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Some Bugs in the Fun House

Kids can jump for joy in Disney's playground of synergy, then leave yelling.


When Disney created a fun house celebrating Pixar's computer-animated epic "Toy Story" next to the El Capitan Theatre three years back, some who visited it felt it was a nice idea, but it had a lot of bugs to be worked out. For the El Capitan's "A Bug's Life and Beyond"--the companion experience to Pixar's new movie--Disney has factored in even more bugs, literally and figuratively.

Two caveats: When we visited the interactive Bug House not everything was up and running. And we only were allowed in the place for an hour, compared to the two hours the paying public will get, before being politely yet forcefully ushered out.

Actually, an hour was more than sufficient for me. I was, however, accompanied by two expert critics: my stepdaughters, ages 8 and 5. The 5-year-old, though initially intimidated by the crush of people and noise, left declaring she had enjoyed herself. The 8-year-old announced, "They tried hard to make it fun, but it really wasn't." She did, however, throw herself full-throttle into much of the mayhem before emerging with this more considered opinion.

Prices, of course, escalate to infinity and beyond the usual movie ticket price for the privilege of experiencing the Bug House. Parents pay dearly for this attraction even though there's precious little of genuine interest for sentient adults.

One vast improvement is in the arcade area. In the "Toy Story" incarnation, it was a cacophonous, brain-numbing ring of Hades from which I couldn't escape fast enough. Now, named "P.T. Flea's Circus," it is (depending on the visitor load) far more negotiable, with lines managed capably and kept fairly short. It features the usual fairground games of skill--darts, water pistols, basketballs, wackily distorted mirrors--and the prizes are Happy Meal toys, meaning you'll have an excuse for not taking the brood for McMeals for a month. This is where my 8-year-old (and, for that matter, I) had the most fun.

Alas, much space is given over to inevitable attractions such as the gift shop and a room serving as an advertisement for the "Bug's Life" PlayStation game. It is possible, however, to venture to the City CyberCafe and get something for free--a photo placing your kids in a scene from the film, which you download from the Internet at home.

Cheesy live shows are likewise unavoidable in amusement facilities, usually providing more internment than entertainment.

For example, it's hard to imagine to whom "The Great Adventure Bug Show" might appeal. You'd think if you put a couple of aspiring actors in insect attire and let them cavort around onstage to Randy Newman's song in the movie and, say, "High Hopes," kids would be sated and everyone'd go home happy. But no.

Here, we get the perkiest woman in L.A. County and her "professor" enthusing musically about bugs and advertising, surprise, the gift shop's wares. They sing some empty-headed piffle whose main lyrics are, "Look Down," which is something every adult in the room is already sheepishly doing. Worst of all, it doesn't even provide a scratch of educational value for the budding entomologists it's ostensibly trying to inspire.

Dot's Playland is especially aimed at your youngest larvae and pupae, with simple pleasures like a low-tech slide and low-tech coloring pages. It features, however, a grievous miscalculation: The inflated bouncing raspberry is way too small for an endeavor of this ambitious nature. Only four kids can get in at a time, and they're only allowed to hop about inside it for a little over a minute (the attendant gets them all shouting, "Party! Party!").

My otherwise appeased 5-year-old said, "They make you yell, then they make you get out. That's not fun."

At some point, Disney will create the perfect fun house complement to its animated treasures. But the Bug House isn't it. It simply makes you want to bug off.


"A Bug's Life and Beyond" will be presented six times daily at the El Capitan Theatre, Hollywood Boulevard at Orange in Hollywood. Tickets $28 (VIP seating), $18 (adults) and $13 (children and seniors) at (800) DISNEY6 or

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