It’s Tough to be a Bug

Jack Spence Masthead

Today’s blog is about the attraction, “It’s Tough to be a Bug” located beneath the Tree of Life. This funny, scary, silly, and informative show never fails to delight and educate. It’s Disney magic through and through.

It's Tough to be a Bug Poster

In last week’s blog, I mentioned that initial plans called for a restaurant to be built beneath the Tree of Life. However, early on in the design phase of the project, this idea was abandoned in favor of a show. But the Imagineers struggled with what type of show should be presented here. After all, the Tree of Life was going to be the icon for the Animal Kingdom. Whatever idea was selected to be showcased here had to represent the ideas of nature and conservation.

One proposal featured a film extolling the “Wonders of Nature.” Another featured a fable told by the characters of the Lion King. However, this second idea had already been used in the Land Pavilion with a film titled “Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable.” Here are two concept drawings depicting these two possible shows.

Wonders of Nature Concept Art

Lion King Concept Art

Other ideas continued to be examined, but none of them seem to satisfy all the requirements the Imagineers had laid out. In the end, it was Michael Eisner that suggested a show about insects. After all, bugs are a part of the animal kingdom and many live beneath the ground and within the roots of plants and trees. In addition, Eisner suggested the Imagineers tie the show into the Pixar movie currently under development, “A Bug’s Life.”

Ultimately, this idea took root and this show became one of four Disney attractions with a movie tie-in to open before the film. “It’s Tough to be a Bug” began entertaining audiences when the Animal Kingdom opened on April 22, 1998. “A Bug’s Life” premiered in theaters on November 25th of that same year. So for seven months, audiences had no idea who Flik and Hopper were other than performers in a show.

The other three attractions to open before their corresponding films are as follows:

In 1957, the walk-through diorama in Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland opened two years before “Sleeping Beauty,” the animated feature film.

Sleeping Beauty Walk Thru

At the Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios), the giant bee prop from the movie “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” was added to the Studio Backlot Tour one month before the movie was released.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids - Bee

And in April of 1998, the “Countdown to Extinction” (now “DINOSAUR”) attraction opened two years prior to the release of the animated film “Dinosaur.”

Countdown to Extinction

Before we discuss the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” show, let’s start by examining the queue. Located across from the Disney Outfitters shop, this attraction has a rather unassuming entrance. In fact, it is easily missed if you’re not paying attention.

It's Tough to be a Bug Entrance

It's Tough to be a Bug Entrance

Up until recently, “It’s Tough to be a Bug” featured FastPass. However, it was determined that this time-saver really wasn’t needed for this attraction and it was discontinued. Today, the area that once housed the FastPass machines is used for a Meet-&-Greet area.

Meet-&-Greet Area

The first section of the queue meanders through a lush forest. Streams, plants, and trees line the pathway. When walking through this area, it’s fun to remember that before the Animal Kingdom was built, this was flat pastureland. Every hill, creek, and plant was added by Disney. In fact, the landscaping department brought in 4.4 million cubic yards of dirt and planted over 4 million bushes and trees to make the park the verdant paradise it is.

It's Tough to be a Bug Queue

Further along the trail, you will be asked to surrender your strollers as they are not allowed in the theater. Cast members park strollers in a designated lot and they will be there waiting for you at the show’s conclusion.

Stroller Parking

The queue for “It’s Tough to be a Bug” also affords views of the Tree of Life and some of the animal carvings that cannot be seen from any other vantage point.

It's Tough to be a Bug Queue

It's Tough to be a Bug Queue

It's Tough to be a Bug Queue

It's Tough to be a Bug Queue

The queue is designed to make you believe you are shrinking as you travel further and further along the trail. The idea is that you’re becoming bug-sized. Part of this effect is achieved by taking you through tunnels, or the passageways of subterranean insects. Everything seems to tower above you and the roots of the Tree of Life are becoming enormous.

It's Tough to be a Bug Queue

One section of the queue passes by a number of posters that introduce the stars of the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” show. Unfortunately, most people race by these and never take the time to read the small print.

Celebrity Posters

Today, I’m going to help you out and let you know just what you’re missing. The first poster reads:

Weevil Kneevil
the acrobatic Acorn Weevil

“You’ll go nuts over his act.”

– Mai T. Oak
The Acorn Street Journal

Weevil Kneevil

Termite – ator
the explosive Soldier Termite

“He’s armed and ready for action.”

– Tim Burr
The Hollow Wood Reporter

Termite - ator

Claire De Room
the scent-illating Stinkbug

“Her performance is a real gas!”

– Wilton Flowers
The Odor-Lando Scent-inel

Claire De Room

Chili
the deadly Chilean Tarantula

“When it comes to throwing quills, he’s a hit.”

– Harry Arachnid
The Tarantula Observer

Chili

The Dung Brothers
a dynamic “doo doo” duo

This well balanced pair of performers were born for these rolls!”

– Eater’s Digest

The Dung Brothers

Jane Goodall was one of the park advisors when the Animal Kingdom was being built. Her contributions to Disney and humanity are honored near the entrance to the theater lobby. Here you’ll find a carving of one of her famous chimpanzees and a plaque describing her accomplishments.

David Greybeard

Jane Goodall Plaque

The plaque reads:

In 1960, wildlife researcher Jane Goodall observed a wild chimpanzee as it carefully stripped a stick of its leaves and inserted it into a mound to fish for termites.

This discovery that non humans could create tools opened a door to a previously unknown world of animal intelligence and inspired Jane Goodall’s lifelong commitment to understanding these complex, amazing primates.

To honor Jane Goodall, this likeness of the chimpanzee she called David Greybeard was created in the Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

As you enter the lobby, notice the overhead theater marquee was created by termites eating out a log.

Entrance Marquee

You are now within the root system of the Tree of Life. This area is full of details if you take the time to look. For example, there is a giant ball of dung just waiting to be examined. Wow! Don’t worry. It’s odor free. And be sure to read the plaque.

Dung

Dung Plaque

As you explore the lobby further, you will notice roots everywhere and the telltale signs of insects.

Tree Roots

Insect Tunnels

But for me, the best aspect of the lobby is the playbills from past performances of the “Tree of Life Repertory Theater.” These humorous takeoffs of actual theatrical productions are clever and humorous. In addition, they offer some interesting facts about the insect world. These playbills offer parents a wonderful opportunity to teach their children about bugs in a lighthearted way. Some of the playbill titles include, “A Grass Menagerie,” “My Fair Ladybug,” and “Barefoot in the Bark.” I strongly encourage you to read these playbills next time you see this show.

Playbills

A Grass Menagerie

My Fair Ladybug

Barefoot in the Bark

In keeping with the “Broadway” atmosphere, songs from various musicals are played in the background. However, the instrumentation is unique. You see, it’s bugs making up the orchestral sounds (probably kazoos). And if you listen carefully, some of the harmonies are wonderful. Here is a complete list of the tunes played:

One“ – from “A Cockroach Line” or in reality “A Chorus Line”

Beauty and the Bees“ – from “Beauty and the Bees” or in reality “Beauty and the Beast”

Tomorrow“ – from “Antie” or in reality “Annie”

I Feel Pretty“ – from “Web Side Story” or in reality “West Side Story”

Hello Dung Lovers“ – from the “Dung and I” or in reality “The King and I”

Tonight“ (with “Flight of the Bumblebee” counterpoint) – from “Web Side Story” or in reality “West Side Story”

A Cockroach Line

Beauty and the Bees

Antie

Web Side Story

Dung and I

The “It’s Tough to be a Bug” show is only around 9 minutes long, so once you enter the lobby, the wait for the next performance is never too extensive.

The theater holds 430 people. For most Disney theatrical shows, I will tell you that it really doesn’t matter where you sit, but in the case of “It’s Tough to be a Bug” I did experience a bad seat recently. I was in the front row, end seat. Being this close to the screen and so far off at an angle, many of the 3D effects were not in focus. But other than this one occasion, I’ve never had a bad experience in this theater.

It's Tough to be a Bug Theater

“It’s Tough to be a Bug” combines 3D animation with AudioAnimatronics in a fast paced, action packed show. Flik is the master of ceremonies and introduces the audience to an array of insects with special talents. Of course, things go wrong and everyone is in for a few surprises.

Flik

It's Tough to be a Bug

Hopper

I do want to warn parents who have not seen this show to be wary if they have easily frightened children. “It’s Tough to be a Bug” can be scary. Portions of the show are dark, loud, and filled with large spiders. This can be terrifying for some children. But for everyone else, this show is fantastic and full of laughs. People scream with delight during most of the performance.

In case you’re wondering who voices the various characters, here is a partial list:

Narrator – Corey Burton

Flik – Dave Foley

Hopper – I have read conflicting reports. IMDB states that Kevin Spacey voiced Hopper for both the movie “A Bug’s Life” and the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” attraction. However, I have seen other accounts that say that Andrew Stanton voiced Hopper for the attraction as Spacey had it written into his contract that he would not be required to reprise his role for any “A Bug’s Life” toys or theme park rides. IMDB states that Andrew Stanton voice Hopper for “A Bug’s Life” video game, but makes no mention of the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” attraction. This makes be believe that Kevin Spacey can be heard voicing Hopper at the Animal Kingdom.

Chili – Cheech Marin

Termite-ator – French Stewart

Dung Beetles – Tom Kenny

Unnamed bug – Jason Alexander

The theater exit is a good distance from the attraction entrance. If some of your party does not wish to see the show, they should wait for you near the bridge that leads from Discovery Island to Asia.

Bridge to Asia

“It’s Tough to be a Bug” can also be seen at Disney’s California Adventure. It opened on February 8, 2001 and can be found in the “a bug’s land” section of the park.

Disney's California Adventure

I would like to end this blog with one final thought. Remember, magnifying glasses are for looking at little things, not for burning little things.

27 Replies to “It’s Tough to be a Bug”

  1. I am the kind of person who absolutely loves all rides and shows, especially the ones meant to spook you, especially at Disney, but I cannot handle this. I try every time I go to Disney to watch this, I want to love it, like I love everything else in Disney, but I end up crying in fear and covering my eyes. If you have any arachnophobes this isn’t the show for you. It is cartoony, but the way the show uses the tarantula (like it is going to kill you) is down right terrifying. My brothers, best friend, and boyfriend all think this show is great, but they know that even when I play brave they can’t bring me into here without me being traumatized and easily spooked for hours afterwards. This is the only thing in all of disney that could be gotten rid of and it wouldn’t make any difference to me.

  2. As always a fantastic blog, Jack. Thanks much. It’s Tough to be a Bug is one of my favorite attractions. I hope it will never be replaced.
    I have many pictures of the tree of life. One afternoon, it was not busy there at all, I took the time to see as much of the tree as is possible.
    The posters and play bills have always made us giggle. Ahhhhh Disney you are the best!

  3. Hello Jack,

    I have a question. The last time we went to see “It’s Tough to be a Bug” was in September of 2010. At that time, the audioanimatronic figure of Hopper was not seen. Instead an animated version was projected in the upper right hand side of the stage. Has the “Real” Hopper been replaced by animation due to a fear issue with small children? It would seem odd, at this point, after so many years of presenting the show. As I recall, Hopper was still alive and well in Sept. 2009.

    Jack’s Answer:

    I don’t know the details, but Hopper was having some mechanical problems. Hoppe is one of the more sophisticated AA figures. The video you saw was the backup for him just in case he’s having problems. He’s back again and as mean as ever.

  4. Great article I have always loved the extra touches Disney does and Bugs life is top notch I actaully think the wait under the roots is one of the best parts. Animal Kingdom has so many hidden wonders.

  5. Haven’t laid my eyes on this attraction since our last trip. Thanks especially for that shot of the theatre. You’re right about the views of the Tree of Life that are only found in this queue. Like you said, we’ve raced through the queue too quickly – twice! Kudos on the photos. How DID you (or Lisa) capture those in the dark? There’s talk that this attraction should be retired, but I enjoy it every time.

    Jack’s Answer:

    I tried to photograph Flik, but my pictures were over exposed and blurry — that’s why I used Lisa’s pic. With Hopper, I just took about 20 shots and hoped one would turn out — and one did. I set my camera on the highest ISO setting and this helped. However, Lisa could provide you with better camera information.

  6. Hi!
    I am a big fan of your blog and all that you post and the immense history behind every production that you seem to uncover. But, while this is totally unrelated to this post, I was wondering if you could explain to me what is going on now at discovery island and if there is any chance that Disney will some day utilize that space again.
    Thank you very much

    Jack’s Answer:

    I assume you’re talking about the old Discover Island that is the middle of Bay Lake. Although I have heard a couple of rumors regarding this land, nothing official. To my knowledge, Disney has no current plans for this island at the moment. I’m sure if they get a good idea, they’ll explore it.

  7. I really enjoy this show and your blog.

    I am terrified of spiders, but I am a wheelchair/ECV user and therefore am in the very back rows. This keeps the spiders from being overhead. I suggest this for any who are afraid.

  8. Hi!
    Thanks for the review! I’ve been going to Disney every year for six years now, and I’ve never done the It’s Tough to be a Bug show. This is probably the result of Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. The “mouse” in that show against my leg absolutely ruined my whole day. I had to leave the theater, and while I am not a huge Michael Jackson fan, it felt like sweet sweet revenge when Captain EO came back 😉 I’m not particularly scared of mice, and so the fact that I am definitely not a bug fan made me want to ask: are there any “surprises” in It’s Tough to be a Bug, or are any of the bugs particularly realistic? And just to prove I’m not a total wuss, I ride the Tower of Terror back to back whenever I can!

    Thanks!

    Jack’s Answer:

    The bugs in the 3D movie are very cartoonish. However, the spiders could scare someone and bugs do touch you a couple of times during the show. It’s done very humorously, but if you’re afraid of insects, then I would suggest passing on this attraction — especially after your reaction on “Honey.”

  9. I wonder though, as good as a show as there is in Animal Kingdom, whether or not it could be refreshed, upgraded or modernized a bit. Either way its the first thing I go to at AK!

  10. Hi Jack! Great article as usual! It’s Tough To Be A Bug is one of my favorites. Just never get bored with it! I love the mix of animatronic and projection. And who doesn’t like the stink bug? LOL thanks again!
    Lisa

  11. Thanks for such great information on the tree and the attraction inside, very interesting! Well done. I always enjoy your in depth blog.
    Becky

  12. I was just thinking about this attraction the other day. We haven’t taken our son to this one on past WDW trips, but I think he may be old enough to enjoy it when we visit next year. I’m really looking forward to experiencing it as a family!

    Oh, and I love those show posters in the queue area! Thanks for reminding me! Made me smile. 🙂

  13. Glad you mentioned that this can be frightening to some kids. This scared the living daylights out of my 4 year old. And this was a day after he LOVED Philharmagic in MK.

    I still love it though. As you said, it’s the small details everywhere outside of the theater that make this more than just a 3D movie experience.

  14. Though I am ashamed to admit it I was 15 the first and last time I visited this attraction. I wish my mother had listened to me when I told her I should listen to the signs as I did not like spiders and avoid the attraction. She told me it would be fine.

    Famous last words.

    15 years old and I had a MELT DOWN when the spider portion arrived. Thankfully I had sunglasses on to mostly cover the fact that I had tears streaming down my face. I was terrified. Small children near me are having the time of their lives and I’m freaking out. I find it amusing that the attraction is only 9 minutes long since to me it seemed like forever.

    This was almost 15 years ago and I’m still traumatized! You’ll never find me near there again which is too bad since I was enjoying myself up until that point.

  15. I really enjoy this attraction – it’s a must do on every trip to Animal Kingdom! It’s fun to experience it with people who haven’t seen the show before, particularly at the end when the bugs leave the theater first 😉

    I’ve always wondered… is Flik purple in this attraction, rather than blue like he is the movie? I didn’t know if it was just me, or maybe Pixar decided later on that the he would be blue and the attraction was already being built/opened!

    Thanks for your great blog Jack.

    Jack’s Answer:

    On the attraction poster, Flik is blue. As for his AudioAnimatronics figure, he looks purple — but this could be lighting. I was looking at some YouTube clips of the movie and it’s difficult to make out his color, but he could be purple. I’ll have to go watch the show again in person to see his actual color. But I have to believe that the movie was far enough along in production when they started the attraction that Flik’s color was already established.

  16. Hi Jack,

    We had a great time at AK last Tues. We spent a good amount of time on the trails enjoying the beauty of the Tree of Life.
    Every time we go to see “It’s Tough to be a Bug” I always take my time to read the introduction posters – and try to get those I’m with to also take notice of them. But like you say, most everyone seems to want to just fly thru the queue. The posters and the playbills are the highlights for me also.
    Thanks again for another great blog.

    ~ Johnny

  17. Excellent post as always. Although I have to disagree on one small point. I don’t think “Countdown to Extinction” could be considered an attraction to open prior to its movie tie in. When this attraction opened, it was meant to be a stand alone, original production. If you look back at the original film in the pre-show area(and even the front of the Dino Institute), the Iguanadon from “Dinosaur” was nowhere to be found. In fact, the large T-rex-like dinosaur was referred to as something other than the “Carnautor” from the film. It was after the film came out that they decided to slightly revise the ride to tie-in (as Eisner loved to do at the end of his run as CEO).

    Jack’s Comment:

    Although I don’t remember specifically, I thought the only thing that changed on this attraction was the name and the dinosaur out front. I thought the preshow and ride remained the same. But I could easily be wrong. Regardless, it was not me making the claim that this attraction (based on a movie) opened prior to the movie. I found this information on an official Disney site. But if you are correct, good point!

  18. Hi Jack! I love It’s Tough to be a Bug! The Stink Bug is one of my favorites! I love when my kids scream “EEEEWWWWWWW!”

  19. Nice job, Jack. From what I’ve read, Spacey does not voice Hopper at the Animal Kingdom. He neglected to do so and now regrets that decision after seeing the attraction. I’m still a big fan of this show and was surprised that my three-year-old daughter enjoyed it. I was pretty nervous she’d be scared, but she had a blast.

  20. I’m so excited to see Animal Kingdom getting so much blog attention lately 🙂 Hopefully it inspires more people to visit EVERYTHING Animal Kingdom has to offer instead of just visiting the “E ticket” attractions.

    I didn’t realize that Andrew Stanton did the voice for Hopper in the video game, though its not surprising since Pixar animations/directors/producers tend to lend their voices (and their children’s voices) to various films!

    On a side note, I legitimately laughed out loud at the “not burning little things”–great themed ending to this entry! lol

  21. As much as I enjoyed this blog – you saved the best for last:

    “I would like to end this blog with one final thought. Remember, magnifying glasses are for looking at little things, not for burning little things.”

    GUILTY! LOL.

  22. I haven’t had timne to read the whole blog yet, but this struck me as particularly clever:

    “Ultimately, this idea took root and this show became…”

    LOL at “took root” for a story happening under a tree!

    Well done, Jack!

  23. Nice post on this great attraction. I wasn’t surprised by your issues with the front row seat. This was scheduled for a refurb late last year or early this year and was canceled. That’s too bad because the screen/project need a serious upgrade. When I saw this back in September, the screen was really blurry. I figure once more of fantasy land opens and maybe when Test Track reopens, they’ll finally work on this one!!

  24. I saw this show yesterday at the Animal Kingdom! It is definitely one of my favorite 3D shows in Disney World and certainly a “must-do” for anyone visiting AK!!!

  25. It’s Tough To Be a Bug has always been a fun thing for us in the Animal Kingdom park. I have enjoyed the in-depth look that your recent blogs about Animal Kingdom have provided… I’m hoping that you continue to cover some AK things, as I feel like your insight will help us fully appreciate the park on our next visit. I always enjoy and appreciate the blog. Thanks!

    Jack’s Comment:

    In case you’re not aware, I have written many articles about the Animal Kingdom. Go to the search engine within AllEars. Type “Jack” and the attraction or restaurant you’re interested in. Chances are, you’ll find an article.

  26. hey jack
    for me it’s tough to be a bug is a cute, funny, entertaining show. I especially love the unsuspecting ending when the bugs leave first. It was also interesting to learn that Jason Alexander played a small role in this. can’t wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.

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