This time, it's with computer-animated insect fantasies. The October 2 release of DreamWorks' Antz comes just eight weeks before Disney's A Bug's Life.
And just like this summer's dueling asteroid dramas, the Industry is wondering if Bug's will enjoy a successful crawl so soon after Antz; and how two films so alike got made at the same time in the first place.
There are also rumblings that DreamWorks intentionally rushed Antz (originally scheduled for a March 1999) into theaters because Disney wouldn't move Bugs's Thanksgiving release date. According to the Industry rumormill, SKG principal Jeffrey Katzenberg offered to kill Antz if Disney kept Bugs from competing with his DreamWorks' pet project, the biblical epic Prince of Egypt, during the lucrative holiday season.
First, a brief look at the two films: Antz stars Woody Allen's voice as a lowly colony drone who wants to assert his individuality and date the princess (the voice of Sharon Stone). Allen's ant life is further complicated by Sylvester Stallone, who wants to lead him into the colony's battle with an army of termites. The film received a warm reception when it premiered Saturday at the Toronto Film Festival.
A Bug's Life also features a romance-with-a-princess subplot, but it's about a group of insects living on "Ant Island" who band together to ward off an invasion of food-stealing grasshoppers.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Steve Jobs and John Lasseter of Pixar Animation--the company that handled the computer graphics for A Bug's Life (and Toy Story before it)--claim DreamWorks stole the film concept. They say Katzenberg first heard the idea when he was second in command at Disney several years ago and took it with him to his new studio.
Nonsense, say DreamWorks execs, who claim Disney is just sore because the Mouse lost the race to the box office. "Steve Jobs should take a pill," DreamWorks marketing exec Terry Press tells the Times. "He looks ridiculous."
Press also tells the Hollywood Reporter that if Katzenberg had had anything to do with A Bug's Life while employed at Disney, all such matters would have been taken care of during his contract buyout.
DreamWorks also flatly denies reports--made in both Time and Newsweek this week--that it decided on the Disney-disadvantageous release date only after head mouse Michael Eisner refused to delay Bugs to allow Katzenberg's Prince of Egypt free reign at the Christmas box office.
As to whether two films so alike and released so close to one another can both enjoy box-office success, Industry analysts point to--of course--Deep Impact and Armageddon. Both disasteroid flicks grossed north of $150 million.