Tarzan represents an awkward crossroad for the studio. No longer reaping the rewards of animated outings like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, Disney with Tarzan willingly deviates from the “Disney Renaissance” template. No characters sing in this one. There is no princess. This isn’t a fairytale.
Yet, it carries the obligatory baggage of the Disney necessities, such as romance and the unsubtle villain. Side characters still remain, but after a long succession of annoying ones (Timon, Gargoyles, Pain and Panic, Mushu), Tarzan finally gets it right with Tantor and Terk. I think what makes them stand out is that they aren’t written like… well, side characters. Both are injected with stand-alone personalities and have a dynamic with Tarzan resembling more of friendship than partnership. This friendship, along with the special effects supplementing the kinetic animation, are the real highlights of Tarzan.
Phil Collins doing the songs, the romance between Tarzan and Jane, and the not-so-surprising reveal of the villain are simply mediocre story elements. Disney would be rightly rewarded for taking risks with Tarzan, but I argue it could have scrapped out more of the typical Disney stuff to focus more on the tension between Tarzan, Kerchak, and the rest of the gorilla family. Probably the biggest downfall of Tarzan is that it does just enough to remind us of how good Disney’s earlier works were.
Verdict: Properly Rated
Kevin’s Favorite Moment: Tarzan meets a human being for the first time
I read a fair amount of books about creative writing, and there’s a cliche that repeatedly pops up: “A story is only as good as its villain.” It’s not an infallible rule, but if I were to rank the nine movies in this article and rank the nine villains from said movies, the order would be almost exactly the same: Gaston and Jafar at the top, Clayton and Ratcliffe at the bottom.
That’s not to say I dislike Tarzan at all. I love the animation, the scenes of Tarzan interacting with his friends and ape family, and the way Jane and Tarzan grow closer and closer, even if the latter happens a bit too easily. Come to think of it, I like most of Tarzan except the main conflict. I kept wanting to watch more of Tarzan being a normal ape-man or a mismatched lover.
Tarzan is hailed as being a peer to the rest of the Disney Renaissance, and while it’s excellent, I don’t quite categorize it there. The music and the plot don’t quite do it for me, and I’m not as won over by Tantor and Terk as Kevin is.
Dan’s Favorite Moment: Same as Kevin – Tarzan and Jane meeting
Final Grade: B (86%)—an energetic animation to back-up a Disney story about friendship.
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