “bug” film, and pointing out how close the release date was to Dreamwork’s Prince of Egypt. This meeting was in 1995. John and the Pixar team started getting word that Dreamworks were also making a CGi film based around insects; this film became Antz. John phoned up Katzenberg who initially said it was a rumour, but later admitted it was true. Jeffrey told John that the Antz pitch had been given to him years before any news of A Bug’s Life. John obviously found this hard to believe and felt he was the cannon fodder between Disney and disgruntled Katzenberg. Katzenberg then phoned up Steve Jobs, and told them he could stop the production of Antz if Disney and Pixar moved the release date of Bug’s Life to avoid it colliding with Prince of Egypt’s date. Jobs told him it was extortion and refused to move the date. Disney would not have let him anyway. Katzenberg then made the decision of moving Antz’s release date from Spring 1999 to October 1998, just to get an edge on Pixar’s Bug’s Life. The sad thing is that most of the Pixar crew knew and were friends with the PDI crew (PDI being the computer animation group Dreamworks bought and used), and would have supported their new film, had it not been in direct competition with theirs. John Lasseter has even said that he would have closed the studio for the day just to go and see PDI and Dreamwork’s first film. PDI and Pixar were on good terms after the whole debacle, but the competition between Dreamworks and Disney still whirred on.
Film’s Similarities and Differences
- Based on insects
- Main character is a male worker ant that wants to get out of the colony
- The worker ant falls in love with a princess
- They both save the colony
- In a Bug’s Life the colony is the safe place, while the big city is dangerous. In Antz the colony is bad and the place they try and find is good
- Antz is not afraid with death with many characters dying, while Bug’s life shows little violence and no deaths
- Bug’s life is family friendly, whereas Antz tried to be edgy, using satirical and rude humour and violence
- Antz is the dark side of theme, while Bug’s Life is the light. Antz used darker colours, humour, and plot. Bug’s Life is colourful, juvenile, and much brighter.
On Rotten Tomatoes:
As you can see from the ratings both films are highly acclaimed. They each win out in different areas on different websites. The reason Antz beats A Bug’s Life on some websites is due to the harder hitting story and better voice cast, while Bug’s Life wins for memorable characters and child friendly plot.
Even if their critical reception was similar, Katzenberg’s gamble with Antz beating Bug’s Life didn’t pay off at the box office.
Bug’s Life cleaned up with $363,398,565 in box office sales to Antz’s $171,757,863 worldwide sales. The fact that Antz lost out to Bug’s Life even though it came out earlier speaks kindly to the marketing Pixar did for the film, and the lack thereof from Dreamwork. It also shows that the fact Antz was rushed out into cinemas just to beat Pixar’s efforts was a stupid idea, and thus lacked any real traction in the theatres. Judging by the reviews Antz could have easily been stiff competition for Bug’s Life if it had been marketed better.
In all credit to Katzenberg and Dreamworks, they did bring out a good film with good reviews. So you can only feel the cheap tactics and fired shots between the two studios only really harmed Antz. Had Katzenberg waited for Bug’s Life to come and really finish off the film, it may have beat Bug’s Life in the box office. After Jeffery had laid down the gauntlet there was no real going back; Dreamworks and Pixar were to be long time enemies. From similarities between Shark Tale and Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and Flush Away, and even Disney’s Emperor’s New Groove and The Road to Eldorado only strengthened the animosity between the two even if they were just “coincidences.” After Bug’s Life vs Antz, animation fans actually had two great films to watch and enjoy. So I suppose it wasn’t all bad.