SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING: Friendship; Courage; Teamwork.

MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS: Trustworthiness; Respect; Responsibility; Caring.

AT A GLANCE: Age: 5 – 8; MPAA Rating — G; Animated Drama; 1998; 96 minutes; Color; Available at Amazon.com. For children ages 9 – 12 see Learning Guide to this movie. Available for sale on Amazon.

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A colony of ants struggles to free itself from domination by a group of grasshoppers while Flik, a non-conformist ant, tries to find his place in the colony. Flik’s differences from the other ants allow him to find a way to help the ants defeat the grasshoppers.


“A Bug’s Life” teaches respect for those who are different from the group, teamwork, and owning up to your mistakes. Children can find inspiration in the character of Dot, the youngest and smallest ant, who does amazing things. The film can also be used as an occasion to learn about ants and insects.


ant, ladybug, butterfly, caterpillar, black widow, flea, grasshopper, praying mantis, beetle, potato bugs (also called pill bugs or roly-polies), experiment, queen ant, worker ants, colony, hibernation, swarm, circus, cooperation, teamwork, spawn, hapless, desperate.



Which character was your favorite? — If you could have any of the characters in the movie as a friend, which would you choose? — Why is that?

→ Always encourage your child to form opinions and to share them.

→ Open-ended questions will help get a discussion going.

What did Flik contribute that was helpful to the colony?

Who were some small bugs in the movie that made a big difference?

What would have happened to the ant colony without Flik?

→ Just talking with your child fosters verbal, social and emotional learning.

→ Exercise memory skills by asking about the story, the characters, and the plot. Keep it light and fun.

Even someone who is small can be part of the team and make a big difference. Have you ever seen an example of that?

→ Young children love Story Time.



Select questions appropriate for your child.

1. Did the ant colony free itself from the domination of the grasshoppers because of Flik alone, or did all of the ants have to work together? Why is working together important? Talking About It — No single ant could beat all those grasshoppers. Flik tried to stand up to them at first, but he was alone, and he lost. By rallying the ants and enlisting the help of the Circus Bugs, Flik and the other ants were able to create a plan (the bird made of leaves), trick the grasshoppers, and defeat them. Another example of working together is when Dot and the Blueberry Scouts teamed up to make the bird fly.

→ When a parent takes a concept from the movie seriously, a child will start thinking about the lessons of the film. Often, it only takes one comment to start a child’s mind going.

2. Flik made a big mistake when he accidentally knocked over the food the ants had been collecting. What did he do when he made this mistake? Talking About It — He tried to tell the princess so that everyone would know what had happened and so that it could be corrected, if possible. Talk to your child about how everybody makes mistakes. Share some of your own experiences, especially events that occurred when you were young. Talk about how it made you feel and ask how your child feels when he or she makes a mistake. Discuss why it is important to report the mistake, fix it, if possible, and say that you’re sorry. Talk about how most mistakes will be forgiven, just like Flik’s, if you are honest about it.

→ You can talk about a movie at any time: right after it is over, in the car on the way to school, during quiet time, or before bed.

3. Flik made another mistake in this movie, when he mistook the Circus Bugs for warriors. This mistake he tried to hide. Was this the right thing to do? Talking About It — When you make a mistake the right thing to do is to admit it and try to correct what has gone wrong. Lying and trying to avoid responsibility for a mistake usually leads to other problems that are more serious than the original mistake. Often, the lie itself is more hurtful to your family than the original mistake. In this movie, Flik was very lucky that he was able to avoid some very bad consequences for lying and trying to avoid responsibility for his mistake. Real life is usually not so forgiving.

→ Don’t feel obligated to cover everything in this Guide. One or two questions are all that some children will tolerate. However, if your child watches the movie more than once, on each occasion start a new conversation or pick a new activity. This will enhance verbal development and increase the number of lessons your child takes from the film.

4. The ant colony was not very nice to Flik in the film. Should he have continued to help the colony? Talking About It — Yes, because the colony was his community, his home. Ants can’t survive on their own. People can sometimes change communities, too.

→ You can talk about a movie at any time: right after it is over, in the car on the way to school, during quiet time, or before bed.

5. What did Flik say to Dot about being small, about being a seed? Talking About It — “Seed to tree”. It may seem that you can’t do anything right, but you just have to give yourself more time to grow. It takes a long time for a seed to grow into a tall and mighty tree.

6. Who in this movie was different from the other bugs? Was being different good or bad? Talking About It — Flik was different from the other ants because he was creative and loved to invent new things. He was trying to make life easier for the ants, while almost all of the other ants were just content to stay the way they were. The Circus Bugs were also different because they were seen as weird and untalented. At first, it seemed like everybody’s differences were big problems; nobody liked them or respected them. But, in the end, their differences saved the day!


1. Take a nature walk — Carefully look around in the grass, plants, trees and dirt to find bugs. Take a pencil and paper with you. Either you or your child should make a record of how many different kinds of bugs you can find. List the bugs you’ve seen and, if you or your child can draw, sketch some of the bugs.

If you have a magnifying glass show your child how to use it. Explain the importance of leaving the bugs alone, and just observing them. Ask your child to describe the insect. How many legs does it have? What are the colors in its body? Can you see any antennae? To learn more about ant colonies, and how ants live, visit sites like The Ant Colony Cycle and Ant Behavior.

2. Look at pictures of bugs online — Go to websites like Gakken’s Photo Encyclopedia. Many of these sites have blank coloring sheets you can print. Ask your child about his or her favorite bug. Find websites about that bug or get books about it from the library. Cut out different parts of a bug’s body from paper (head, antennae, legs, etc) and tape them together to make a great big bug!

3. In a playroom or bedroom (with soft surfaces and no sharp edges), lay some small pillows randomly across the floor. Have your child close his or her eyes and stick his or her arms out. (You can also use a blindfold.) Talk about how lots of bugs feel and sense objects with their antennae. Have your child navigate around the room trying to find as many pillows as he or she can using only their “antennae” arms. (Watch carefully to make sure no injuries occur.)

4. In the evening or at bedtime, sit together outside or open the windows in the bedroom and listen for bug noises. Can you hear crickets chirping or frogs croaking? Look around, do you see fireflies?


Stories are essential tools for verbal development, social-emotional learning, and character education. Intentional parents can use family movies as a basis for storytelling.

Repeat the story of the movie at bedtime, on a rainy day, or at any quiet time. Let your child correct you if you make a mistake and, better yet, encourage your child to tell you the story. Both of you can invent new adventures for Flik and his friends. Your child’s imaginative and verbal capacities will be enhanced if you invent new characters and create situations that are not in the movie. To learn more about enhancing growth and development through stories told to children, go to How to Tell Bedtime Stories . . . Any Time.

Here is a story to read to your child. If you read it at bedtime and your child falls asleep before you are finished, complete the story some other time.

The first official meeting of the Spring Scouts had ended. Abby turned off the television and turned to her scouts. “And that’s the end of ‘A Bug’s Life’. So… how’d you like the movie?”

“Oh, it was great!” said Lily, “I wish I was an ant!” Everyone laughed.

“Alright, Scouts,” said Abby, “Let’s get our gear together and take our first nature walk!” They gathered up their hats, sunglasses, backpacks and water bottles. They walked quietly and slowly, in one long single line, just like the ants in the movie.

After hiking and exploring under the summer sun, the Spring Scouts were getting tired. They decided to take a break underneath a big shady tree and drink some water.

After they had been resting for awhile, Coco shouted, “I have an idea! Let’s build a fort to play in!” The other Scouts all stood up with excitement.

“That’s a great idea, Coco,” Abby said, “We’ll need some branches and sticks, big leaves and long ferns. Let’s go!”

The Spring Scouts scurried around, collecting all the things they needed for their fort. Everything they collected was thrown in a big pile and then the scouts hurried off to find more building material for their fort. Abby had found a dead tree and was dragging a heavy branch toward the pile. As she was just about to heave the branch onto the top of the pile, she heard a little voice saying “Help!” She followed the voice and found Lily, the youngest member of the Spring Scouts, stuck under a pile of the leaves and sticks. Abby called over some other Spring Scouts, and together, they lifted the leaves and sticks off of Lily.

“Are you okay?” Abby asked.

“Yes, just a little sore,” Lily said. She looked very sad. “I tried to carry all of those leaves and sticks over at once. I thought it would be useful. I’m sorry I’m not much of a help. I’m not big enough to do all the things that you big kids can do.”


(Stop here and ask your child what he or she thinks is going to happen next.)


Abby called over the rest of the Spring Scouts. “It’s okay, Lily,” she said. “I used to think I was too little to do anything too.”

Abby poked around on the ground until she found something. She picked it up and held it out.

“A seed?” Lily asked.

Abby said, “Remember the movie? Remember what Flik said? He said that we’re all still little seeds, but over time, we’ll become big, strong trees! You just need more time to grow, Lily. And you do help us in other ways, like drawing pictures for our secret meeting house and by being a great friend!” Lily smiled.

“Okay, Spring Scouts! Let’s get back to work!” Abby said. “And you can help, too, Lily. You can tell us where to put everything, and make sure we have enough supplies.”

Lily nodded happily. The Spring Scouts worked together all afternoon, and built the biggest, shadiest and coziest fort they had ever seen!

The end.


There are thousands of books on ants. Ask your local librarian. “A Bug’s Life” was based roughly on Aesop’s fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper” which you can read online here.

Written by James Frieden and Lauren Humphrey.

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