Fans speak out on Disney's Tarzan, now playing in theaters:
What sort of ruined the movie for me, was that I basically knew everything about the film before I saw it! I read the little Read along books, went to the fansites, etc. Oh, I could myself! I ruined such a good movie for mysef! Agh! But that's not to say that it sucked! No, no, no. Far from it! This was one kick ass cartoon! I shouldn't even call it a cartoon. That would sound degrading.
I agree with what you guys said about the film. It was superb! When I first heard about the film three years ago, I expected this from Disney. Maybe a little more, I guess. A darker jungle, chimps instead of gorillas, more humans, (A couple of black dudes too for God's sake! This was after all Africa!) and a more god-like Tarzan. Especially that last one. This Tarzan just felt too much like an optimistic, eager human. His senses weren't as sharp as the one we all read about. I always imagined the perfect Tarzan being the one Dark Horse comix continued their stories with. I guess Disney just wanted him to be more of someone whom you can relate to. They didn't "wussify" Tarzan, but they just made him seem like, I don't know, a Tarzan's-little-brother type figure. But the animal movements were dead on! His mimicry was fun to watch, as was his growing up. I LOVED the whole "Son of Man" sequence. How he starts out narrowly escaping the jaws of Gimla. Surfacing for air with duro. His mimicing of buto's actions. Fooling Histah and tying her up in knots. I especially loved the scenes where he and Tantor changed into adults and blow the termites out of their mound. And I died laughing when 5-year old Tarzan made Kerchak look like the Chiquita banana lady AND invented his spear simultaneously! This Tarzan was pretty damn cool.
Jane was perfect for the movie. It kind of pissed me off that all the other movie Janes were Brits whereas she was really American. But this British Jane changed all that! And you guys know what else? I HATED the book Jane after all! She was just a total snooty little biAtch! She hated the animals who raised Tarzan, whereas this one loved them, studied them and drew them. I love drawing as well. Another thing I liked was that she kept getting kinkier throughout the film! Started out in this bigass yellow dress. All the skin you could see was arm and face. Eh. Not hot, but pretty. Then she took a couple of hunded layers off the dress. Hmm, its a start. Showed more figue. Then A tank top and a really long skirt with a slit along the side. Showed some thigh. Yes yes! Now we're getting somewhere! Teased us for a little while by putting The big yellow dress back on. Damn! And ended up in a loincloth bikini. FINA-FRIGGIN-LLY!
The Mangani. Well, what can I say. I'm a little bit mad that they were gorillas and not Large Chimpanzees. This just had to do with Disneys little obsession with gorillas(Ape, MJY) when chimpanzees could have worked better on so many levels. First off, not many kids see adult chimpanzees. All we can think about are thoe cutesy little babies we see in commercials and stuff. Second, chimps lived in family groups, not gorillas. Gorilla tribes are just a silverback and all his wives. Chimps are also a lot more savage, you can make them look cartoonish and they'll still lok realistic, and they're more arboreal. Another thing, keep in mind that this IS an animated movie. Hell, Disney could have just drawn what looked like mixes between chimps and gorillas and just call them Apes or anthropoids as ERB did. Kala was dead on character. Thank God they didn't kill her off! I sometimes think that Kerchak would have made a better villain than Clayton. But if they did that it would have taken away so many of the scenes that I loved. Disney didn't totally mess up Terkoz when they made Terk as I originally thought they would. Terk wasn't that bad. She was quite enjoyable and very funny( Tarzan huh? Okay, he's YOUR baby)
Both Tantor and Porter were exaggerated versions of the book characters that they represented. Porter was a silly man and Tantor was a paranoid but loyal elephant. It was rather sad that Clayton had to be a villain. Disney didn't want to make it look like he was a villain right from the start. Sort of fool the audience there. And they failed miserably! They should have kept Clayton as he was, but just not a villain. Add Mr. Philander to the script and make him look like Porter's best friend. Have Clayton do the exact same stuff he did up until the mutiny on the Arrow. And as it would turn out, Philander was a villain who betrayed Porter right from the start 30 years ago, and Clayton was just actually a pretty cool jerk hunter who was really a good guy. That would really fool the audience!
Its obvious to me that Disney has a hell of a lot of respect for Tarzan of the Apes. Many things in the movie were just Disneyfied versions of what happened in the book.
Trashin the Camp was their fun little version of the DumDum. Think about it. Singing, dancing apes in a clearing out in the jungle. It was judt alot more fun. Young Tarzan putting mud on his face to look more like an ape. Kerchak feeling threatened by Tarzan (though for different reasons) Tarzan throwing the cacass of Sabor in front of Kerchak. Tarzan putting Terk(oz) in a headlock.
And there was a sort of suniminal explanation for why Tarzan always had a loincloth even when he thought he was an ape. Rember his diaper? It saved his life as a baby.
All in all, this was a great movie which should inspire a new generation of fans for the ApeMan, unlike that stupidass Lost City movie last year. May this movie be a classic and live on.
I first heard of Disney planning Tarzan in the Summer '96, a few weekes after Hunchback opened. There was an article in The New York Times, examing how Hunchback was such a rare film for Disney- dark, serious, and and in some ways sad. Of course, they related this to the films unsuccessful run at the box office. In the very last line of the article, it said something like : "But after Quasimodo, Disney is returning to its light, comedic roots: the next two films features are Hercules and Tarzan." So for quite awhile I expected Hercules and Tarzan to be two off-the-wall comedies. Not that I had a problem with that necessarily, it's just what I expected form them. Hercules matched my expectations almost exactly. Disney even billed it as a "comedy" in some of the early previews on video. And I thought it was fun, a simpy entertaining movie.
Then buzz began on Mulan, which I was surprised to hear would beat Tarzan to theaters. In late 97 (Herc's year), Mulan was being hyped as this dark, serious movie, a total coup for Disney. The first preview went a long way to establish that also. (The one with Mulan sitting out in the rain.) Of course, when it hit theaters, it was possible even more of a comedy than Hercules, since about half of the movie was dominated by Eddie Murphy.
In the Fall of 98, I attended a lecture by Roy Disney in New York, at which he showed clips of several upcoming Disney projects, including Fantasia 2000, Dinosaur, and most especially here, Tarzan. (If you'd like to hear about the rest, you can email me.)The clip was about twenty seconds long, and it was only Tarzan doing his tree maneuvering. It was truly the best looking animation that I had ever seen. On top of the visuals, Roy Disney seemed so thrilled to be presenting the clip (he also said how thrilled he was), that I felt he knew he had something special on his hands. I left the lecture ready to wait in line, based only on how it looked. At that point, I didn't care if was an animated George of the Jungle. If it looked that good throughout, it would easily be worth the $9.50.
After that, word began to spread on Tarzan, and it was getting similar hype as Mulan. But this time I was cautious, until Prince of Egypt came out. After that I knew that this had to be the real deal, they couldn't proclaim drama and then throw out comedy again, because Dreamworks had done drama, and well. So after Prince of Egypt my hopes were extremely high that Disney would counter with a superior feature, despite reading Aint-It-Cool-News. For me, not only did Tarzan offer somthing different in Disney movies, but it offered some of the great aspects of my favorite Disney films. Namely, The Jungle Book and The Lion King. I'm not really an "animal person," if you know what I mean, but I guess I just really like when they are animated. (I also love Balto and The Rescuers Down Under) Maybe it's because its easier to capture the majesty and beauty of animals in animation thatn it is for humans. The way Scar shoulder blades spike up on each step, or the agility of Bagheera bounding through the trees. So Tarzan offered both a step forward and a step back.
In February I started reading Burroughs' "Tarzan of the Apes," and I found it captivating. I enjoy reading, but when I read my goal is usually to finish the book, so I can know how it ends. With Tarzan, I wished I could add more pages, because I got closer to the end, I began to dread it more and more. Burroughs descriptions' of Tarzan's tree gliding was so engrossing, that I could truly picture it, with the help of the clip I saw. I also didn't feel the need to reach the end because I knew how it ended. Tarzan gets the girl, he just has to. I felt safe that the bpook would end with a passionate kiss between Jane and the Ape-man. I don't want to ruin it for anyone who hasn't read it, but it doesn't end how you'd expect. And I was both heartbroken and thrilled by the ending.
So based on what I heard about the film, the unbelievable reviews it had received, the clip I saw with Roy Disney, and the great source material, I figured that it wouldn't be able to stand up to my expectations. I was wrong. Completely, utterly and totally wrong.
This movie shattered my expectations. In truth, after one viewing, I cannot find a single flaw in the film. I'm sure they're there, and there may be a bunch, but I don't care. Because I loved this movie so much on the first time. I wish I could keep it on non-stop for the next week.
I liked this movie more than The Lion King. I cannot even tell you what it is about the movie, but I do know that I had a gigantic smile on my face every time Tarzan flew threw the trees, and I basically cried for Kala, and I know I was teary-eyed when he pounded his chest in the finale.
I'll try to remain objective now, as I examine the film a bit more closely.
Terk, Tantor, and Archimedes Q. Porter: I had absolutely no problem with any of them. To compare Terk to the Gargoyles would be a crime against humanity. Terk had a character, a subplot of his own, an emotional hook. And his comedy wasn't obtrusive, it was much more subtle than I expected. The same goes for Tantor, who had less of a subplot than Terk, but he was still a well-defined character, and a perfect counterpart to Terk. While Terk builds walls to hide his emotions, Tantor tries to break them down. I loved Porter, because he was dead-on to his character in the book. Bumbling along and rambling incoherently IS funny, and he was not overused at all, and even he was able to get a small subplot.
Trashin' the Camp: It wasn't necessary, but I don't think it detracted from the film. I would always skip over that track on the soundtrack, and I probably still will, but on screen it was more catchy.
Clayton: Many say he was flat, but whoever made the point about him being a stereotype is making a great point. We don't need a soliloquy from him to know he's a bad guy. We've seen so many villains, so when we see the blocky cheek bones, and the short mustache, we know he's up to no good. And this story isn't about battling villains, it's about Tarzan, so any very dynamic villain would take away from Tarzan's spotlight.
The Music: So perfect.
Jane: I loved her. Not only is she the best looking Disney female ever, but she further advanced the action of women in Disney features. Megara started it, as a wise-cracking an cynical character. I think Mulan took a step back, since her lines were totally standard. But Jane, oh, Jane, she combined humor and emotion, and her bond with Tarzan is, in my opinion, the best developed romance Disney has ever made. Which is syaing a lot, considerig they don't speak for the first half of the movie.
So now the question is, why does this movie rank higher for me than The Lion King. I thought about it for a while, and I've come up with this: Tarzan is a human. Even though I love animated animals, I could never truly see myself as Simba. But Tarzan is a man, but he still gets to live in the jungle, with the animals. He gets to look like a man, and still be an animal. What could be better than that? Only one thing: Love, and he got that too.
All in all, I am so proud of the people at Disney for making this movie everything I hoped it would be. This is a case of taking advantage of great potential.
And that's all I have to say about that, until Fantasia 2000...
C.E.O Ruffian Enterprises Inc.
This movie is primarily for children. It is, after all, a Disney animated film. Tarzan of the Apes, as Tangor has written, is not for children; or at least not for many young children. While I lament the exclusion of the savagery of my Tarzan of the Apes, it is true that his story is a bit too savage for kids who go to Disney movies. The mangani, also, are not savage, except for Kerchak. Again, irritating as this would seem to be, I had little problem with it in this film.
This Tarzan does however have moments of savagery, and expressions which depict it. His battle with Sheetah (Sabor) is just wondrous to watch. You've seen parts of it in the trailers. The entire sequence is just stunning to see. And savage, too. There are other scenes where he displays moments of the true Tarzan; and frankly this Tarzan is more savage than any I've seen in the movies.
He is an animal in this film. Only "Greystoke" captured a bit of this essential aspect of Tarzan of the Apes. This film does it throughout. The screenwriters discussed this when they spoke to us prior to the screening. I had noticed and discussed it in my reviews of the trailers. His movements, whether on the ground or in the trees, capture Tarzan of the Apes as I've always envisioned him. This was one of my greatest delights.
This film also tells the story of Tarzan as no other film has ever done.
The film opens with spectacular visual effects. It just grabs you right from the get-go and you utter your first "Wow!" almost immediately. You haven't seen these scenes yet. Wait till you do. Whew. They do change the facts, but for this type of movie their facts are actually better, more exciting, and the changes are pretty irrelevant as to the story itself.
In the beginning of the film the terror and suffering of being stranded in an African jungle are perfectly displayed in the eyes of Lady Alice; and by the visuals and sound.
Then we meet Kala. You've seen parts of her meeting with the ape-infant, but when she tells Kerchak that she "saved him from Sabor", she wasn't kidding. The sequence where she saves the baby from Sheetah is riveting; yet through it all the baby Tarzan is just having the time of his life, wholly happy that he isn't alone, and this Tarzan truly knows no fear. You'll understand when you watch it. His demeanor softens the savagery of this scene for the kids, and I think this was perfectly done. We have seen Kala lose her baby to Sheetah, and feel for her, and for the infant. Their meeting is quite moving.
Frankly, I just couldn't help but watch him and think, "This is truly the stuff ape-men grow from."
We've seen some of the scenes where she brings him back to the mangani. There is some great humor as well as moments of incredible beauty in these scenes. One of the ape-children's comments on his name was great.
The growing Tarzan is very engaging, and really doesn't seem to take up much time. Again, they bring in the important aspects of the books. His difference from the others; his frustration with his lesser abilities and rejection by some and by Kerchak. And finally, his growing arboreal skills as his lighter, swifter body begins to use the trees while the mangani walk below. It is the child who is swinging in that scene from the trailer while the apes walk below, not the adult Tarzan. I don't know how they could have depicted this aspect of ERB's Tarzan any better, and the love between the boy and Kala is very moving.
The presence of man in the grown Tarzan's jungle is appropriately announced by the sound of a gunshot.
We meet Jane, and Huck. I kept referring to AQP as Huck when I discussed this movie. Ah, well.
Jane is superb. She is clearly a 1990's girl rather than ERB's Jane, but ERB's Jane was far ahead of her time, as were most of his heroines, and for todays's generations she is perfect. She is so cute and so feisty that she is irresistible. Minnie Driver makes her truly unique among Disney heroines, visually and otherwise. The growing love between her and Tarzan is just perfectly done. She is everything one could want in a girl, and a bit more than even the ape-man can handle.
Porter is a fun character. Clayton is a relatively ordinary Disney villain. Very different from any Clayton we might recall, but again, this is perfect; because this is Tarzan and Jane's story. They are the centerpiece of this film, with Kala hovering in the background. It sure didn't bother me that they don't kill Kala in this film. I'm not sure I could have accepted that, books or no books, and the kids certainly couldn't.
The scene where Terk and his/her buddies trash the camp is of course just plain silly. However, I didn't mind it as much as I had feared, perhaps because I knew it was coming. Also, the kids enjoyed it and it would give a fan the opportunity to go get some popcorn or something, so I have no problem with it. I wasn't going to miss one second of this film, even if Disney had offered popcorn.
Then we have the music and the visuals. What we have seen is of course there, and much, much more. Sequences we've never seen are just magnificent. We've seen just about all the tree surfing, so the anti-surfers can rest easy. There is some vine work which is truly beautiful on several occasions.
The jungle itself is as much a star as is Tarzan of the Apes. This is by far the most beautiful animated film ever made. The colors; the three-dimensional backgrounds; the fluid, lightning movements of Tarzan; the beautiful sequences where Tarzan and Jane are swinging on vines in love; etc; etc., set against the background of Phil Collins songs and music are just dazzling to experience.
As one scene after another opened, I just sat there and kept saying "Wow!"
I laughed along with the young girls who were sitting in front of us at the cute stuff and just sat there in stunned disbelief as my Tarzan leaped and whirled and flew and fought and wholly captivated me for about 85 minutes at Disney Studios. This film is absolutely perfect from beginning to end, ERB or no ERB. It is such an animated masterpiece that it wouldn't surprise me if it got nominated for Best Picture.
I can only hope that the rest of the World loves it half as much as did the tawny-haired barbarian.
I've always said that if I can find one moment in a Tarzan movie or TV series that "feels" like ERB's Tarzan, I come away happy. This movie has dozens of those moments, so I came away ecstatic. It is, in my view, the best Tarzan movie ever made. (I know. That's not saying much. But I've always kind of liked the movies, on very different levels than I love the books. I can separate the two. The thing about Disney's movie is that you don't have to do much separating.)
From the very first frame on the screen, I was hooked and astounded by this movie. I'll annoy some purists, I'm sure, but the shipwreck here works better than a mutiny. It's so dramatic and intense that it keeps you right at the edge of your seat. Astounding animation here, much more "realistic" than we'll see later in the movie.
Actually, since we get no back-story at all about what led to the shipwreck, perhaps there was a mutiny. That might explain why the ship was engulfed in flames.
The look of terror in Lady Alice's eyes as her husband lowers her and the baby away in the lifeboat toward the most menacing sea you can imagine just captures perfectly the enormity of their situation. And Lord Greystoke is so heroic here -- much, much more like ERB envisioned than we've ever seen before. In Greystoke, Clayton was kind of foppish, I thought. Here, he is truly the father of Tarzan. Their situation is desperate, but you immediately know that this is a husband and father who will do everything in his power to keep his wife and baby safe.
In the jungle, however, that's not always enough -- no matter how heroic the effort. ERB really painted the loneliness of this well. "O, Alice!" Disney equals the task. Whenever I come to this in TOA, or Greystoke, or Hogarth's adaptation, I keep having to remind myself that it's all neccesary for Tarzan to become Tarzan. It breaks my heart, though, every time that it's done well.
The "Two Worlds" sequence is so well done that I wish ERB would have given us more of this; more about Kala's maternal instincts, and love for her own little balu. It sets the stage for why she was so anxious to replace her loss with the human child, and it sets the stage for the story that Disney wants to tell.
I like the story that Disney tells. To me, it's the natural story at the heart of the entire Tarzan epic: Am I beast or man? And Disney tells this story so beautifully that I can't imagine anyone not being enthralled by it.
Tarak said there wasn't enough of the "savage" side of Tarzan in this movie. I disagree. I saw more of that in this movie than any other Tarzan movie made -- which is surprising, when you realize this is Disney. His fight with Sabor is just loaded with feral menace. The look in his eyes. The way he crouches and claws and growls. It is much more "ERB-realistic" than anything we saw in Greystoke. The same goes for Tarzan's fight with Kerchak.
The Kerchak in this movie is not the Kerchak we know from ERB. But I like what they did with him. And talk about savage! This is a mangani you don't want to anger. The underlying theme here, which is very true to ERB, is that the mangani want nothing to do with Tarzan, because he is different -- except for Kala, of course. Kerchak embodies that. And I like how protective Kerchak is toward his tribe. He serves as a good role model for Tarzan about what it is to *be* a mangani king -- something ERB's Tarzan never really had.
Here's where I agree with Tarak: If they had killed Kala in this movie, I would have been devastated. Disney got Kala so right it brings a tear to my eye. I guess maybe Disney decided never to kill off moms after they did that in Bambi. Kids would probably end up in therapy if they killed Kala.
So. You get the idea that I liked this movie. A couple moments I *really* loved:
-- Tarzan covering himself in mud, and Kala explaining to him that it's not what you see, it's what you feel. The whole hand-and-heart image in this movie is really powerful.
-- Terk and Tantor. I liked 'em. Sue me. They were funny (if you keep a kid's perspective on things.) ERB had Esmeralda, Disney has Terk. So, what's the difference? Emotionally constipated, indeed. (When the elephants charge through the mangani after the "hair incident," I love the comments from the little apes: "I didn't do it!") Another thing: Someone asked the screenwriters why they made Terk a female? I didn't get the impression Terk was supposed to be female. Rosie's voice could go either way. (And Rosie, too. ... Sorry.)
-- The baboon chase and the first meeting for Tarzan and Jane. Whew!
-- Jane trying to describe to Huck (AQP) about Tarzan. Very funny. Very endearing. She's in love.
-- When Jane is saddened because the little bird she was looking at flew away. Tarzan lifts her, beautifully (and somewhat erotically), into the upper terraces where there are thousands of birds for her to play with.
-- The sequence where the Porters teach Tarzan about civilization. Using a slide-projector was inspired, especially the image of Tarzan standing before the picture of a city.
-- Tarzan trying to escape from the hold of Clayton's ship. Truly an interesting (if bizarre) twist on the old Weismuller movies, where the elephants come to the rescue.
P.S. OJT suggested at lunch the possibility of a Best Picture nomination. I think it's definitely possible. Imagine! A Tarzan movie nominated for Best Picture. What would that do to renew interest in ERB?