Expanding on an ant story

The computer-animated family film "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" was one of the surprise hits of 2001 and garnered an Oscar nomination for best animated feature. And it put DNA Productions, a small company in Irving, Texas, on the map as a force in the animation world.

Now DNA is back with its second film, "The Ant Bully," which is being released Friday by Warner Bros.

John A. Davis, who directed and helped write and produce "Jimmy Neutron," was looking for his next project when he received John Nickle's children's book, "The Ant Bully," from Tom Hanks.

"It's kind of a picture book," Davis said. "There are not a lot of words in it. Tom had been reading it to his son Truman. He sent me the book because Tom really liked 'Neutron' and he wanted to see if I had an idea for a movie. I thought about it a few days and started to get excited about some of the possibilities."

The film revolves around a 10-year-old boy named Lucas who is bullied by the neighborhood kids. In turn, he takes out his aggressions on the ant colony in his frontyard by flooding it.

The colony's wizard (voiced by Nicolas Cage) creates a special formula that shrinks Lucas to the size of an insect so the boy can learn the ways of the ants. Other actors supplying their vocal talents include Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin and Paul Giamatti.

"The book, as slim as it was, had the premise and the lesson learned, but there were lots and lots of things that had to be created," Davis said. "I had to create a lot of obstacles and hopefully interesting character dynamics."

Among the new characters he added were Lucas' parents, sister and grandmother and a sleazy exterminator.

The family film will also be shown in Imax theaters in 3-D. The conversion from flat-screen to 3-D was done at DNA.

"We had an Imax department," Davis explained. "So as soon as a shot was finished by the lighting department, we would hand it off to the Imax department."

Davis won't see the completed 3-D version until today "because I have been on the road the past two weeks. But I did catch a screening of the last 10 minutes in Chicago and it just blew me away."

-- Susan King

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