My opinion right after watching film
My opinion right after watching the film is that it is a good film to end a great era with. It is enjoyable, a bit tense at times, emotional, and a film that is for adults and little children. The break from the musicals is an extremely smart move for this film, the animation is brilliant, and the characters are extremely likable. It is sad that this film is somewhat forgotten because of when it is released, because this is easily one of the better films in the canon.
Production started in 1995, and at this time, the studio was breaking away from the Renaissance style, so they were incorporating more “tom boyish” aspects in their films (which won’t really surface for another few years), and meaning they were cutting down on the songs as well. They created a program called Deep Canvas, which practically produces CGI backgrounds, but to make them look 2d, and this is one of the reasons why it was the highest grossing animated film for a while. This technique would be used again for Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet.
Glen Keane’s son was very into skateboarding, so he studied his son and Tony Hawk’s skate moves, and would interpret then into the movie, with Tarzan sliding through the branches of the tree. They also had a professor of anatomy enter the studio to draw the muscles on Tarzan, to exemplify a young man at the peak of his physical strength and prowess.
Patrick Stewart and Ina McKellen were considered to be Clayton, but they chose Brian Blessed, after liking his deep voice. Terk was supposed to be a male in the movie (like in the book), and many men tried out, but they were not impressed, giving the role to Rossie O Donnel (who always wanted to be a film), saying that a best friend does not have to be a guy.
So in the late 19th century (1880s), a couple and their newborn son Tarzan (Alex D. Linz and Tony Goldwyn) escape a ship on fire, and land in an African jungle. To start over, they build a hut to stay in, with Kerchack (Laace Henrikshen) and his mate Kala (Glenn Close) enjoys their newborn song. This is a small prologue, with the theme song Two World, One Family playing. At the end of the song, both of Tarzan’s parents, and Kala’s son is killed by a jaguar, with Kala running to get a baby, where she meets Tarzan for the first time.
The jaguar Sabor shows up for more, and interrupts their moment. Kala has a hard time trying to save herself and Tarzan, but manages to do so. When she returns to her troop, they ask if she is okay, which she shrugs off and tells them that she found a baby. Kerchack looks at him and tells her to put him back, with her refusing to do so. It makes sense why Kerchack would want Tarzan put away. Kala assures him that there are no others, so he lets her keep him, but tells her that he will NEVER replace the one they lost and will NEVER be his son. She then starts singing You’ll Be In My Heart, which of course Collins could not let her finish
so he could use it as a single. This song won a few awards. It is a nice song, but it is not the standout one to me.
It skips to a few years, and Tarzan is now an adventurous, reckless child who wants to fit in. His
cousin, half sister Terk (Rossie O Donnel) ditches him and refers to Tarzan as a pest to her friends. What an ass. Anyways, she told Tarzan that he cold come along with her if he could catch up His friends are like wtf when they see the hairless Tarzan, so to ditch him, Terk tells him to get an elephant hair. This causes him to jump in the river that the elephants are in, scaring them shitless to run in the jungle bad break shit up. Kerchack lectures Tarzan as he gives him a cold look, with the human apologizing. We also meet the hygienic elephant named Tantor (Wayne Knight).
Now that Tarzan can beat up Terk (who always beat him up), he sees a bigger predator in Sabor, who has come back for another round of Gorilla. Kerchack goes to fight this jaguar, but the jaguar is too strong for Kerchack. When Sabour is about to finish him off, Tarzan jumps in, and the action kicks off by 10. He is swinging through vines, surfing through branches, and the animation is so well done, with the fast pace, and all the cool movements. Anyways, Sabour is soon dead.
So all the gorillas are cheering for him, and Tarzan goes to approach Kerchack, almost asking for his approval. As Kerchack is about to say something, a gunshot is heard, signifying that Clayton (Brian Blessed), Professor Archimedes Q. Porter (Nigel Hawthorne), and his daughter Jane Porter (Minnie Driver) have made their debut in the film. The 3 are looking forward to study (or sell in one person’s mind) Gorillas. Jane gets left behind (as Tarzan is checking her out) to draw a picture of a baby baboon. The baby takes her picture, but she steals it back, which leads into an epic battle with all the baboons chasing after her. This entire scene is comedy gold as she is freaked out by being chased by a herd of baboons, and being dragged around by a semi naked man. They finally avoid the herd and gets stuck on a tree.
She is trying to escape from Tarzan, as he speaks to monkeys, but has nowhere to go. After he
tries to cop a feel looks to see if they are similar, she kicks him off. After listening to her heartbeat, and put their hands on one another, he realizes they are similar. He then imitates her (causing her to think he can speak English), and fins him extraordinary (in many ways).
Terk, Tantor and co. look for Tarzan, and bump into the Porter’s camp, and they end up singing Trashing the Camp, which is not really song, but it does make you want to dance and shake for a few seconds. When Jane and Tarzan arrive, she is fascinated with them. Her and Terk look at one another, right before Kerchack makes her fall, and about to whoop that ass, but decides he has no time for her, so he demands everyone to leave. Tarzan is stuck as he looks at Jane, but his mother drags him away. Jane is thrilled from the man in the loincloth (of course she would).
There is a gorilla meeting, where Kerchack tells everyone to not go near them again. Tarzan does not like this and tells him nothing is wrong. Now that Tarzan is worthy, Kerchack tells him if he wants to protect the tribe, he needs to listen. He does not understand why Kerchack is afraid of anyone different from him, and Kala tells her son to listen to Kerchack for once. He bitterly asks his mother why she never told him there were people like him, before he runs off.
Jane describes her interest and lust in Tarzan, which her father weirdly encourages, and Clayton rolls his eyes at her girlish fantasy. Tarzan shows up, and Clayton tries to get him to tell him where the gorillas are, but Jane says that he cannot speak English, and sit would be best if she teaches him.
It is time for them to leave and because Jane was too busy living out her fantasy, they did not get to see the Gorillas (Kerchack is to blame for that as well). She asks him to come to London forever, which he refuses, so he asks her to stay with him, an she runs off crying because she has to choose between interacting with humans, air conditioner, proper food, etc, and a man who is 7/8 naked and has a body to show for it. Clayton tricks Tarzan into letting them see in the gorillas (with him thinking Jane will stay if she sees the gorillas). He takes them to meet Kala, who runs off. Soon enough, all of the gorillas are around them when Tarzan teaches Jane to speak Gorilla.
So the Porters and Tarzan are having fun with the Gorillas and the pair talk about her having to leave, until Terk and Tantor return (Tarzan asks them to dress up as Jane and her father, so they can distract Kerchack from them hanging with the Gorillas) with Kerchack losing it from the fact that they are with humans, and is about to attack Clayton, but Tarzan holds them off, as they run. Kerchack tells him that he betrayed them all, causing the confused man to run.
Terk and Tantor show up too late to say goodbye to their friend, causing Terk to lash out at him for not even saying goodbye to him. As Jane, her father and Tarzan hop on the ship, they talk about how everyone in London is going to like him, but as soon as they hope on the shop, they are trapped by Clayton’s men. Tarzan tries to escape, and when Clayton shows up, he realizes that Clayton set this all up, and thanks Tarzan for his help. He reveals that he came to Africa to trap all the gorillas to sell them off. Did we really need a villain for this film? Clayton was so half assed and boring at being a villain, and a villain is not even needed for this type of story. Tarzan’s psychological battle with gorilla life and human life is a conflict on it’s own, so I do not think Clayton was needed. He only slows down the movie.
Tantor hears Tarzan’s scream, causing them to head over to save them from the ship. Clayton and his crew trap all the gorillas, and he is about to shoot Kerchack, but Tarzan saves him. He sets free most of the gorillas, but Kala (who is saved by Jane). Tarzan helps Jane, but Clayton shows, up, ready to kill Tarzan. He proceeds after he pushes Jane off, causing them to climb the trees and has a battle in the vines, causing Clayton to cause his own death, by not chopping the vine around his neck.
So Kerchack (who was shot) dies as he tells Tarzan to lead the pack, causing him to walk off with his tribe. Professor Porter is about to follow them, but Jane stops him, as it is not their place to do so. It travels to the next morning I believe, and Jane and Tarzan share a painful goodbye, causing her to run off to the boat with her father, who convinces her to stay with Tarzan. She runs to kiss him, which she apologizes, but he grabs her and kisses her again. Her father tells the ship captain to tell England that he never found them, as he joins his daughter. The movie ends with Two Worlds, One Family, with everyone (all the humans in loincloth clothing) swinging through the forest and Tarzan yelling his caveman yell.
The characters that we need to focus on is good. They have enough to them that is entertaining and relatable, and most of the interactions between the characters are really good as well.
The animation is very good. The Deep Canvas technique is brilliant and efficiently used, and I can barely tell that it is CGI instead of traditional animation. The character designs are brilliant. Tarzan (character) captures how well the animation is. How he has the ape-like and human movement and posture in him, how his muscles move and shift in detail, and his expressions. The backgrounds are great to look at, and the colors are perfect.
The music is pretty good. I like the fact that they did not make it a musical, but had a person sing the songs all the way throughout. Some of the songs are used as montage songs, and does get the overall message of the montage pretty well. All of the songs (except for Trashing the Camp) serve a purpose, and very entertaining to listen to. It has a jungle-esque score, which is very memorable and enjoyable to listen to.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on June 18th, 1999, it opened at #1, which has not happened since the release of Pocahontas. It was the biggest success since The Lion King, and would go on to gross $171,091,819 domestically , and $277,100,000, with a worldwide total of $448,191,819, with a budget of $130 million. Toy Story would be released 5 months later, taking the focus off this film, and start the increasing image in CGI, as the latter grossed a bit more.
Critically, it did really well (about the level that Mulan was). Many liked the animation, characters, the Phil Collins soundtrack, and liked that Disney was not trying too hard to be too exceptional. Some complained about Tarzan’s physique, and thinking some of the characters are boring, but overall, the positives were A LOT more than the negatives.
It won a bit more awards than it’s last 3 predecessors, but not as much as the early Renaissance. It won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for You’ll Be in My Heart, nominated for 11 Annies, and winning an Annie for the technical achievement of the Canvas system.
Well, this film is not really that forgotten about, but Disney does not talk about it much, and I do not know why. It was one of the company’s biggest financially, and it received critical acclaim; something tells me it is because it was released after The Lion King. It had a musical for a few years after it was released, but it was eventually closed down. You will see some merchandise all over the theme parks if you look hard enough. Jane was to become a Disney Princess in 2000, but they dropped it after a few magazine shoots. This film is known for being the biggest box office success until Tangled 11 years later, and the last to stick to the Disney formula and have heart for many years to come, as the company did everything Disney was not for the Post Renaissance era.
= 33.5/40 = 84%
20 thoughts on “Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: Tarzan”
Good review. I think this is a pretty good film. I LOVE the Deep Canvas technique they used here. I believe Jeffrey Katzenberg called that sort of technique “tradigital” animation. I believe there should be more animated films to use it.
I will agree that Clayton is not the most interesting villain, but I will say this: I think he had probably one of the more gruesome deaths of any Disney villain. I didn’t even notice the shadow of his hanging corpse until I was a bit older. Not a nice way to go. Eesh.
It’s too bad this movie got eclipsed by Toy Story 2 (not that I don’t like Toy Story 2). Maybe if Toy Story 2 got delayed a year to 2000 Tarzan would have been more recognized and well known? Well, 2D animated movies were doomed to extinction anyway, so I guess it wouldn’t have mattered in the end.
The Deep Canvas is truly brilliant, and they really made it work here. Atlantis and Treasure Planet use this technique as well (but not as well as Tarzan did).
His death is honestly the only really memorable thing about him.
A part of it being forgotten definitely has to do with Toy Story 3 (which only made a bit more money than this film), and everyone forgot about this film. It also helps that The Big 4 was 5 years ago at that point.
The end of traditional animation will be a bigger discussion in the Post Renaissance era.
I didn’t really see the Deep Canvas technique much in Atlantis like I did in Tarzan and Treasure Planet. Definitely overlooked and should be used more often. But in this era of CGI movies, I doubt it. I know someone might point out that it still is being used somewhat today, but I’m talking about movies animated like this and Treasure Planet. Like I said though, in this day and age of CGI movies, I doubt that will ever happen.
I think you mean Toy Story 2, not 3, as 3 was released in 2010.
I know you don’t think Pocahontas was in any way responsible for the death of traditional animation, but I will still kinda hold blame for it. People didn’t like it, then another movie called Toy Story came along, they got wowed by it and started getting interested in CGI movies. Call it the tip of the iceberg if you will. Atlantis’ failure against Shrek and Monsters Inc brought it (2D animation) to its knees. Lilo and Stitch helped it up a little, then unfortunately Treasure Planet (a movie I do like) killed whatever Lilo and Stitch did to bring it back. Then Princess and the Frog tried to bring it back, but the HORRIBLE marketing and placement of Winnie the Pooh put the final nail in the coffin for traditional animation. RIP.
More on this in your later reviews I’m sure (unless you’re going to make a post specifically for this topic) though I also think there will be a discussion like this in UnshavedMouse’s review of Winnie the Pooh this week.
The musical is still running over here.
I think the movie is a little bit difficult to market, having no outstanding villains, no cuddly side-kicks, a main character which might result in unfortunate implications if you put him in the park to pose with children due to being constantly underdressed, and Jane doesn’t qualify for the princess line-up.
Yes, the musical is still pretty prominent as well, but this film is the slow drift to where the Post Renaissance films gave us, being developed around the time Atlantis and Lilo and Stitch instead of Hunchback , Pocahontas, and Hercules.
Yeah………now that you bring that up,………it would definitely be a bit hard to market the film. Jane was a DP for like….a few months in 1999 though.
Wow, 8.5 for the story! I agree that Tarzan was a great way to end the Disney Renaissance. Just wondering, which Disney film do you consider to be the end of handrawn animation? I don’t think it’s Tarzan since it DID do pretty good, but I heard a lot of people say Home on the Range.
Also, I agree with Swanpride. Tarzan may not be remembered because it’s not as “marketable” as other Disney films. This isn’t to say it’s impossible to have a non-profitable film that’s memorable (like Disney-Pixar’s Up), but, I guess it wasn’t heard of then.
Winnie the Pooh is the last hand drawn film, but I do think Treasure Planet killed any chance of traditional animation (with Atlantis having a part of it as well). TP is LITERALLY the reason why they shut the studio. I heard people blaming Pocahontas, but it came out before Toy Story, so it makes no sense.
I do not think the issue is the marketing, but I also heard recently that Disney lost the rights to Tarzan.
Possible…Tarzan will never be in the public domain because it is a trademark rather than just a literature property. But I think they would have decided to keep paying for the trademark if they thought that it would be worth it.
You are definitely correct on that, and it is not the first thing people think of when Tarzan comes to mind (for many). It is weird though, cause it is not like this film was not a success.
Ironically it is particular popular with Tarzan fans – and this group was very vocal against the movie beforehand.
A very fair review with only one thing really causing me some irritation. Doesn’t Tarzan learn astronomy, not astrology?
Yes, you are correct. I always confuse the two. Thanks for that.
I don’t hear anywhere that there are complaints about Tarzan’s physical appearance.