Tarzan (1999)

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8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Great animation, surprisingly dark at points

Don't love this version of the Tarzan story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Tarzan

Studio:  Walt Disney Feature Animation

Genre(s):  Animated/Action/Adventure/Musical/Family

Release Date(s):  June 18, 1999

MPAA Rating:  G

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So….Am I gonna get some tonight, Jane?

A ship crash off the coast of Africa leads to a couple being stranded in the dangerous jungle.  When they are killed by a jaguar, a child is saved by a she-ape named Kala.  Raised by apes, Tarzan finds he is different than his brothers and sisters.  With friends in she-ape named Terk and an elephant named Tantor, Tarzan finds himself not accepted by the silverback gorilla leader Kerchak.  When a ship containing Jane Porter, her father, and a tracker named Clayton lands on the coast, Tarzan finds that he is not alone in the world.  As Tarzan discovers love for the first time, Clayton has a sinister plan for Tarzan and his gorilla family.

Directed by Chris Buck and Kevin Lima, Tarzan is the thirty-seventh film in the Walt Disney Classics Animated Film series and followed Mulan in 1998.  The film featured music by Phil Collins who later provided music for the Disney feature Brother Bear.  The movie was well received by critics with a strong pull at the box office and went on to win an Academy Award for Best Music—Original Song for “You’ll Be in My Heart”.

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The adventures of boy Tarzan and friends!

Tarzan is considered the end of what is commonly called the Disney Renaissance which began with The Little Mermaid ten years earlier.  I am a fan of the Tarzan character and the ideas of pulp heroes since they essentially are some of the earliest superheroes.  Disney’s adaptation of the film has its pluses and minuses.

It isn’t the best adaptation of Tarzan.  The story drops the heritage aspect of Tarzan and doesn’t look at the idea that he’s an English lord.  This simplifies the story for younger viewers but also leaves room for Disney-izing it.  With the extra time, you get the antics of young Tarzan and his friends Terk and Tantor.  It lightens the story, but the story gets very dark at the end that the lightness almost doesn’t make sense.

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One of Disney’s most shocking deaths…and it’s rated G!!!

I do have to say that the end of the movie is one of the most shocking Disney deaths.  In a fight to the death, Tarzan battles Clayton in the vines above the jungle floor.  Clayton cuts the vine and ends up hanging himself (you see it in the lightning flashes)…this is a G rated movie!

Disney makes the marketable toys.  Tarzan is voiced by Tony Goldwyn and is a nice match for Jane who is voiced by Minnie Driver.  Brian Blessed is a good as the villain Clayton and could have done with more screentime.  The movie also adds star power with Glenn Close as Kala, Lance Henriksen as Kerchak, Rosie O’Donnell as Terk, and Wayne Knight as Tantor.

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Why can Carol Burnett do this better than me?!?!

The movie also is one of the stronger classically animated Disney films.  The movie has a nice combination of traditional art and computer art.  The character designs are good for the apes and I love how Tarzan’s “walking” design is done to give him a rather apelike movement that isn’t possible for a regular actor to get down.

Tarzan could have been better but is pretty good.  The movie spawned a musical in 2006 and a spin-off TV series called The Legend of Tarzan from 2001-2003.  Disney followed Tarzan with the limited release Fantasia 2000 in 1999 and Dinosaur in 2000 which began to show a decline which lasted for years.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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