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Insect entertainment

From ”James and the Giant Peach” to ”The Tick,” Hollywood’s full of pests this summer

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Hollywood’s got a nasty case of beetlemania. We’re talking bugs, and they’re taking over Tinseltown like ants at a Fourth of July picnic. Turn on the TV and you can tune in to The Tick, Earthworm Jim, or the mariachi-playing pests of Santo Bugito. ”Kids are fascinated and at the same time repulsed by bugs,” says Bugito creator Arlene Klasky. ”My kids bring slugs to the dinner table.”

And wait until you see what’s slithering to a big screen near you. This month it’s James and the Giant Peach, a stop-motion animated version of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book, whose main characters include a spider and a centipede. And coming in July is Joe’s Apartment, a feature based on the cult MTV short film about a brood of cockroaches and their human roommate. ”They’re wise-guy New York roaches,” says David Brody, an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History who moonlighted as a ”bug wrangler” on the film. ”They own the apartment.”

Also in the pipeline (and in the cabinets, and behind the refrigerator…) are creepy-crawly projects ranging from Starship Troopers, director Paul Verhoeven’s $95 million adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s classic sci-fi novel about an army of invading insects from outer space, to Bugs, a computer-animated film from the creators of Toy Story. ”There’s no real sociological trend behind all of these bug movies,” says Brody. ”It’s just an easy way to gross people out.”