Finally, part of the fun in learning about the secret lives of animals should be the element of surprise that comes from discovering, well, their secretive qualities. The problem is, we seem to be out of secrets. We expect the ants in The Ant Bully to be hard workers—they're called worker ants, after all. (And if we didn't, we'd have already learned it from A Bug's Life and Antz.) Nor will we laugh at a dog who's prone to butt-sniffing and ball-fetching, like the one in Barnyard. Show us something we don't know.
In a market that's increasingly crowded—this year has already seen the CG movie releases of Ice Age: The Meltdown (Fox), The Wild (Disney), Over the Hedge (DreamWorks), Cars (Pixar), Monster House (Sony), and now The Ant Bully (Warner Bros.) and Barnyard (Paramount)—studios must find original characters. Off-limits: barnyard animals (especially cows, chickens, and pigs), insects (especially ants), zoo animals, fish, monsters, woolly mammoths, toys, as well as neighborhood critters like skunks. Chuck the bathroom humor and the instinct to be "cool." Unearth that undiscovered gem of a children's book, or seek out a truly outstanding original script. If all else fails, turn to a classic. Perhaps Amos and Borisor Olivia are up for grabs.