Along with Dracula and Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Rice Burroughs'
Tarzan is one of the most filmed of all fictitious literary
characters, with nearly 50 films and tv series exploring the
adventures of the legendary loin-clothed jungle hero. However, more
recent versions have ventured further away from the spirit of
Burroughs' novels, and the character seems to have lost much of its
This ambitious Disney feature is the first animated film to
depict the adventures of Tarzan, and remains fairly faithful to
Burroughs' original vision. Tarzan easily lends itself to the Disney
style of family oriented animation, and this is one of their better
features of recent years. Tarzan took three years to make, and as
expected, the animation is superb. With sophisticated computer
generated animation techniques, the jungle has been superbly brought
to life. Animation also allows our hero to swing through the jungle
with a fluidity not permitted in live action filming, which provides
some exciting action sequences.
The narrative itself traces Tarzan's origins. Following a
ship wreck, the baby Tarzan and his family are left stranded in a
jungle wilderness. When a leopard kills his parents, the orphaned
Tarzan is adopted by the gorilla Kala (Glenn Close) and Kerchak
(Millennium's Lance Henriksen), who have lost their own child and
raise the boy as their own. As he grows, the only family that Tarzan
knows are the wild animals.
The arrival of the beautiful Jane (Minnie Driver) and her
anthropologist father Professor Porter (Nigel Hawthorne) raises
strange feelings that Tarzan has to deal with. The film follows the
dilemma that Tarzan faces as he is torn between two cultures.
Although the Porters have come to study the gorillas in their natural
habitat, their guide Clayton (Brian Blessed) has other ideas. Tarzan
has to fight to defend his adopted family from the cruel intentions of
Thankfully, unlike most Disney films, the characters here
don't burst into bland songs every other scene. Former Genesis
drummer and singer Phil Collins provides an appropriately primitive
sounding percussion-driven score, and five new songs, which seem to
propel the narrative along. Typically, a strong vocal cast has been
assembled. Alex D Linz (Home Alone 3) provides the voice of the young
Tarzan, while Tony Goldwyn (Ghost, etc) voices the adult Tarzan.
Driver once again proves that she does a superb British accent and
makes for an appealing and feisty Jane.
This is the second time Close has loaned her voice to a Tarzan
film, having previously redubbed Andie McDowell's voice for Hugh
Hudson's Greystoke all those years ago. Wayne Knight and Rosie
O'Donnell bring humour to the film as Tarzan's animal pals Tantor, a
neurotic and accident prone elephant, and Terk, the wise cracking ape.
The whole concept easily lends itself to cute animal antics
that will appeal to younger audiences, and the producers have taken
full advantage of the opportunities. The highlight is when the
animals invade the Porters' camp and stage an impromptu orchestra.
This easy going and enjoyable enough film will inevitably invite
comparisons with Disney's 1967 classic animated adaptation of The
Jungle Book, with which it shares a number of superficial
similarities. However, in terms of both story telling and standard of
computer generated animation, this '90's version is far more
For many, Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King
represent the peak of Disney's recent achievements in animation.
Tarzan is not quite in the same league, lacking the irreverent humour,
sly in-jokes and winning style. However, there is more than enough
humour and action to please both adults as well as children, and this
film should be a big hit during the holiday season.
Copyright © 2000 Greg King