Wednesday, May 13, 2009

DAF #14 - Tarzan (1999)

“Even if you hadn't grown up savage, you'd be lost. There are no trails through a woman's heart."
- Clayton

Title: Tarzan
Year: 1999
Rated: G
Runtime: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Tony Goldwyn as Tarzan
Minnie Driver as Jane Porter
Glenn Close as Kala
Rosie O’Donnell as Terk

A shipwrecked baby is raised by a family of gorillas and then struggles with his humanity upon meeting a group of explorers with a woman among them.
Based on: "Tarzan of the Apes" by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Setting: African jungle, 1880's.

An immortal legend. As you’ve only imagined.

First Viewing: 2002ish on the Disney Channel.

Favorite Song:
“You’ll Be in My Heart” – Phil Collins (End Credits Version)

Yay!!! One whole story for one movie! This time, I will be discussing Tarzan, the 37th Disney Animated Feature and the movie that rounded out the Disney Renaissance of the 90’s. Yes, I am one of those that includes all the 90’s DAF’s in the Disney Renaissance, with the exception of The Rescuers Down Under, the reasons of which, I think, are pretty self explanatory. According to IMDb, this is the 9th film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1914 novel, Tarzan of the Apes. As you could all ready surmise, there are many differences between the book and the Disney version.
The story begins the same way with Tarzan’s parents escaping from a burning ship and being marooned on the coast of Africa. They build a Swiss Family Robinson-esque tree house and try to live out their normal lives, raising their infant son, John. However, the cheetah Sabor (who’s been on a killing spree lately) murders the baby’s parents and he is left orphaned. (Love this still!)

Kala, a female gorilla, discovers him in the treehouse and adopts him after she rescues him from Sabor. Kerchak, her mate and leader of the gorillas, resents the baby as he and Kala have just lost their son. He allows the boy the stay, but refuses to accept him as a part of the family. None the less, the boy is named Tarzan (which, according to Wikipedia, means “white skin” in the ape language) and accepted as Kala’s son.

Roughly the first twenty minutes of the film deal with Tarzan as child and as a subsequent misfit among the other gorilla children. He is forced to prove himself through difficult tasks and eventually befriends Tantor, a nervous, hypochondriac elephant, and Terk, a wise-girl gorilla. Still, Tarzan struggles with his differences even if his mother tries to make him realize that the physical is unimportant.

Honestly, I could take or leave these 20 minutes. I know it’s a necessary part of the story, but it doesn’t get good for me until Tarzan is an adult. By then he has exuded his power by killing Sabor, but Kerchak still doesn’t respect him. While contemplating this, Tarzan witnesses the arrival of the first humans he’s ever seen: Clayton, a gun wielding explorer, Dr. Archimedes Q. Porter, a biologist, and his daughter, Jane Porter.

Tarzan is immediately drawn to Jane and rescues her from a band of baboons. Being a proper English miss, Jane is startled by any man wearing so little clothing and one with such disregard for personal space.

The “Me Tarzan, You Jane” scene is probably my favorite of the whole movie. It’s classic, humorous, and romantic. Tarzan finally starts to feel like he belongs somewhere and that he’s not the only one of his kind. Besides, it doesn’t hurt that Jane is a young, attractive female.

I like Jane Porter as a Disney heroine. I feel like she’s quite underrated and I can’t imagine why. She’s smart, spunky, motivated, and adventurous. She doesn’t mind living in the African wilderness or swinging from vines with a “wild man in a loin cloth”

The only thing I could think of is her similarities to Belle. And I use the word “similarities” very lightly. They both have brown hair. They both at one time wear yellow dresses. And they are both intelligent and like to read. However, one can only assume that Belle reads for escape and Jane reads for education. See? The similarities are even a stretch. Besides, why can we only have one Disney heroine who likes to read?

Over the next few weeks, Jane and her father attempt to educate Tarzan. They teach him English and the ways of humans. Over time, Tarzan and Jane fall in love, but the date of the explorer’s departure is drawing near and Jane can’t bring herself to stay. Tarzan then opts to leave his gorilla family, feeling that where the humans are, and more specifically, where Jane is, is where he truly belongs.

The villain of the film is Clayton, who intends on capturing the gorillas and selling them in England. Tarzan unwittingly leads him to the gorillas, allowing them to be kidnapped. But in true Disney fashion, Tarzan frees them, defeats Clayton, and finally earns the respect of the dying Kerchak. Tarzan then takes his place as leader. And, of course, Jane decides to stay with Tarzan.

Overall, I think Tarzan is one of the great underrated Disney movies. Story aside, it is beautifully animated. The music is…eh, kind of like the villain and conflict. But the romantic plotline, as always, proves to be the strongest element in my case.


“Two Worlds” – Phil Collins
“You’ll Be in My Heart” – Phil Collins and Glenn Close (Kala)
“Son of Man” – Phil Collins
“Trashin’ the Camp” – Rosie O’Donnell (Terk)
“Strangers Like Me” – Phil Collins

Next Film: Chicken Little (2005)

No comments: