Friday, November 18, 2016

MY 20TH FAVORITE DISNEY VILLAIN

HOPPER

Image result for hopper a bug's life

FROM "A BUG'S LIFE" AND "IT'S TOUGH TO BE A BUG"

WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!

When I first started this list, I did say that I would make a few exceptions by counting one or two of the Disney sequels and spin-offs when regarding a villain, and the 4-D spin-off film shown at the Disney parks is one of the exceptions that I was talking about. I know it's an attraction, and that the majority of Hopper's appearance is mostly off-screen as an animatronic.  But I still count the attraction as a short full length film (as I do with other 3-D films and simulation rides that I reviewed in the past) since it is animated and made for the big screen, despite that you can only see it at the Disney parks with the special effects planted in the theater (or Youtube). And do keep in mind that this is my personal list of favorites, so I can pretty much do whatever I want as long as it fits the primary topic.

 Image result for Bug's life grasshoppers

The introduction to the Hopper and his gang of grasshopper's makes you fear them just as much as the ants do. The moment when we hear the ants blowing through shells to signal their arrive which causes our main character Flik to worryingly exclaim that they are here, as all the ants are running around panicking to eventually retreating to the ant hill for safety, you begin to feel paranoid. And once Flik accidentally causes all the food that the ants have prepared for the grasshoppers to fall into a stream, you laugh at his foolish mishaps, but you also know that there is going to be some major trouble ahead. For me what makes the build-up to their introduction so tense is when we see the shadows of the grasshoppers flying over the ant hill as you hear the eerie sound of their wings buzzing which then cuts to the ants standing in the dark remaining silent and huddling together nervously. And when the ants hear the grasshopper's wonder where the food is, we get our first glimpse of them where we see their legs kick holes to get inside the ant hill, where the grasshoppers begin to torment the ants by hopping and flying around them, and also kicking them as they demand for an answer. All the chaos suddenly stops when we see Hopper's feet pond on the ground, that's followed by a low angle shot of Hopper standing above three ants crawling on the ground gazing at Hopper, where he then bends down in front of the camera glaring at the audience in the ants point of view, that causes Flik to mutter Hopper's name. And what makes his first on-screen appearance even more intense is he doesn't start yelling or attacking at the ants, he just quietly walks around towards the ants with an annoyed look on his face as each and everyone of them backs away from in, where he goes from quietly asking "where is it", to then shouting "WHERE'S MY FOOD" with such demand. It's the perfect way to introduce the film's antagonists that brings a good level of suspense to the build-up to their appearance, where the result doesn't fail to disappoint.

Image result for Bug's Life Hopper's flying

And it's not just their first on-screen introduction when they enter Ant Island that's so suspenseful, when they return to Ant Island for the second time, it comes across just as effective. Time is short and the ants are running low on food to leave for the grasshoppers, and after meeting Hopper and knowing how he treats the ants and his gang, we know that his reaction to the ants not preparing enough food for him is not going to be taken as lightly as he did the first time. Before we see them land on the Island, we witness the last leaf falling on the Island (which is when Hopper will arrive for the offering), and suddenly see Hopper and his gang of grasshopper fly under an orange sky as we hear the sound of their wings buzzing louder than ever him, which almost looks like the grasshoppers are a bunch of locusts flying in an apocalyptic world. And rather than making a big introduction like they did the first time they appeared in the movie with the grasshopper's being loud and energetic, as Hopper is quiet but intimidating, it's the other way around. The grasshopper's slowly walk out of the fog towards the ants in a dreary environment without making a sound, and Hopper suddenly shows up flying behind the ants holding the leaf with the food on it yelling at the ants and tossing the leaf at them where he orders his grasshopper's to make each and every ant give them every last scrap of food on the Island.

 Image result for Hopper a bug's life

So Hopper's motivation sounds like he just wants food from the ants which doesn't sound that menacing. But in actuality it’s really to keep the ants in line to work and serve him and his gang as their slaves. And even if it was just for food, the lengths he goes to intimidate others in to giving him what he wants as are so cold and demanding, that you almost feel like you have no choice but to do what you’re told. He'll squish or beat up anyone that gets in his way or steps out of his place, whether it’s a little girl ant, the queen of the ant colony, or his own gang members without any remorse or hesitation. He pretty much has the same sadistic nature as Captain Hook. Seriously he crushes three of his Grasshopper henchmen by pouring a mountain of nuts on them for stepping out of their place, and to prove a point to his gang of how the ants can easily out number them. He'd even kill his own brother if he hadn't promised his mother on her death bed that he wouldn't do such a horrible thing, as it turns out the only bug he cares about is his deceased Mother, which you'd think that the Mother would dismiss him for his horrible acts. But with the exception of having a soft spot for his Mother and her wishes, all the other bugs he interacts with mean as little to him, as a tiny ant means to a human. My favorite moments that make him seem so vicious are the scenes when Flik stands-up to him. His reaction towards him stepping out of his place are so cold and full of hate, that he has that urge to kill look on his face.

Image result for Hopper a bug's life

Two time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey provides the voice of this tough and cold hearted muscular bug, and not only does he carry out the menacing and forceful qualities to the character so perfectly, but he also gives the character a bit of a fun villainous personality that makes him entertaining to watch, rather then having him be so dead serious all the time like the Horned King for example. One of the best qualities that make Hopper so enjoyable is his sarcasm and dry sense of humor, particularly when he constantly insults Princess Atta when we first meet him. When the struggling soon to be queen asks him if the food is up there, Hopper immediately embarrasses her on the spot in front of the ants asking her as if she's calling him stupid, and tells her to think about why he'd break into the anthill looking for it if it was up there, as if he's telling her that she's stupid. And when he finds out that she's learning to take over for the Queen, he begins to rudely and tauntingly lecture her of how the system works between the ants and the grasshopper's works, as well as teaches her the "first rule of leadership" which is everything is her fault, that is hands down one of my favorite lines from Hopper for how true it is. Another one of my favorite moments involving his dry humor is when a wounded Flik tells Hopper that the reason for building the bird to scare him away was that he was going to squish the queen, which causes Hopper to dryly respond "I hate it when someone gives away the ending" before letting one of his grasshopper henchman give Flik another hit. I also love how Hooper goes from punching out (or possibly killing) one of his grasshopper's out of frustration, to suddenly acting cool again as he joyfully tells the ants that he's a passionate insect, as if he's embarrassed for losing his cool in front of them. The interesting thing about Hopper is, even though he'll smile, he'll never act fully happy or burst out into laughing. He always stays cool and threatening. For example, just as he's about to squish the circus bugs, when two of them do something funny that amuses him, all he does is stare at them and says "that's funny", and as his grasshopper friends are laughing their heads off as they watch the show, Hopper just coolly lays back and watches with amusement.

 Image result for bug's life hopper

The gang of grasshoppers that Hopper leads, despite there only being a few who are allowed to have a character and personality, they still are a riot whenever they appear on screen whether its scaring the ants, or watching the circus. There's never a moment with these bugs that comes across as dull. My favorite scene that involves the grasshopper's enjoying their life style freely, is when we see them partying at their hide-out in Mexico, which is a bar underneath a sombrero that's run by mosquitoes, who seem to forcefully serve them just as much as the ants do. Really think about, they give them food and let them waste food without charge. They look like their forced to play Mariachi music for them or else. And they're used as darts which doesn't seem to please them at all. So when they're not torturing the ants, they're torturing these poor insects. What's also cool about their hide-out is, rather than just being a bar, it also acts like a spa in a tropical resort. Hopper gets massage from one of the bugs, and the grasshoppers have a place where they can swim outside and still get service. Aside from their fun loving personalities, and awesome hide-out, what I also like about this gang of grasshoppers is how they behave like a biker gang. They hang out a bar, their personalities are very thug like, they extort food from the ants in exchange for their "protection" (just like how bikers and gangsters extort businesses for money), and the way Hopper yells "Let's Ride" to his gang as they speed away together laughing is pretty similar to how a biker gang would ride out of sight, not to mention that the sound of their wings getting ready to take off resembles the sound of biker's starting their engines. One thing you may also notice about the grasshoppers in Hoppers gang is they're all green, as Hopper and his brother Molt are the only gold grasshoppers in the group.

Image result for Molt Bug's Life

And speaking of Molt, since Pixar didn't want the scenes with Hopper to be too scary for kids, they decided create Molt to be his comical side-kick to tone things down anotch. But since Hopper has no problem with squishing any insect that stands up to him or ticks him off, Pixar felt that they should also make his side-kick his brother given that he wouldn't let someone in his gang as weak as Molt only to have him constantly annoy him and embarrass him. He would undoubtedly squish the poor bug in a millisecond if he wasn't related to him. I'm not going to say that Molt is as funny as the other characters in the film are. And I'm not going to go as far to say that he's up there with comical henchmen like Smee or Kronk. But I still get a few occasional laughs out of him, if not big laughs. What I think makes Molt so appealing as a comical sidekick is his child like personality that Richard Kind nicely provides. He tries to be mean and tough, but he's too sweet and upbeat. He wants to get respect from his peers (including his brother), but he's an easy push-over. The only time in the film when we see this character really enjoy himself is when he watches the circus as if he’s an excited child who's going to the circus for the first time, who even makes up his own little song of how much he loves it. I also love that instead of seeing Molt run away with the other grasshoppers; he gets to join the circus as a strongbug where he'll be with bugs that are just as cartoony as he is. Oh and incase if your wondering why he's called Molt, it’s because his armor molts off in flakes, that's actually used for a few good gags (like how the flakes form into a dummy of him, when he hops away from rebellious ants).

Image result for Thumper Bug's life

Serving as Hopper's enforcer is the grasshopper Thumper, who I guess is a dog grasshopper since he growls like one, is kept on a leash, is told to when to attack by the snap of Hopper's fingers, and even flies away yelping like a cowardly dog in the climax. But I don't know for sure, since he looks like the other grasshoppers just with a more demented design it kind of makes me wonder if he's actually a grasshopper who's mentally insane and that Hopper treats him like a wild pet because that's what he acts like. He's the equivalent of the character Bronx from the show "Gargoyles"; we're not one hundred percent sure if he’s actually a pet or one who behaves different from the rest of his kind. But if there is one thing that we know for sure about Thumper, he's more violent, merciless, and vicious than his master, since his mind is always set to kill. Most of the time we see him on-screen he's always shown growling, flying wild, and acting violent as he looks eager to tare an ant limb from limb, especially the ant Dot, who Hopper nearly has her get torn apart as he brings her closer and closer to Thumper acting as if he's a parent making their child face a freaky costume character that their afraid to meet while comforting them. We don't really see Thumper actually hurt anybody until the climax where he brutally beats up Flik as Hopper watches. But his animistic nature and savage behavior is more than enough for us to want to back away from this wild grasshopper.

 Image result for Hopper a bug's life death

Hopper appears to be fearless, but the one thing that makes him coware and fear are birds, which is the equivalent of how Captain Hook would lose his cool when he hears the sound of a clock ticking inside a hungry crocodile's stomach. It's also briefly mentioned that Hopper had a near death encounter with a bird that damaged one of his eyes, where his disfigured eye now helps him strike fear into the ants when they gaze at him; AGAIN, much like how Captain Hook lost his hand that involved an encounter with a crocodile (except that it was a young boy who cut off his hand and feed to the Crocodile, rather than a crocodile just biting his hand off) where he uses a Hook to intimidate others. But while still acting scared out of his wits when he sees a bird, he doesn't totally lose his sense respect and dignity that makes him act all comical and cartoony, his show of fear is legit and feels justifiable considering his size. Even when Hopper gets out numbered by an army of ants, he still keeps his dignity as he tries as much as he could to break away from them, and seeing him getting defeated by a bunch of ants seems more believable and a less embarrassing downfall than Randall’s defeat in “Monsters INC”. And the cool thing about Hopper is, just when you think he's down and out, he manages to break-free from the cannon that he's stuck in by his quick thinking and kidnaps Flik as he out smarts the bugs that chase him, and gets passed nearly every obstacle in his way, even if he does wind-up losing an antenna. He also nearly kills Flik as he's determined to hire more grasshoppers that will out number the ants, and almost succeeds with carrying out the deed, if he only knew that he was right by a bird's nest. The funny part about this scene is, when Hopper sees the bird he at first thinks that its another fake bird (like the original fake bird that Flik and the bugs built earlier in the movie) and begins to make fun of it, until the bird screeches at him, and takes him away to feed him to her babies before he has a chance to flee, which is not only a comical but yet cruel death to a cruel villain, but he's also the first Pixar villain to have ever been killed off...that is if you don't count the 3-D movie, which I am personally counting.


IT'S TOUGH TO BE A BUG

 Image result for Hopper it's tough to be a bug

The 3-D film "It's Tough To Be A Bug" was the first 3-D attraction that I ever saw when I was a kid. But instead of finding it to be funny and cute, as I was blown away by the effects, I was petrified out of my mind from start to finish. Even now I still find the film to be a little too scary for kids, which is odd considering that it's based on a cute and funny Pixar film. And the part where the film really out did itself with its scares was when Hopper shows up. Rather than seeing him pop-out on-screen, he appears next to the screen as a larger than life animatronic that intimidates Flik and threatens the audience. When I first saw him appear, I wasn't thrilled that one of my favorite Pixar villains was going to crash the show like I usually would, I was scared out of my wits with the feeling that my life is now in danger. And the animatronic of Hopper still looks scary after all these years.

Image result for It's tough to be a bug exterminator

His motivation in the film is to kill the audience for what the humans have done to bugs, and rather than getting a gang of grasshoppers to wipe the audience out, he has different species of bugs on his side which raises the stakes of feeling in danger higher since each bug has a different ability to attack. He has a giant rhinoceros beetle chase Flik off the stage. Gets four Weevils to show the audience evidence of how human's are a threat to bugs by showing them an ad for "Exterminators" and a montage of old giant monster bug movies of how humans portray bugs as monsters to make the audience feel guilty and threatened. Somehow makes the film he shows come to life as a giant fly swatter tries to crush the audience, that's then followed by a hand holding of can of bug spray to wipe everyone out. Orders off-screen hornets to sting the audience. And tells the black widow spiders to try and capture their prey by giving the drop on them. It's incredible to see a grasshopper who once kept ants in line for a long period of time, now have a bunch of bugs follow him to help him carry out his evil deeds, thanks to his propaganda against humans. He pretty much became the Hitler of the bug world, than just a being a thug who extorts ants for food in exchange for his "protection".

Image result for Hopper it's tough to be a bug

The only animated on-screen appearance that Hopper gets is when he flies towards the audience telling them that he and his bug minions will get them no matter what you do. But his hate speech gets interrupted when a chameleon tries to eat him, which sends Hopper flying away with the same amount of fear that he has for birds. Kevin Spacey unfortunately wasn't available to record his voice as Hopper for the film, but the guy that Disney got still carries the same menacing vibe that we get from the character, whose voice does resemble Spacey's voice the same way Pixar got an actor for Slinky who sounds like the late Jim Varney in "Toy Story 3". Now why is Hopper still alive after being eaten by baby birds, and how is he able to make a montage of clips suddenly come to life...DISNEY MAGIC, I don't know. But none the less his presence in the movie whether he's on-screen in animation, or off-screen as an animatronic still makes the film scarier than it already was.

Despite that I have a few more Pixar villains on the list that outrank Hopper; I will say that out of them all, he is the most badass since he hardly takes part in any of the nonsense around him. No matter what Hopper does he always remains as an intimidating and dignified leader that's ready to squish the next bug (with the exception of his brother) that makes him mad. His design is cool. The lengths he goes to enslave the ants are despicable. Kevin Spacey does a phenomenal job of voicing the character. His gang of Grasshoppers is a lot of fun. And when you see him leading an army of bugs to destroy humans in 3-D, it only increases the fear factor that this infamous Pixar villain brings.

"It's a bug-eat-bug world out there"
-Hopper