Music Behind the Ride: It's Tough to Be a Bug

It's Tough to Be a Bug is one of the more fun shows at Disney's Animal Kingdom. In this edition of Music Behind the Ride, I'll explore the short history of the attraction and music.

At Disney's Animal Kingdom, the 145-foot Tree of Life is the focal point in the center of the park. In the design process, the interior of the tree was switched from restaurant to theater space. Ultimately they went with a show about the one important thing not covered in the park: insects. Similar to the 1969 Disney short, "It's Tough to Be A Bird", this new show would fit Animal Kingdom's 'edutainment" model - entertaining guests while connecting them to the vital role of bugs. It was CEO Michael Eisner's idea to attach the show to the upcoming Pixar animated film A Bug's Life. This attraction would mark Pixar's first appearance in a Disney Park and would open seven months before the film in 1998. 

Since the show is located in the base of the Tree of Life, the queue winds through the lushly forested area at the roots. You pass by several large animal carvings and take in great views of the Tree of Life. The queue also has parody posters staring the show's bugs: Weevil Kneevil, Termite-ator, Claire De Room, Chili and The Dung Brothers. (New characters were created because at the time, Pixar had only Flik and Hopper to use). 
The lobby of the theater is full of insect carvings and even a large dung ball. This is also the area where you see theater parody posters of past productions of the "Tree of Life Repertory Theatre": My Fair Ladybug, Little Shop of Hoppers, The Grass Menagerie, Barefoot in the Bark, The Dung and I, Web Side Story, Antie, Beauty and the Bees, and A Cockroach Line

From there you get your special bug-eyed themed 3D glasses and enter the theater. Like several other Disney shows, this has 3D screens, animatronics and in-theater effects. An audio-animatronic Flik appears and explains how tough it is to be a bug. First enters Chili the Tarantula who fires his poisonous quills at some acorn targets which explode in a gust of wind near the audience's faces. Next is the Termite-a-tor explaining his green acid which he shoots at the audience. The stink bug Clare De Room enters and stinks up the theater. A huge Hopper animatronic appears to yell at the audience about their mistreatment of insects. Giving us a taste of our own medicine, Hopper orders bugs attack the audience with a fly swatter, bug spray smoke, back poking hornets and spiders lowered down from the ceiling. Just then, a chameleon appears and scares away Hopper. Flik reappears with other bugs to do their final song and dance routine. The announcer asks the audience to stay seated just as bugs scurry past your feet and back. The 9-minute show is a lot of fun, but often is full of audience screams and kids crying!
For music, the attraction contains three aspects - the theater lobby, the show and the finale song. Keeping with the Broadway-style parody posters, the lobby music contains songs from the posted shows arranged for buzzing bees, crickets and other noisy insects. We hear "One" from A Chorus Line, "Beauty and the Bees" from Beauty and the Beast, "Tomorrow" from Annie, "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story, "Hello Dung Lovers (Hello Young Lovers)" from The King and I and "Tonight" from West Side Story mixed naturally with a bit of Flight of the Bumblebee. These ingenious arrangements were done by Disney parks favorite George Wilkins. The music for the show was composed by Bruce Broughton. It has a showbiz sound, reminiscent of his animated work, with the cartoon villain sound for Hopper's section.   The finale song, "It's Tough to Be a Bug", was composed by Wilkins and Kevin Rafferty. 
The show opened with Animal Kingdom in April, 1998 and is still running. The show was replicated at Disney California Adventure when that park opened in February, 2001. Instead of the Tree of Life, the theater would be located in the Bountiful Valley Farm area and in 2002 would be part of A Bug's Land alongside more kid-friendly rides. In 2018, the area permanently closed to become the area for the Avengers Campus (opening TBD).

As far as recordings, the 2001 Music from California Adventure album contained the "Beauty and the Bees" section of the lobby music and the exit song "It's Tough to Be a Bug". Both have also appeared on several Walt Disney World and Disneyland compilation albums. Since the other lobby songs don't belong to Disney, it's assumed that rights issues prevent them from being released. As with several of his other park music, Bruce Broughton's music has not been released. To hear all the music, you'll have to stop by and visit Flik at the Tree of Life!

Post a Comment