- "Every ant has his day."
Antz is a 1998 CGI film produced by DreamWorks Pictures and PDI (originally along with Amblin Entertainment). It is the first animated film and the first computer-animated film produced by DreamWorks Pictures and the second computer-animated film after Toy Story, it was followed by another Disney/Pixar movie called A Bug's Life as well as the blockbuster sequel Toy Story 2. It features the voices of well-known actors such as Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Jennifer Lopez, Sylvester Stallone, Dan Aykroyd, Anne Bancroft, Gene Hackman, Christopher Walken, and Danny Glover as various members of an ant society. Some of the main characters share facial similarities with the actors who voice them.
The setting for the story is an ant colony in Central Park in New York City, under the chronological timespan of 4 days. The protagonist (Woody Allen) is an ant named Z for short. Z is a neurotic and individualistic soul living in a wholly conformist society and therefore longs for the opportunity to truly express himself, a dream his friend Azteca (Jennifer Lopez) dismisses as a silly fantasy. When his depression leads him to a bar, he meets a drunk scout (John Mahoney) who tells of a paradise called "Insectopia", piquing Z's interest. The very same night, Princess Bala(Sharon Stone) goes to the bar with two of her attendants to escape from the suffocating life of royalty, throwing her crown aside to disguise herself as a worker. Earlier, however, she meets with General Mandible (Gene Hackman) , to whom she is engaged to marry and take her rightful place as Queen. She spots Z at the bar and asks him to dance, during which he falls madly in love with her. When a fight breaks out, Z learns Bala's true identity.
Later that night, Z concocts a plan to see the Princess again, suggesting that he and his best friend Weaver (Sylvester Stallone), a soldier ant, exchange places for one day. Weaver reluctantly agrees, unaware of what Z would be forced to confront. Thinking he is simply to undergo a routine inspection, Z marches with the ranks and is befriended by Barbatus (Danny Glover), another soldier. However, Z learns to his horror that General Mandible is sending the troops to war against a colony of acid-shooting termites that he believes are planning to destroy the ants and use their territory for foraging.
The soldiers, along with Z, then march into battle and arrive at the termite colony, intending to defeat the much larger termite soldiers by being the survivors of a battle to the death wherein the victors are simply the last soldiers alive. They are lured into a trap by the termites, who attack savagely and without restriction. While escaping from a termite, Z falls into a hole and remains there with no knowledge of what is happening outside. Eventually, Z emerges from the hole to find that he is the sole survivor. He finds a fatally wounded decapitated Barbatus, who with his last breath tells him not to make his mistake - to think for himself rather than follow orders all his life.
Z returns home and is hailed as a war hero, congratulated personally by General Mandible, and is brought before the Queen. There he meets Princess Bala, who eventually recognizes him as a worker. When Z finds that he has been cornered in a lie, he panics and takes Princess Bala hostage and falls into a garbage chute. The soldiers come to rescue Bala and to kill Z. Just then a magnifying glass arrives and incinerates some soldiers. Z and Bala run, escaping and hiding. When he realizes that he has escaped the colony, Z decides to search for Insectopia. Bala reluctantly decides to go with him.
Word of the incident quickly spreads through the colony, whereupon Z's act of individuality sparks a revolution in the workers. As a result, productivity grinds to a halt. Infuriated, General Mandible begins to publicly portray Z as a villain who cares only about himself. Mandible then promotes the glory of conformity and promises them a better life, which he claims to be the reward of completing a "Mega Tunnel" planned by himself. As the colony resumes digging this tunnel, Mandible notices Weaver in the crowd of workers and orders Colonel Cutter (Christopher Walken) to bring him for interrogation.
Weaver is beaten mercilessly while being questioned about Z's whereabouts. When he refuses to confess, Mandible orders that Azteca be captured, so that Weaver, who has developed romantic feelings for her, will confess to prevent her death. When Mandible begins to torture Azteca, Weaver reveals that Z may be searching for Insectopia. Knowing full well of the place's existence, Mandible sends Cutter to its location to retrieve the Princess and kill Zee.
Z and Bala, after a misdirection and a brief separation, finally find Insectopia, which consists of a human-sized wastebin overfilled with decaying food (a treat for insects of all kinds). Here, Bala begins to return Z's feelings. Having spent some time enjoying themselves in its luxury they settle down around a campfire with a group of other insects. When Z momentarily leaves to find wood for the dying fire, Cutter arrives and politely asks Bala to come with him; to protect Z, Bala tells Cutter that he had died. Z finds them gone and makes his way back to the colony to rescue Bala, aided by a wasp/WASP named Chip (Dan Aykroyd), whom he met earlier and has made himself drunk grieving over the loss of his swatted wife, Muffy (Jane Curtin).
Z arrives at the colony, where he finds that Bala has been held captive in General Mandible's office. After rescuing her, he learns that General Mandible's "Mega Tunnel" leads straight to a body of water (a puddle in human view but a lake to the ants), which Mandible will use to drown the workers who have gathered at the opening ceremony. Bala goes to warn the workers and her mother at the ceremony, while Z goes to the tunnel exit to stop the workers from digging any further. He fails to convince the foreman ordering them to dig, however, until a final strike by the foreman opens a leak, which breaks the exit open and allows the water to enter. Z and Bala unify the workers into a single working unit and build a towering ladder of ants towards the surface as the water continues to rise.
Meanwhile, General Mandible and his soldiers are gathered at the surface, where he explains to them his vision of a new colony with none of the "worker filth". He is interrupted, however, when the workers successfully claw their way to the surface and break through. Mandible is furious and grabs a spear to kill Z while he is defenseless. Cutter, however, having grown tired of Mandible's cruelty, strikes him down and helps Z out of the hole, signifying that his action is "for the good of the colony."
Enraged, Mandible snaps, yelling "I AM THE COLONY!" and charges toward Cutter, but Z pushes Cutter out of the way, causing Mandible to ram into Z instead. The impact causes both of them to fall into the flooding chamber below. Mandible is killed instantly when he crashes onto a tree root that is sticking out while Z falls into the water. Cutter then orders the other soldiers to help the workers, the Queen, and the Princess up to the surface before diving into the water to rescue Z. At the surface, Bala successfully resuscitates Z and the ants celebrate their victory. Z is lauded for his heroism and marries Bala. Together they rebuild the colony with Cutter as their General, transforming the colony from a conformist military state into a community that values each and every one of its members.
- This movie contains uncanny similarities to another Disney/Pixar movie called A Bug's Life.
- This was originally was also done by Steven Spielberg as the executive producer, but he was uncredited.