We won't know the winner in this year's "insect wars" -- between the creepy-crawler, computer-animated films "Antz" and "A Bug's Life" -- until the final box-office grosses are tallied.

"Antz" currently has the lead because it was released a month earlier than "Bugs," but if the current box-office trend holds, "A Bug's Life" will easily surpass the $100 million blockbuster benchmark within a couple of weeks, leaving its competitor in the dust.But the bug battle will continue next year -- on video.

The war has been furious so far, with accusations flying between the studios involved.

First, Disney (which released "A Bug's Life" with the Pixar animation studio) claimed that Dreamworks SKG sped up production on "Antz" so the movie would hit theaters first. And to be honest, some of the animation in that film does seem rushed.

The two studios even bickered about who came up with the idea first (and there are quite a few gags and scenes in the two films that are eerily similar).

Now comes word that Dreamworks is planning to release "Antz" on home video as early as February!

It's going to be interesting to see how the Disney marketing department counters that move.

Since the "Bug's Life" ads seem to have done the trick so far, don't be surprised if Disney marketeers come up with something equally creative for the video release.

TARNISHED SILVER: The continuing success of both bug movies, as well as that of the animated "Rugrats" film, helped seal the fate of Casey Silver, chairman of Universal's film division.

Silver resigned this week after the studio released the "Babe" sequel -- the $90 million film grossed a measly $8 million during the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, far under expectations.

Officials from Seagram's, which owns Universal, were displeased with Silver's performance, and when the "Babe" opening weekend numbers were added to the rather underwhelming ticket receipts for "Meet Joe Black," another big-budget Universal picture, he saw the writing on the wall and opted out.

But those two were far from the only Universal blunders of 1998. The studio has released a string of cinematic duds this year, including "Kissing a Fool," "Black Dog," "Firestorm" and "Blues Brothers 2000."

One of Universal's few big hits was "Bride of Chucky" -- and that was only because the movie cost so little to make.

After Silver announced his resignation, Universal Studios president and chief operating officer Ron Meyer stepped in to assume

his duties -- albeit temporarily. The New York Post has reported that the studio may recruit film producer Bob Simonds as his full-time successor.

While this is good news for Universal (many of the films Simonds produced have made money), it doesn't bode well for movie fans or critics. Among his past projects: "Dirty Work," the "Problem Child" movies and the 1997 remake of "That Darn Cat."

THIS WEEK'S STAR WARS TIDBITS: "Star Wars" creator George Lucas says he's been "overwhelmed" by the reaction to the trailer for the upcoming prequel "The Phantom Menace."

In a press release on the official Star Wars Web site www.starwars.com, Lucas thanked fans for making the two-minute trailer a hit and promised that the film will be a "fun" experience. He also pooh-poohed rumors that he would re-release the original trilogy just prior to "The Phantom Menace's" opening date (May 21, 1999).

(But 20th Century Fox is expected to release a new, four-minute version of the trailer around the start of the year.)

Not surprisingly, the movie industry is already taking its first shots at the movie. Trailers for the upcoming "Austin Powers" sequel, "The Spy Who Shagged Me," will include the tag line, "If you see one movie this year, see 'Star Wars' -- if you see two movies this year, see 'Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.' "

It's not as if "The Phantom Menace" needs any more publicity.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Although I was a big fan of (the original) 'Psycho,' I figured just because something like this re-creation has never been done before doesn't mean you shouldn't attempt it . . . It happens in music all the time, where one singer does a version of another's song years later in a style that moves you in a different way. How do you compare Ray Charles' version of 'Unchain My Heart' to Hank Williams' version, you know?" -- Actor Vince Vaughn, who plays Norman Bates in the new, color remake of "Psycho."

Deseret News movie critic Jeff Vice can be reached by e-mail at (jeff@desnews.com).