1 The Mickey Mindset: Disney Animation Reviews #37: Tarzan

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Disney Animation Reviews #37: Tarzan

Disney Movie Review: 37/52 - Tarzan

Ryan Dosier - Continuing Disney animation’s string of hits and misses comes Tarzan (1999), which is a really enjoyable film and quite a strong one when compared to the previous Disney animated film, Mulan. While by no means a masterpiece, Tarzan boasts some strong music, animation, and action making it quite a worthwhile Disney entry.
The film opens in stunning fashion with the backstory of what happened to Tarzan’s parents. This was a smart choice on the part of the filmmakers. By including this, we get an understanding of why a human is living with apes. The sequence with Tarzan’s parents is also one of the most powerful in the film, with some impressive action and silent character development.

In fact, most of the first 10 minutes of the film is completely silent (other than Phil Collins’ music), which is a very interesting choice. It works very well for the film and provides a different sort of feeling for the movie. This also gives a chance to showcase the stunning background art done on the film. Set pieces like the giant waterfall, the tree house, and the dense jungle are all breathtaking pieces of art.

Phil Collins also makes a triumphant stand in Tarzan with his fantastic soundtrack. “You’ll Be In My Heart” is a lovely song and perhaps the strongest in the film. The other songs littered throughout are strong but not as memorable, even though “Son of Man” is really great, you probably won’t find it on any “Disney’s Greatest Hits” albums. The scatting, nonsense song “Trashin’ the Camp” is also a real delight, but works much better onscreen than it does off. 

The animation in Tarzan is magnificent. Tarzan himself is animated by the great Glen Keane who does an impeccable job of moving the ape-man on his knuckles and tiptoes. The movements feel incredibly natural and it’s really an incredible animated feat. Other characters like Kerchak the leader of the gorillas and Tantor the elephant are also animated with dexterity and beautiful movements. It’s amazing how much nuance the animators could get out of such a huge elephant. 

Many scenes in the film are exciting and well animated, but the strongest by far is the scene where Tarzan fights off the leopard. The animation on the leopard is insanely good and the fight is coordinated and animated really, really well. It brings you to the edge of your seat to watch it—as any good fight scene should.

One of the weak points in Tarzan is its voice cast. While Rosie O’Donnel and Wayne Knight are wonderful as Terk and Tantor respectively, the rest of the cast doesn’t measure up. Tarzan himself is especially weak in this regard. A good voice actor makes their character stand out and be noticed, Tarzan does not. He has no real sense of character and is mostly silent and dull. Tarzan just never really manages to click as a character. Thankfully, Jane is an enjoyable character, with wit and simplicity that make her both funny and charming. 

When the final scenes of Tarzan came, I was left with a feeling of satisfaction. I greatly enjoy watching Tarzan leap and bound and swing and surf through the trees, I love the music, and I find the story compelling. The top-notch animation is what stands out most for me in Tarzan, but the whole film is a swinging good time.

3.5/5 Elephant Hairs

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