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Monday, April 29, 2013

A Bug's Life

Before I go on with today's blog entry, I wanted to update you all on one of the recent changes in my life. That change of course, is shifting from the dairy department to the garden centre area of the store.

As I type this, it will have been one whole week since I moved over there, and I think I have a general grasp over what my duties are, and what is expected of me.

I'm not going to lie to you. Garden Centre is a lot more physically demanding than working in the dairy department. Lifting several pounds of dirt is much harder than stocking a shelf filled with milk. And, I'll be honest with you. When it comes to throwing a tarp over all of the hanging flower baskets, herbs and spices, and other plants that could be killed off on a really cold night, half the battle is figuring out how to get the tarp unfolded! And, then to cover every flower in the outside area, it takes about an hour to get everything finished. It can be a tough job.

And, you know something? I'm liking it a lot!

Because with all of the hard work that comes from working in the garden centre comes a lot of perks and rewards.

Reward #1: When the weather is really lovely and the sun is shining down, it's absolutely perfect. And, even if it rains, we get provided rainwear to protect us from the elements. And, even if it goes up to ninety degrees outside, we are allowed to drink as much water as we want. If one is prepared for the weather, the job is great.

Reward #2: Being able to work alongside such natural beauty. One of the jobs I did a couple of days ago was hanging the floral baskets and trying to condense flower racks so that I didn't have many to bring inside, and I was amazed at how something so small could have such bright and vivid colours. Even the scents of the flowers were nice and sweet (and this is coming from someone who has allergies to pollen). Keep in mind that when I started in the garden centre, I had absolutely no knowledge of gardening and flowers and trees. I'm not quite an expert yet. Far from it. But for now, thanks to the care instructions that come included with most plants, I'm sort of learning as I go along. I don't know if the right terminology is “faking it until you make it”, though. More like, taking limited information and expanding it in your own words.

Yeah, I like that better.

And, Reward #3: 99.9% of the customers I have dealt with over the past week have been in fantastic moods! And, when the people around me are in a great mood, it inspires me to be in a great mood! You can usually pick me out in the garden centre as I'm the guy wearing the black baseball cap, throwing 50 bags of dirt in a pick-up truck with a smile on my face and a farmer's tan.

Of course, the sun could be making me delirious. But, in a good way!

But there are some hazards involving the garden centre area that I must deal with too. I wouldn't dare risk lifting a six-piece patio set or a 300 pound barbecue into the back of a truck by myself. I always have to smear sunscreen on my arms, cheeks, nose, and back of my neck at least three times a day, because if I don't I'd look like a broiled lobster in a matter of hours.

And, then there's the bugs.

I'll be perfectly frank. I wasn't always a bug lover. In particular with bugs that bit or stung. Large spiders, wasps, and hornets are not my friends. I have never liked yellowjackets since I accidentally stepped on one and it stung me in between the toes. Even praying mantises and dragonflies can freak me out if I'm not expecting them to be there.

That being said, I'm not one who would go around killing these insects either. After all, they are a huge part of the ecosystem of our planet. I might not like them very much, but they all have their place in the world.

Besides, we don't know exactly what kind of a life bugs have. All we can do is speculate just exactly what they do in a given day.

(Because let's face it...a lot of insects usually don't live past 24 hours.)

And, that's exactly what this blog is all about. We're going to take a closer look with the magnifying glass and microscope at the Pixar film, “A Bug's Life”.

One thing that I will say about this film is that it had a lot of star power attached to it. Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Brad Garrett, Hayden Panettiere, David Hyde Pierce, Richard Kind, John Ratzenberger, Bonnie Hunt, Denis Leary, and the late Madeline Kahn, Phyllis Diller, Jonathan Harris, and Joe Ranft all had prominent voice roles in the movie, which was released in November 1998 to great reviews and a box office take home total of $363 million.

And, the film's plot is a rather interesting one because it shows insects like grasshoppers, ants, ladybugs, and fleas living their lives in almost the same way that humans would.

The central protagonist is a little ant by the name of Flik (Foley). He lives in a colony of ants, but he's not one to follow along with the crowd. Flik would rather march to the beat of his own drum, taking solace in his inventions. The colony is run by Princess Atta (Dreyfus) and her mother, the Queen (Diller), and the other ants in the colony show a lot of indifference towards Flik because he is so different.

I guess one could consider Flik the so-called “uncool” student in his class of peers. Maybe that's why I can sympathize with him.

In fact, if you want to take the high school analogy even further, you could say that the group of grasshoppers that terrorize the ants in “A Bug's Life” could be compared to that group of juvenile delinquents your mother warned you to stay away from...the group of kids who always got what they wanted no matter how much fear and pain they inflicted onto the general public.

Anyway, the army of grasshoppers were lead by the evil Hopper (Spacey), and the ants were forced to provide the grasshoppers with an offering of food every year. Unfortunately, one of Flik's inventions destroys the entire food supply for the grasshoppers, which angers Hopper. Hopper demands that the ants provide double the order to make up for the food that Flik accidentally ruined. The other ants are absolutely furious at Flik, and when the grasshoppers give the ants an extension on their deadline, the other ants convince Flik that if he really wanted to help, he would go out and assemble an army of “warrior bugs” to fight off the grasshoppers.

Desperate to get the approval of the ants, and gullible enough to believe their lies, Flik sets out to find some allies, while the rest of the ants scramble to put together the massive order for the grasshoppers.

What ends up happening is that Flik stumbles upon a group of insect circus performers, fired by their ringmaster, P.T. Flea (Ratzenberger). The circus troupe is made up of...

Slim (Pierce) – a stick insect clown
Heimlich (Ranft) – a caterpillar clown
Francis (Leary) – a ladybug clown
Major Manny (Harris) – a praying mantis magician
Gypsy (Kahn) – a gypsy moth
Rosie (Hunt) – a black widow spider
Tuck and Roll (Mike McShane) – two flea acrobats
Dim (Garrett) – a rhinoceros beetle

Now, here's the thing. Both Flik and the circus performers meet each other in a case of double mistaken identity. The circus performers believe that Flik is a talent agent who will help them bounce back from rock bottom...and Flik is mistakenly believing that these bugs are the warrior bugs that he has been sent to bring back to Ant Island to fight against Hopper and his goons.

Along the way, the group saves little Princess Dot (Panettiere) from a bird attack, and gain entry into the colony as a result of this act of bravery. In the meantime, Flik comes up with a possible invention idea to scare Hopper away from the colony once and for all.

But what happens when the lies are exposed? What happens when the ants fail to provide the adequate food sources needed to satisfy Hopper and his goons? And, will Flik ever get the respect he wants from a colony of ants who have dismissed him as being a screw-up?

Well, don't look at me! I don't reveal film endings! But I can offer up some more trivia for you. Have a look.

1 – This film was one of Madeline Khan's last film projects. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer the same year that she was recording her voice for “A Bug's Life” and passed away in December 1999 at the age of 57.

2 – When Flik takes a trip to “the big city” where he meets up with the circus troupe, take a look at the names written on the boxes. Those names are some of the children of the film's writers.

3 – Another interesting point to note about one of the boxes. On the side of a cookie box, the nutrition fact sign shows that each cookie contains 92 GRAMS of protein!

4 – Dave Foley may have won the role of Flik...but he actually tried out for the role of Slim initially.

5 – Ashley Tisdale of “High School Musical” fame tried out for the role of Dot.

6 – Hayden Panettiere was just eight years old when she won the role of Dot, and she was already working a second job at the time. She did double duty between “A Bug's Life” and playing Lizzie Spaulding on “Guiding Light”.

7 – “A Bug's Life” was unique in that it had five different cover designs when it was first released on home video in 1999. The five cover stars were Flik, Heimlich, Francis, Dot, and Hopper.

8 – The film is a retelling of Aesop's fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper”.

9 – The film was the first wholly digital transfer of a feature film to a digital playback medium.

10 – A similar named film, “Antz” was released right around this time, and it caused a bit of a public war of words between Pixar and Dreamworks as a result, and left behind feelings of hostility between Steve Jobs and Jeffrey Katzenberg. By the end of it all, although both films did well at the box office, “A Bug's Life” sold more tickets than “Antz”.

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