A Bug's Life
Walt Disney Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/10/1999
My daughter is at the age where she's starting to really recognize things in her environment. She knows most of the sports that her daddy watches on cable, and she can identify Emeril Lagasse when he comes on TV - she's even occasionally done his trademark "Bam!" (This recognition isn't always great; my wife was putting my daughter's hair in a ponytail, and she kept saying, "Yes!"... as in the Clairol Herbal Essences commercial.)
Part of this new sphere of recognition also comes in the form of the movies that are being hyped. Each time we pass the Disney Store in our local mall, she stops by the window and says, "Ooh... Bug's Life!" And, of course, she's right; there in the window is a display of merchandise touting the latest collaboration between Disney and Pixar Animation (the same people who brought us Toy Story).
Now, she hasn't perfected the skill of whining to Daddy until he takes her to see the movie (so far, I've only been through one sitting of The Rugrats Movie), so - as usual - I'm at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes down to reviewing the soundtrack from A Bug's Life. However, like many Disney soundtracks I've heard, the music tends to tell the story very well - and Randy Newman's score is some of his best work yet.
There is only one vocal track on the album: "The Time Of Your Life" (sung, of course, by Newman). It's an entertaining song, but it does lack some of the magic of his past work on Toy Story. However, it's still a fun song to listen to, even if its scope is a bit more narrow than the more generic vocal numbers he did just one movie ago.
For the remainder of the soundtrack, we're left with some very richly orchestrated music that helps you to form a pretty good idea of what's happening in the movie. Starting with "The Flik Machine," Newman's score succeeds on every level, providing an almost modern sound to the Disney soundtrack machine that it's been waiting for.
The action tends to move quite briskly in the first half of the soundtrack, with tracks like "Red Alert," "Flik Leaves" and "Robin Hood" standing out in my mind. The second half's work gets a little long in the tooth at times ("Dot's Rescue" seems like it is stretched out a little too long), but the music keeps its charm level high.
By the time you get around to "A Bug's Life Suite," you might find yourself wishing that the soundtrack wasn't over just yet - after all, things were really starting to get good! Maybe it's wiser that Newman leaves us wanting more in the end... assuming he's doing the music for the upcoming Toy Story sequel, I'm that much more interested to see what else he has up his sleeves.
A Bug's Life is a soundtrack that almost doesn't need a movie to back it in order for it to tell its story. And while I'm certain the day is coming when my daughter is going to demand that I take her to see the movie, for the time being, it feels like I can see the movie - minus the "bloopers", of course - any time I pop this disc into the CD player.