The Ant Bully (film)

The Ant Bully

Theatrical release poster
Directed by John A. Davis
Produced by Tom Hanks
Gary Goetzman
John A. Davis
Written by John A. Davis
Based on The Ant Bully
by John Nickle
Starring Zach Tyler Eisen
Julia Roberts
Nicolas Cage
Meryl Streep
Paul Giamatti
Music by John Debney
Edited by Jon Price
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • July 28, 2006 (2006-07-28)
Running time
89 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50 million
Box office $55.2 million[1]

The Ant Bully is a 2006 American computer-animated adventure fantasy comedy film written and directed by John A. Davis based on the 1999 children's book of the same name by John Nickle. It, featuring the voices of Zach Tyler Eisen, Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep and Paul Giamatti, was produced by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman's Playtone, John A. Davis and Keith Alcorn's DNA Productions and released in theatres on July 28, 2006 by Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures. Concurrently with the general release, it was offered in big screen IMAX 3D, the format also used with The Polar Express. This is also the first animated one produced by Legendary Pictures, the 2nd feature one produced by DNA Productions. Just before its release, most of the DNA employees were laid off. It was the last film role by Ricardo Montalban before his death in 2009. The film earned $55.2 million on a $50 million budget.


Set in suburban Las Vegas, 10-year-old Lucas Nickle is tormented by a bully and his gang. In turn, he attacks an anthill with a squirt gun which terrifies the ants. One ant, an eccentric wizard named Zoc, tries to fight back but is overwhelmed. His girlfriend, a nurse ant named Hova, attempts to communicate with Lucas and is almost crushed, but is saved by Zoc. The leaders of the colony decide to use a potion created by Zoc to shrink Lucas down to ant size to punish him for destroying their hill.

Lucas's parents go to Puerto Vallarta for the weekend, leaving him with his older sister, Tiffany, and their grandmother, who is obsessed with aliens.

The local exterminator Stan Beals convinces Lucas to sign a contract to kill vermin. At night, Zoc and a small troop of ants sneak up and pour the potion into Lucas's ear, and he awakens to find himself shrunk down to ant size. He is carried to the anthill into a world of giant caves, caterpillars, and ants. During the trial, Zoc insists that he should be studied then eaten, but he is overruled by the Queen. She sentences him to hard labor. Hova volunteers to train him despite Zoc's objections. They become friends learning more about differences between ants and humans. But when she forces him to forage for jelly beans with Kreela and her husband, Fugax, he is unsuccessful. The ants are attacked by wasps; Lucas finds a discarded firecracker and uses it to destroy the attacker wasp and scare the other ones away. The ants begin to admire Lucas, except for Zoc, who grows jealous of him.

By nightfall, Lucas is introduced to honeydew and quickly becomes sick only to be cured by Hova. They wander in the chamber of ages where he is shown a painting which depicts the Great Ant Mother and the evil Cloudbreather. He is told that the Great Ant Mother will return and shower the ants with honeydew, while the Cloudbreather will spell destruction for them. He and his friends go back to his house, where he tries to call Stan to cancel the contract but calls a pizza restaurant instead. Then Tiffany comes home and they are forced to escape down the kitchen sink's drain.

When Zoc finds out that Lucas put Hova in possible danger, he accuses him of treachery and tells him that he should find another wizard because there is no way that he will give him the potion to return him back to normal size. Lucas runs away, frightened, and Hova becomes angry with Zoc. But when Lucas is eaten by a frog, Zoc frees him, starting to like him and realizing that he's not so bad after all.

The next morning, Lucas finds the Great Ant Mother approaching. He discovers that it is actually a giant balloon strapped to the top of Stan Beals' van used as a symbol for pest control. The ants enlist the aid of the wasps to stop Stan. They threaten Lucas, but hearing that their nest will be destroyed by Stan, they agree to help. During the battle with Stan, Lucas saves the lives of Hova and an injured wasp. Both the ants and wasps are no match against pesticide, but just as Stan is about to exterminate the anthill, a beetle and glowworm manage to bite him in the crotch. Lucas injects him with a shrinking potion, misshaping him, and forcing him to escape on a tricycle. The group returns to the colony, where Lucas is hailed as a hero for his brave actions. Zoc, having understood who he is, gives him the potion and he returns to his normal size. His parents return from their trip and reunite with him. He manages to beat the bigger bully by getting the other Kronies to join him, becoming "bigger" than the bully. Before leaving he gives a bag of jelly beans to the colony.


Additional voices were provided by Tyler James Williams, Jaishon Fisher, Frank Welker, Tom Kenny, Neil Ross, Bob Joles, Wally Wingert, Leon Morenzie, Johnathan Cook, Clive Robertson, S. Scott Bullock, Zack Shada (uncredited), Benjamin Bryan (uncredited), and Jordan Orr (uncredited).


Hanks originally conceived the idea for an animated film adaptation after reading the book with his child. He then sent a copy to Davis because of Davis' work on the computer-animated film Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.[2] Davis came up with a potential take on the story within a few days. "To be honest, when I first looked at it, I thought Oh, why does it have to be ants again?" said Davis. "But the more I thought about it, I said, So what? It's got as much to do with The Incredible Shrinking Man as it does the other bug movies. It's a completely different story."[3] Also, Hanks agreed that the story could be expanded considerably (the original book being around only 2,000 words). Alcorn had a similar initial reaction to the project as Davis did. "My first thought," recalled Alcorn, "was, 'not another ant movie.' But looking at the actual story, this was really about a little boy and how he learns about the world by having to live beneath the surface."[4] Davis states that he felt like something of a hypocrite when, while he was working on the script, carpenter ants infested his house and he called an exterminator.[5] The film was rendered on DNA Productions' 1400-CPU render farm, managed by the open source Sun Grid Engine job scheduler. The nodes started out with Fedora Core 2 Linux with a modern 2.6.x kernel, but the new AMD Opteron nodes are running Fedora Core 4. Most of the applications are commercial, including Maya, Lightwave 3D, Houdini, Massive and the Pixar RenderMan.[6] Along with the theatrical release of The Ant Bully, there was an IMAX 3D version presented in only some of the IMAX theaters. The others continued to run the 3D version of Superman Returns. The special IMAX 3D version was remastered in 3D with IMAX DMR. Critics within the 3D motion picture community have given the film high marks, as unlike Superman Returns, the entire film is projected in 3D stereo. The process to turn a pure animation film into 3D is much simpler than converting a film having live actors. Some of the production took place at C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures in Canada.


The film was theatrically released on July 28, 2006 by Warner Bros. Pictures and was released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 28, 2006 by Warner Home Video.


Critical response

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 63% approval rating, based on 115 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The website's consensus reads, "Sometimes inventive and witty, this animated adventure into an ant-sized world is a pleasant diversion."[7] Tom Long of the Detroit News wrote that "there's a sweet simplicity and humility to this film." Ruthe Stein of The San Francisco Chronicle wrote that "the brilliance of The Ant Bully is in the crafty way it delves into the minds of ants as they plot to save themselves from extermination...Davis creates a marvelously labyrinthine society for them, right below the surface of a bland suburb." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly liked Roberts and Cage in their roles, and referred to Streep's queen ant as "excellently magisterial." She also wrote that "the kind of life lessons that usually gum up the fun go down as easily as jelly beans in The Ant Bully."[8] However, Jeffrey E. McCants of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote that "the film's heavy-handed lessons turn it from a fun romp through a cartoonish insect world to a predictable and preachy snoozefest". Lou Lumenick of the New York Post called the film "generic" and wrote that "adults will be less than enchanted by its preachiness, talkiness and Communist Party-line political views". Bill Muller of The Arizona Republic wrote that "The Ant Bully, in trying to match Antz or A Bug's Life, just digs itself into a big hole".[9] Jack Mathews of the New York Daily News was positive about the film's lack of pop culture references and thought that the film does not "talk down" to children. Additionally, he noted that "adults may be amused (or maybe not) by the Christian parallel in the ants' religion."[10]

Box office

The film opened at #5 on July 28, 2006 and closed on November 16, 2006, with $28 million in North America and a total of $55 million worldwide. The estimated production budget was $50 million.[11]


The Ant Bully: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by John Debney
Released August 1, 2006
Recorded 2006
Length 57:41[12]
Label Varèse Sarabande
Producer John Debney
John Debney chronology
Chicken Little
The Ant Bully
Professional ratings
Review scores

The soundtrack's music score was composed and conducted by John Debney and there are no songs in this film. The entire movie score was released by Varèse Sarabande.

Track listing

1."Parade of Ants"  1:04
2."Destroyer"  2:07
3."Sad Lucas"  1:01
4."Zac Attempts Potion"  1:45
5."Head of Council"  1:09
6."Parents Leave on Trip"  0:43
7."Zac Makes Potion"  0:58
8."Colony Floods"  0:49
9."Colony Destroys"  1:29
10."Mommo Awakens"  2:07
11."The Queen"  2:13
12."Team Competition"  2:49
13."Wasp Attack"  4:00
14."Honeydew Feast"  2:27
15."The Ant Mother"  2:27
16."Sneaking Home"  1:22
17."Hang Gliding"  2:03
18."Jellybeans"  1:25
19."Frog Attack"  2:17
20."Zac and Lucas"  2:19
21."Exterminator Arrives"  3:04
22."Asking for Wasp Help"  1:39
23."Launching the Attack"  1:49
24."Assault on Stan"  6:07
25."Lucas gets Named"  2:14
26."Home Coming"  1:15
27."Bullies and Sweet Rock"  4:59
Total length:57:41

Video game

Games publisher Midway released The Ant Bully, the official video game tie-in to the film on GameCube, PlayStation 2, PC, Wii and Game Boy Advance on July 24, 2006. The game was developed by the Montreal Studio Artificial Mind and Movement (A2M).


  2., , Hanks and Davis on the Ant Bully, July 27, 2006
  3. Jenny Donelan, Computer Graphics World, September 2002, Volume 29 Number 9, pages 2426
  4. John Cawley, Animation World Magazine, , July 28, 2006
  5. Kotek, Elliot V. (2006). "John A. Davis: Ant Bully's Architect". Moving Pictures Magazine. Retrieved 2008-11-24.
  6. "Making movies with Grid Engine"
  7. "The Ant Bully (2006)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  8. Entertainment Weekly, July 26, 2006
  9., , accessed March 25, 2006
  10. Rotten Tomatoes, Top Critic Reviews, , accessed March 25, 2008
  11. "Weekend Box Office Actuals (U.S.) Aug 4 - 6 weekend"
  12. "The Ant Bully - Original Score (2006)". Soundtrack.Net. Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  13. Phares, Heather. John Debney: The Ant Bully > Review at AllMusic. Retrieved October 5, 2014.
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