Tarzan was a small orphan who was raised by an ape named Kala since he was a child. He believed that this was his family, but on an expedition Jane Porter is rescued by Tarzan. He then finds out that he's human. Now Tarzan must make the decision as to which family he should belong to...
Tarzan swings through the iridescent jungle swiftly, ending Disney’s Renaissance era with wild exuberance. Two worlds, one family. An innocent little boy, approximately four-years old, was escorted for the first time to a cinema complex. Politely requesting a bucket of sweet polystyrene popcorn, he walked into the dimly lit auditorium scavenging for an appropriate seat that would maximise his film experience. The trailers initiated, suppressing the inner excitement of the full feature that was yet to commence. Then, it happened. The Disney logo emerged. It was time. A family surviving a shipwreck, colonising an uncharted jungle whilst the emphatic voice of Phil Collins powered the narrative. A leopard savaging a baby gorilla, then brutally slaying the English couple, leaving only their infant son crying. His sorrowful echoes reverberating through the rainforest, until a female gorilla acquires him. Adopting a human child. Tarzan. The four-year old, naive to the cruelty of nature, was transfixed by the colourful animation. The plethora of emotions. That pure Disney magic. It was the commencement of a new-founding love for cinema. An adoration he could never shake off again. Yes, that four-year old, was me.
Subjectively speaking, Tarzan is more than just another Disney classic from their animated library. Even more than just an adaptation of Burroughs’ epic. It was a trigger. A sweeping adventure that upheld every emotional resonance possible. The brooding romance between explorer Jane and fully-adolescent Tarzan. Thematically presenting ostracism through two interconnected species, conveying the “Two Worlds, One Family” conflict within Tarzan. Who we are raised to be and who we are truly meant to become. Comedic buoyancy through the supporting characters of Terk and Tantor, supplied with their own catchy rhythms. Dark antagonisms through Clayton’s treacherous hunting techniques, viewing gorillas as merchantable assets. An exploration into the vivacious rainforests of Africa. All culminating to form a wonderfully effervescent coming-of-age tale. One of Disney’s most overlooked, for sure.
The art direction is the strongest of the Renaissance period, combining traditional hand-drawn animation with pioneering three-dimensional backgrounds. Often incorporating visual montages to steer the narrative into the intended direction. Watercolour backdrops to enhance the naturalistic environment. Bright character designs to contrast the darkened background. Sublimely directed by Lima and Buck. Then, Phil Collins just being the legendary musician that he is, providing the tale with apathy and soul. The “Two Worlds” anthem, “You’ll be in my Heart” and “Strangers Like Me”. Mancina’s score actively preventing the characters from singing and turning into another unnecessary musical. As I said, subjectively I refuse to liken Tarzan to just another animation from the “House of Mouse”. It was my first cinema endeavour after all.
However, objectively, there are narrative stumbles. It’s the breeziest story, condensing an epic plot into less than ninety minutes. The most noticeable consequence of this, is the rushed editing on certain segments. The introductory two minutes is a whirlwind of emotional storytelling that, unfortunately, holds minimal foundations. The montages of Tarzan growing up also lacked narrative heft, providing nothing more than visual delights. Goldwyn, Close and O’Donnell had insufficient power within their voice roles. Although Driver and Blessed were delightful. And, as much as I adore the song, the repetitious reprises of “Two Worlds” throughout minimised lyrical diversity.
The entire story is told faster than a shotgun firing, but I refuse to shake my undying adoration for this feature. Tarzan was the film that made me the cinephile that I am today. If I hadn’t received that euphoric pleasure from the cinema back in ‘99, well, these amateur reviews probably would never have been written. Ever. So for that, Tarzan and Disney have my eternal gratitude.
Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures, Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. by Chris Buck, Kevin Lima, Tab Murphy, Bob Tzudiker, Noni White, Stephen J. Anderson, Mark Kennedy, Carole Holliday, Gaëtan Brizzi, Paul Brizzi, Don Dougherty, Ed Gombert, Randy Haycock, Don Hall, Kevin Harkey, Glen Keane, Burny Mattinson, Frank Nissen, John Norton, Jeff Snow, Michael Surrey, Chris Ure, Mark Walton, Stevie Wermers, Kelly Wightman, John Ramirez, Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Stars: Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Brian Blessed, Glenn Close.
Genres: Animation, Adventure, Family
Keywords: africa gorilla baby adoption feral child tarzan nest jungle anthropomorphism camp orphan adapted into play or musical
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