Disney/Nat Geo's new series on REAL bugs launches

Disney and National Geographic’s new REAL insect documentary series launches today. They’re calling it ‘A Real Bug’s Life’.

I’m a little hesitant to post this because of the way I feel about how Disney has so often created major distortions of the natural truth in so many of its past productions.

OTOH, it sounds like this might be a major effort to turn some of that around, at least when it comes to the truths about the world everyone here already finds fascinating.

Plus, how can you resist a 4k macro scale production that included real nature experts in the production?

I haven’t seen any episodes yet (I just got back from a long trip to Nova Scotia), but i will definitely be checking it out today.

I will remain optimistic about the potential for something like this to make some true difference in the general public’s attitude about ‘bugs’ and help move the needle a bit away from quick fear and disgust, to something closer to respect and wonder.

Here’s a short Pop Science background piece (with a trailer link) about the show and its production.

If you watch the series, please share some feedback here. Thanks!


Entomologist here - I too have been disappointed many times with Disney’s and Netflix’s nature documentaries. I watched all five episodes of this one, and in general I enjoyed it.

Pros… the photography was exceptional. The level of macro they achieved with the 3mm Tetramorium ants was unbelievable and they were very innovative and creative with the cinematography. They did sort of weave in some light conservation themes through most episodes, of course I think anyone working in this discipline would want more. But I did like that they showed the effects of human actions, e.g., lawn mowing, raking, from the insect scale and how destructive and disturbing to natural life those can be; a lot of the ‘story’ is about the parallel and intertwined lives insects and humans lead. I love that they chose an orchid bee as one of their subjects, as solitary bees don’t get much screentime and those in particular have such a fascinating life history. Ultimately at the end of each episode they emphasize how important insects are to the functioning of our planet, which is nice (the bar is so low though).

Cons… The inevitable anthropomorphizing was not too pervasive in my opinion - it’s certainly better than a lot of other docs I’ve seen; however there was still too much anthropocentrism for my liking. Some species were still vilified as pests or enemies, which imo has no place in a documentary trying to warm viewers to insects as a whole. Flies got the brunt, all instances of flies in the series were portrayed as unwanted pests. When most people have no idea that there are other kinds of flies besides bottle flies, house flies, and mosquitoes, it’s a sadly missed opportunity to introduce viewers to the thousands of incredible, fascinating, and beautiful flies out there. When one of their main messages is that through the interactions between insects nature keeps a balance that helps the planet and humans, saying aphids and chafer beetles are ‘bad’ (because they damage our crops) is counterproductive. The episode about New York City lauds the insects that are able to survive in the hostile environment we’ve made, but condemns cockroaches and flies. So it’s a bit of double-standard, and sadly it’s very difficult to find any documentary that uses neutral or positive language about all insects. I don’t personally see why that’s a tough ask. Present the information, let people form their own opinions; all species are interesting and have an ecological role, and all have intrinsic value. Why say negative things about some insects in a documentary apparently about how cool insects are? It’s bringing humans back into the picture and overlaying our biases onto other species, which detracts from their value and inhibits people from becoming curious about them. So, in short, I grow ever more weary of human morality being assigned onto non-human species in documentaries meant to educate us and inspire curiosity and conservation.

So overall? Better than many others I’ve seen, and imo worth watching for the photography alone. If you’re a bug enthusiast you’ll probably be a bit peeved with the way some species are portrayed, but on the other hand spiders are given a lot of positive screentime, and we get to see many different ants. Puzzingly to me though, for only five episodes, the same sorts of insects were chosen over and over - ants, jumping spiders, mantises, bees. I would have liked to see literally any orthopteran, or odonate, among others. I’m not sure if the plan is to have more episodes/seasons, so maybe they’ll branch out. I’d probably watch more.


Terrific review, Molly! And I think you were spot on with all your points. I especially love your ‘anthropocentrism’, which so nearly described the very same thoughts i had about those parts.

So overall, it’s progress. I just don’t understand why they couldn’t have adopted a ‘wonder-first’ approach to the scriptwriting. I dunno, maybe we’ve been spoiled by how well Sir David and the BBC crew pull off far more compelling productions that simply show us the incredible variety and roles without passing human judgement to the story.

I also perked up on the acacia thorn ants (fantastic photography there!) as I had just read a piece how the spread of the tiny Big-headed species into the Serengeti (by humans, of course) has resulted in lion starvation (big-heads kill the Acacia ants, trees get eaten, fewer places for predators to get close to the zebras, and so on).

I would love too see more stuff like this that shows how important it is for us to appreciate and understand the roles that these smaller creatures play way beyond whether they’re pests or friends to humans activities.

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The narration to me seems to be aimed at children. That really bothers me and I cringed my way through the first and second episode. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone.