ANTZ (1998) is a computer animated film about an individualistic ant (voice of Woody Allen) in a conformist society.
12/08/09 | Film


by Matthew Simmons

One night, overnight, a colony of ants built their hill in the middle of an Urban Outfitters. In the morning, the employees looked at it, and decided to use one of the fixtures—a long, distressed-wood table—to cover it. They pushed the table, it covered with half-off collared, short-sleeve shirts, over the ant hill, and hoped to forget about the whole thing.

The next night, the hill grew. The ants chewed through the bottom of the table, and set themselves up in the midst of the shirts. They scurried around beneath the shirts, searching and endlessly searching for materials for their hill.

The employees came in the next day and saw the anthill, like a little volcano, taken over the middle of their valuable retail space. They took all the extra mannequins from the back, and surrounded the table, hoping it would divert attention from the ever growing ant hill, and the long lines of ants meeting like wheel spokes at the hub, the mouth of the volcano.

The next night, the ants redoubled their efforts, and kept their hill growing. They sent scouts and soldiers to the mannequins, which were hollowed out, and filled with workers.

The workers worked all night, fashioning pull-strings, and hinges. They dressed the mannequins in ambiguous unisex outfits. At the base of the mannequins, they fashioned hamster-wheel like contraptions, and used them to scoot the mannequins around the floor.

They folded clothes, and tidied up.

The Assistant Manager arrived first, saw the state of Urban Outfitters, and commenced with the firings.

As the ants moved merchandise, they clicked ant colony folktales to each other. There was this one:

This One Ant went to sea on a great military vessel with This Other Ant. This One Ant had always wanted to see the world in one way or another, even though he was only vaguely aware of the idea that there in fact was a “world” to see. This Other Ant went along because he was not terribly bright, and quite easily led. This One Ant sat on a railing, starboard side, and was buffeted by the sea salt wind. This Other Ant stayed below deck most of the time, wishing he’d gone to a community college, or maybe gone into his father’s carpet cleaning business.

The General Manager leaves. The ants got together and got promoted, and fired the Assistant Manager. They sent one of the mannequins out every day to get them teriyaki chicken and spicy black bean chips for lunch from Trader Joes. They took turns having breaks, a half hour each, and sat in the break room eating their chicken and chips, and drinking weak coffee that one of the ant mannequins made in a coffee maker that had the word BUNN on it. The General Manager, who had promoted the ants over his Assistant Manager, even though the Assistant Manager had seniority, packed up the things on his desk and left, and never came back.

The ants were unfazed by this development, and continued with there work as if nothing had happened. Because they never left, they were able to extend the hours of the Urban Outfitters to very late in the evening, and eventually to a 24 hour operation.

The main office was skeptical of this development at first, but then when they saw how payroll had been slashed to the very bone—as the ants had no needs other than chicken teriyaki and spicy black bean chips, they were able to work for less than minimum wage, and that wage applied not to the ants as individuals, but to the mannequin employees—they decided to go ahead and let the store stay open 24 hours. (Also, the number of employees covered by the corporations medical plan was slashed to 0 in that physical plant, because the ants never needed medical care. They did not value their lives as individuals, and so needed no medical care, and so needed no insurance at all.)

As the ants continued to move merchandise here and there, they clicked another popular folktale to each other.

This One Ant was bigger and stronger than all the Other Ants in his very large and very successful colony. He liked to show off how big and strong he was by always getting in front of all the other ants when they went out to gather food for the colony and pick up the very biggest thing he could find. All the Other Ants would get out of his way when he came by with his very big piece of food, and he would make a big show of carrying it, making lots of grunting noises and say “Boy is this heavy. Boy is this heavy. Boy, but I bet no one else could pick it up.” This did not, in fact, endear him to his fellow colony members quite as much as he imagined it would, let me tell you.

No one understood the Urban Outfitters. Outside it looked perfectly normal, except that it was open all night and all day. Inside it smelled funny, and there was an incessant clicking sound coming from the employees, who were all headless and rolling from place to place. People stopped shopping there.

The Head Office discussed the Urban Outfitters, and its terrible sales. They went through possible solutions.

They eventually decided to firebomb the location. “Start again down the street,” they said.

The mannequins burned, and smoldered for days.

Metal skeletons were all that remained.