I ask because in the end enjoyment of Tarzan will radically lie whether you like Phil Collins or not. Also, if you aren’t a big fan of The Lion King style of movie, I don’t know if you will like Tarzan.
I, however, am a fan of both, so I do like it. It isn’t perfect but there is a lot to like in Tarzan.
Released in 1999 it marked the end of the Disney Renaissance and the last film to make a lot of money before the slump of the 2000s (it’s going to be interesting reviewing the next decade).
Directed by Disney regular Chris Buck and Kevin Lima, Tarzan is adapted from the movie adaptations and novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan and the Apes.
It’s actually the only Tarzan movie I’ve ever seen so I can’t tell you how close it is to any other version.
First of all, the whole movie looks gorgeous. Tarzan kind of surfs on the trees and the backgrounds zoom in and out and are so lush . The water scenes look stunning. If I was just going on visuals it would get an A++++. I could turn off the sound and just watch it and be entertained.
To create some of the look they actually created a new technology called Deep Canvas which allows 3D painting and you can tell. It looks great!
The reason why I said it reminded me of the Lion King is they are both very pop influenced films. We even get the hook structure of pop music from the dramatic beginning with a bold title card just like Lion King. All of the 5 songs Phil Collins wrote have a pop feel where Lion King did have Be Prepared, which was a little different.
Tarzan also has the comedic song/side characters, Terk and Tanto, which may as well be carbon copies of Timon and Pumba.
Incidentally, Tarzan was made into a Broadway musical and it was considered a big flop, but I actually prefer the music they added and the way the songs are sung by the characters not background.
The story is pretty predictable but it is engagingly told. We start out with our dramatic beginning showing us how Tarzan is adopted by the apes. This might be a little scary for young kids under 5.
You either get hooked in with this intro or you don’t. You either like Phil Collins singing or you don’t. I’m always hooked. I think it is pretty engrossing.
So Tarzan gets adopted by Kala voiced by Glen Close (another similarity to The Lion King lots of celebrity voices who don’t have to sing much).
Kala rescues Tarzan but her mate Kerchak does not like the idea of having the ‘man cub’ (to use the Jungle Book) in the herd. So, he is hostile towards Tarzan from the beginning.
As Tarzan begins to cry Kala sings the best song of the movie and my favorite lullaby- You’ll Be in my Heart. If I am rocking one of my nieces it is the perfect song. I LOVE it!
I actually prefer the Broadway version with the mother singing it the whole way so here it is:
We then get a bunch of middling scenes with Tarzan feeling excluded and having a hard time making friends. Eventually he makes 2 friends (the Timon and Pumba stand ins)
He grows up and there is a song called Son of Man. My Mother hated the song because son of man is a title of Christ, and she felt it was sacrilege for a pop song to have the same name as the Lord. (We got into the biggest fight one time over it. Sigh…)
Terk, his guerrilla friend was voiced by then talk queen Rosie O’Donnell and it is not my favorite vocal. She kind of grates on me.
Eventually Tarzan hears a sound and follows it to find a woman running in distress, being chased by monkeys.
Some people will no doubt groan at the Jame, damsel in distress, trope but I don’t mind it here. She’s strong in other ways and I don’t think every female character has to be strong. They just have to have a personality of some kind (that’s what drives me crazy in Bella. She’s damsel in distress and no personality).
Plus, I am a mess in the outdoors and an animalphobe so if I was being chased by monkeys I would be screaming louder than Jane so I guess I relate.
I had a really hard time finding clips for this movie for some reason but I do like the encounter of Jane and Tarzan first meeting. It is very well done.
This is the first movie I can recall where Disney uses the big eyes common in Japanese animation such as Studio Ghibli. Some people don’t like the large eyes but it doesn’t bother me.
Jane is in the Jungle with her father and their guide Clayton to try and study the guerrillas. Clayton is a snooze of a villain who like Radcliffe in Pocahontas is only there for the GOLD! Greed is only on his mind in the form of guerrillas to sell for money!
Unlike Pocahontas who teaches John Smith her ways, Jane teaches Tarzan her ways which was very well done and then Tarzan shows Jane his world. I really like the chemistry between Jane and Tarzan. I liked that neither was stupid or patronizing. They seemed sincerely interested in each other and their views. Minnie Driver is very good as Jane’s voice .
Eventually the time for Jane to leave comes and Tarzan realizes he doesn’t want her to go. Clayton convinces him if he shows them the guerrillas Jane might stay. Kerchak has forbidden this for the safety of the herd.
Tarzan decides to anyway and at first it goes well. It’s just beautiful!
But Kerchak comes and is enraged at Tarzan for betraying their home. They fight and Tarzan leaves. It is then that Kala takes Tarzan to the tree-house where she found him. He learns who he is and decides to wear his father’s clothes and go with Jane and since Kerchak has forced him out what choice does he have?
The day of departure comes and they get on the ship only to find Clayton and all his men roping everyone up and going to get the guerrillas to sell.
Terk and Tantor help free Tarzan and the gang and they get back to help the herd and there is a great final battle with one of the gnarliest villain deaths in Disney history. It is maybe too intense for little children to see a man hang himself? I don’t know.
Our ending with Jane and Tarzan ending up together in the jungle is predictable but I think done very well. I liked it.
I own this movie on blu-ray because it is so beautiful to watch, and I don’t mind the music, so I really enjoy it. The vocal performances are good and I think Tarzan and Jane have nice chemistry and are a believable couple.
The comedic characters don’t work as well for me, but they aren’t terrible, and the villain is super one-note, but I still think it is a very satisfying picture.
I love You’ll Be in My Heart and like I said I just love watching him fly through those trees. It’s stunning.
Overall Grade- B