I knew Tarzan, the character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912, was hardly an original subject for a movie, but I was even more surprised when a Disney press release claimed that 47 previous film adaptations have been made about his man of the jungle. So can the Mouse House offer anything new?
The production does deliver another level of perfection in animation. Just as Tarzan has tamed the apes, Disney has harnessed the computer and is using it to create subtle movements that blend incredibly with their traditional work. The palette of colors is startling, while a new tool called "Deep Canvas" gives an incredible illusion of depth as Tarzan swings through the vines.
But in the story department, Disney continues to paint by the numbers, using the same group of typecast characters. Tarzan (voice of Tony Goldwyn), the hero, surfs the trees like Aladdin moves through the market; while his “human on the outside, animal on the inside” demeanor is the reverse of the Beast.
Professor Porter (voice of Nigel Hawthorne) and his daughter Jane (voice of Minni Driver) are on an expedition searching for gorillas, but the two would be just as comfortable as Jasmine and her doting father in Aladdin. Then there’s bad-guy Clayton (voice of Brian Belssed), who bares a striking resemblance to an earlier colonizer – Radcliffe from Pocahontas. Finally, add the obligatory comic sidekick – like Mulan had Mushu the miniature dragon, a little gorilla named Terk (voice of Rosie O'Donnell) follows in the ape-man's shadow.
Disney has told many “orphan” stories, so Tarzan was right up their vine. The opening scenes have the parents killed, leaving the baby to be raised by apes (anyone seen the Jungle Book?). The violence tames down in the middle, but works into a rousing finish when trigger-happy Clayton reveals his thinly veiled intentions and begins capturing and killing gorillas, which may frighten young viewers.
With images this stunning and Phil Collins’ wonderful music to swing by, Tarzan ought to be a masterpiece, except it’s already been painted -- at least five times before.
Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...
Clayton’s Victorian “shoot and capture” attitudes seem out of date today, but are they? Do we still see animals as commodities rather than having the right to lead their own lives?
How likely is a character like Jane to adapt to a jungle environment when she couldn’t leave home without her china and grandfather clock?
Another child raised by wild animals is portrayed in Disney’s The Jungle Book and a live action Jungle Book. Minni Driver, who lends her voice talents to the character Jane, can be seen in the movies Return To Me and Phantom of the Opera.
Home Video Notes
Home Video Notes: Tarzan (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy)
Release Date: 12 August 2014
Disney has re-mastered its classic animation Tarzan, and made this version available on home video (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy). Special features include:
- Deleted Scenes
- History and Development
- The Characters of ‘Tarzan’
- Animation Production
- Story & Editorial
- Original Theatrical Trailers
- DisneyPedia: Living in the Jungle
- Audio Commentary
- The Making of the Music
- ‘Tarzan’ Goes International
- Music Videos
DVD Notes: Tarzan (Special Edition)
DVD Release Date: 18 October 2005
Tarzan releases to DVD as a Special Edition. Bonus extras include:
- Terk’s Tree-Surfing Challenge—Three All-New Games!
- DisneyPedia: Living In The Jungle
- Deleted Scenes Including Alternate Opening
- All-New Music Video Featuring The Wildly Popular Everlife
- Music Videos Featuring Phil Collins and ‘N Sync