Thursday, December 2, 2010

Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 37: Tarzan

Series Intro: This is Part 37 of a multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors.

Official Title: Tarzan
Release: June 18, 1999
Running Time: 88 minutes
Estimated Cost: $150 million (over twice the cost of Mulan)
Estimated Revenue: $448.19 million
Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
In the middle of a tempest, a young white couple’s boat catches fire off the coast of Africa. They safely make it to land with their infant and successfully make a life here for themselves (a tree house and everything).

Elsewhere in the jungle a female gorilla, Kala, is mourning the lost of her child when she hears a baby’s cry. She finds the babe in the tree house alone, his parents apparently killed off screen by a leopard. Kala and the leopard fight with Kala winning and rescuing the babe. Despite Kerchak’s (the tribe’s alpha leader) warning, Kala insists on raising the babe, giving him the name Tarzan.

As Tarzan is growing up, he and his friends Turk – a gorilla – and Tantor – an elephant, have several misadventures while Tarzan both tries to fit in and figure out why he is so different.

As Tarzan is entering adulthood, a short babbling scientist, Professor Porter; his daughter, Jane; and their gun toting, jungle guide, Clayton, invade the jungle. Tarzan saves Jane from an angry pack of baboons. Enthralled by each other, Tarzan and Jane spend all of her remaining time together, teaching each other. When the boat comes, Jane, her father and Clayton are upset that they still haven’t seen the gorillas. Clayton tricks Tarzan into revealing this secrete location.

Upset by Jane leaving, Tarzan is despondent about either leaving the jungle with Jane or her leaving forever. Kala, shows Tarzan his first home and he decides that since he is human, he should go with Jane.

Clayton attacks and captures Jane, her dad and Tarzan and revisits the gorillas, this time with cages. Terk and Tantor rescue Tarzan, who goes back to save the gorillas. Clayton and Tarzan fight, and despite Tarzan’s warning, Clayton gets hanged. Kerchak, wounded in the fight, finally accepts Tarzan as a son and the leader of the tribe.

Jane decides to remain in the jungle with Tarzan and the gorillas. Her father has a last minute change of heart, and remains with them too.


Two Worlds
You'll Be in My Heart
Son of Man
Trashin' the Camp
Strangers Like Me

This was NOT a musical. Only one song was partly song by the characters, while another was musically improvise by them.

The sound track was amazing! Phil Collins’ music was emotional and powerful and led to a deeper connection to the characters. I loved how each song had several reprise, which is a very Broadway thing to do.

Plot Rating: 5 stars out of 5

I had only seen this movie twice (once in theatres and once on VHS). I hadn’t liked it as a child.

But now, I love it. I can’t believe how wonderful this story was. It was so heart wrenching and endearing. I truly felt connected with all of the characters, and believed their reactions to their situations.

Animation Rating: 2 out of 5

I couldn’t believe how horrible the CGI was in this film. Right from the get go, Tarzan’s parents were just hand-drawn blips in a CG ocean. Many times throughout the first half of the movie I felt that the characters were just lost in the CG backgrounds.

Now, I don’t think the CG were all bad. I felt that the detail and artistry in the backgrounds were impressive, but too distracting. Their majesty rivals that of Sleeping Beauty, but where Beauty was all hand-drawn and the characters matched their background, Tarzan stood out as something that just didn’t belong.

The Test of Time:

A short stint on Broadway. An attraction at Disneyland in California. A sequel. A midquel.

Pretty nice, but Tarzan’s timeliness has fallen the same way that many “hero” movies go, he’s not a princess so the marketing department doesn’t bring him back.
Through the Modern Lens

This movie seemed to be an accurate portrayal of the white explorers in Victorian Africa; some there for academic pursuits, others for monetary gain. But I just can’t help but wonder why there were no native Africans anywhere to be found in this movie.

Next Up:
Fantasia 2000

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