Tarzan: Special Edition

DVD Reviews | Nov 22nd, 2005

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Starring Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn Close,Brian Blessed,Nigel Hawthorne
Written By:
Directed By: Chris Buck, Kevin Lima
Studio: Disney/ Buena Vista
Buy on Amazon.com link

As with Bryan and his review of Jumanji, I’ve never had the chance to see Tarzan when it was originally released and for me it is a welcomed re-release. Now I’m not a big fan of the newer Disney movies (I’m a sucker for the classics like The Fox and the Hound or Lady and the Tramp) but come on…it’s Tarzan…one of the most classic, and intriguing literary characters of the past 100 years. I was excited to put this movie in.

If you’re not familiar with Tarzan and his story, then here is a little bit of background information first. Tarzan was created by a young writer by the name of Edgar Rice Burroughs and first appeared in a pulp magazine titled All-Story. Tarzan’s story follows a young man who was raised by apes in the jungles of Africa. Having lost his family while only an infant, a family of apes found the small child and raised him as one of their own. Tarzan became the missing link between man and gorilla. He knew nothing of the civilized world in which he was born into. The jungle and its laws were all the he had ever known. That is until the fateful day that he had met another of his kind…a woman by the name of Jane Porter. Faced with an emotion called love, Tarzan must decide between a life in the civilized world with Jane or continuing his life in the jungle with his gorilla family. This one story spawned countless novels, comic books, TV shows, radio series and vast amounts of merchandise. Having remained out of the spotlight for quite some time, Disney picked up the rights for an animated movie and, once again, Tarzan of the Apes reins supreme.

Disney’s version of Tarzan stays very true to the original but in a condensed format. Of course, this movie is intended for children more than it is for adults. So you have Tarzan buddying up with a young ape named Terk, who shows Tarzan the ropes, and a neurotic elephant named Tantor who provides the comic relief. Both of which are reference to the original Tarzan story. The first ten minutes of the movie are actually pretty grim for a Disney movie, but for good reason. The ape family that eventually raises Tarzan, loses their small child and Tarzan loses his mother and father both to the same culprit…Sabor the Leopard. Naturally, this provides the movie with a villain and a meeting of lost child and childless mother. Kala, his adopted ape mother, finds baby Tarzan alone in his families’ tree house and saves him from the same fate that befell his family. The story quickly shifts to a slightly older Tarzan and shows Tarzan as the clumsy, little troublemaker that he was a child. He manages to get himself in predicament after predicament and always seems to unintentionally anger his adopted father, Kerchak. Tarzan, like any small boy, desperately seeks the approval of his father. To Kerchak, this hairless child is not his son and throughout most of the movie, avoids Tarzan. The final progression in Tarzan’s age shows him in or about his early to late teen years or in his early twenties. Tarzan is now a grown man and seemingly the heir apparent to the gorilla tribe. His skills have grown greatly as he now soars, surfs, and swings through the jungle with ease. There is a very cool Spider-Man-esque sequence showing Tarzan doing just that through the treetops of the jungle. It is during these later years that Tarzan finally slays his demons and learns that he is not alone in this world. Tarzan finally defeats his jungle nemesis, Sabor and manages to save Kerchak and the tribe from Sabor’s claws. And finally, the historical meeting of Tarzan and Jane occurs as she, her father and their guide Clayton roam the jungles in search of gorillas and proof that they, much like humans, live together in families. At first, Tarzan seems intrigued and fascinated by Jane. He realizes that he is not the only one of his kind. Jane on the other hand seems frightened of Tarzan at first, but her fear quickly turns to fascination as well. The two begin to spend a lot of time together and begin to seemingly fall for each other. Over time, Jane and her father, as well as Clayton ask Tarzan to show them his family of apes. Kerchak had forbid Tarzan from showing the humans the tribe, but Tarzan goes against his word and does just that. Jane’s intentions are good. She and her father marvel at the opportunity to study gorillas up close and personal. Clayton on the other hand, seeks to exploit the tribe by capturing them and whisking them off to England for profit. It is not long after meeting the gorillas that Jane and the expedition must leave. Tarzan’s feelings for Jane are too strong and, donning one of his fathers’ suits, joins Jane on the trek to England. But it was all a trap. Clayton and his men seek out the gorilla tribe and begin to gather as many as they can. Meanwhile, Tarzan, Jane and most of the ship’s crew are locked up below deck on the ship. Tarzan hears cries from his family but is helpless to do anything about it. With the help of his overlooked, but not forgotten friends Terk and Tantor, Tarzan is freed and hurries to aid his family. This leads to one of the coolest action scenes that I have witnessed. Angered and betrayed by someone he had trusted, Tarzan takes on Clayton’s cronies and then Clayton himself. When all is said and done, Clayton is dead by his own hand, and the tribe has suffered a great loss…the loss of Kerchak. But this movie does not end on a sour note. Tarzan, who realizes that he cannot leave his family, is dubbed the leader of the tribe and, with Jane (and her father) by his side, Tarzan will live out the rest of his life with both the family that he holds dear and the woman that he loves.

Even though this movie has a lot of elements in it that are geared towards children, Tarzan holds up just as well for the older audience. There are many emotional and heartfelt moments in this film ranging from loss and tragedy to love and dedication. This is in fact, what held so true in the older Disney classics. I would definitely place this movie within their ranks. The animation is a higher quality of animation from Disney and mixes old-fashioned hand drawn animation with some newer computer animation, and it blends almost flawlessly. The music done by Phil Collins fits hand in hand with the movie. The big drum beats and mellow harmonies that are a trademark of Phil Collins are very much alive and add an extra dimension and a jungle feel to Tarzan and its setting. There aren’t many crazy, zany sing-a-longs, which is a good thing. Just good quality songs and composings. Disney pretty much nailed the story of Tarzan on the head and stayed very much true to its roots. I would recommend this movie to anyone who is at all interested in Tarzan, to any family that is looking for a great, well-rounded family movie on a Friday night, or basically to any one that is looking for a good hour and a half of quality entertainment.

Tarzan has been re-released in conjunction with the sequel; Tarzan II which I think is out on DVD right now. Tarzan: Special Edition is one disc and comes with a handful of bonuses to entertain the kiddies. The extra features include three bonus games, deleted scenes, music videos, audio commentary, and an “Animals of the Jungle” encyclopedia.

As I said before, I would highly recommend Tarzan. I’m not sure what was or wasn’t available in the original release, but the Special Edition seems to be the version to pick up. If you like Disney movies in the vein of Lady and the Tramp, The Fox and the Hound, Lion King, or 101 Dalmatians, then you will enjoy the throwback feel of Tarzan and you will most likely come out of it entertained, and hopefully more interested in the character known for almost a century as Tarzan. To quote the man himself: “AHHHH AHHHHHH AHHH AHHHHHH AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH AHHHHHHHHHH!!!”

Games & Activites
Terk’s Tree Surfing Challenge – Three All New GAmes!
DisneyPedia: Living In The Jungle

Backstage Disney
Deleted Scenes Including Alternate Opening
Filmmakers’ Audio Commentary

Music & More
All-New Music Video Featuring The Wildly Popular Everlife
Music Videos Featuring Phil Collins and ‘N Sync

ENGLISH: Dolby Digital Stereo

Standard 1.33:1 Color


Favorite Scenes: Tarzan surfing and swinging through the trees, the meeting of Tarzan and Jane, the fight sequence at the end.
Rating: G
Running Time: 88 minutes
Extras Rating:
Overall Rating: