HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:83
Ladies and gentlemen, we are back once again with another month of Disney releases, and what a month it will be. Look forward to at least 6 Disney feature films plus the occasional Disney distributed Television series. So to start out the batch we’re going back to 1999 and revisit one of the transition titles for Disney between the “Silver” and the “Bronze” age. “Tarzan” is kind of in that flux period where Disney was dropping quality and has some of the great elements of the Silver age and a few of the cheesy shortcuts that the Bronze age of the Mouse House was famous for utilizing. I remember seeing bits and pieces of the film back in 1999-2000 era, but back then I wasn’t really interested in new Disney titles, as I was an 18 year old heading off to college and I was more interested in movies where things blow up and go boom. Revisiting this at a much older age is rather refreshing and reminds me why I love Disney, even though the rose colored glasses of youth have long since been tossed aside.
“Tarzan” is one of the most famed series from an even more famous author, Edgar Rice Burroughs (who also penned the “John Carter of Mars” series), and a story that pretty much everyone in existence has heard, seen on film, or read about. Our young hero Tarzan is stranded on a tropical island and raised by apes where he later meets the lady Jane and explores the world and jungle over. The original story was a bit more dark and mature as we have Tarzan’s ape “father” killing his parents and tacking the boy as his own to raise, not to mention having Tarzan leaving the jungle for a while and following Jane back to the Americas. Here, we have a slightly more “Disneyfied” plot as Tarzan (Tony Goldwyn) and his parents are shipwrecked on that very same island and left to fend for themselves. On that same island, a mother gorilla named Kala (Glenn Close) and her mate, Kerchack (Lance Henriksen) have lost a child to a vicious Cheetah. In the midst of grief, Kala hears the sound of a young child in the distance and goes to discover that this little boy is all that’s left of the shipwrecked family, as that same cheetah has killed the parents. Raising the boy as her own, Kala gives Tarzan a new lease on life as a gorilla.
Now Tarzan grows up with his gorilla buddies Terk (Rosie O’Donnell) and Tantor the elephant (Wayne Knight) without a care in the world. He doesn’t know he’s different and doesn’t really think much about it. That all changes when a group of explorers come to the island looking to study the gorillas. Jane (Minnie Driver) and her father Professor Porter (Nigel Hawthorne) are looking to study the gorilla habitats, but their guide, Clayton (Brian Blessed) seems to have more nefarious motives in mind. When Tarzan sees Jane his whole world turns upside down as he realizes that there are more creatures out there like him. His curiosity getting the better of him, against his parent’s warnings, he makes contact with Jane and soon becomes quite attached to her (as does young Jane to the muscular wild man). Forming a bond that’s stronger than he’s ever felt before, the trusting Tarzan leads Jane back to his family, where the true colors of Clayton come to the surface, for his entire purpose of traveling with Jane and her father are to find and capture native animals. Battling for his family and his woman, Tarzan must learn how to be both a man as well as a gorilla and make a stand.
As I mentioned above, “Tarzan” is kind of in that flux period between ages at the Disney front, having some of the qualities of the superior Silver age and some of the less Bronze age. Still, all in all, it’s a very satisfying story that will satisfy fans of the classic Disney genre. The story is a bit simpler than the original, and tends to sacrifice some of the story and characters for the musical score by Phil Collins. Tarzan is really in a simple state, he is seeing a female of his species and longs for the companionship of someone who’s just like him, a person who can understand the pitfalls of human existence as well as relate to his elations. But, as they say, beauty is only skin deep and so race, as Tarzan soon learns that family is not just who you are born with. Kerchack and Kala may not have given birth to the lad, but they are more real and more family than anybody else in his existence. Jane also has to decide who she’s going to follow, those of her own kind, or the young man who’s more “human” than any of the people she’s traveling with.
The story is a bit clichéd and a bit light ‘n fluffy, with some cheesy narrative points and I sometimes wonder at why they chose to make Jane as vapid as she is in the film. She’s nowhere near the strength or maturity of many other Disney characters, and even though she’s not a stupid girl, she seems to be a bit flighty. Still, Minnie Driver plays the character well, and has that cute charm to her that only Minnie Driver can portray. Tony Goldwyn does a very solid job as Tarzan, and I was surprised that Lance Henriksen was able to blend so seamlessly into the role of Kerchack. He’s usually so very noticeable by his voice and inflections, but here I almost didn’t recognize the voice. The rest of the characters are rather cookie cutter and really only there to have more voices and bodies. Clayton and the Professor are neither grand, nor offensive, but rather simply a story telling aid to push along the Jane and Tarzan relationship.
Rated G for General Audiences
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=23954[/img]“Tarzan” comes out on Blu-ray with a very well done 1.78:1 framed AVC encode that only suffers from a few small flaws. The hand drawn animation is replicated very well with plenty of detail and color pop to make us cartoon nuts very happy. Colors are well saturated as the greens, blues, browns and every other color of the tropical jungle is drawn out for us. Lines are very well drawn and there doesn’t appear to be any digital manipulation such as DNR or what not to ruin the art. While most of the art is hand drawn, there is a blending of CGI into the film as well (mostly background objects and such) and it’s done rather seamlessly I might add. Black levels are impressive and I don’t notice anything wrong with the shadow detail, but in those darker images I do notice one of the two flaws inherent in the disc, macroblocking. I noticed it mainly in dark scenes, but the edges of the fur and a few of the vine swinging sequences showed it as well. How much you’ll notice this issue depends a lot on how nitpicky you are, as it’s not egregious and really only an issue to someone like me who’s tearing apart the picture for any flaws (that and those with really large projector displays may be a bit more prone to noticing it as well). Lastly there were a few scenes that exhibited some minor banding, and although it wasn’t very often, when it did raise its ugly head it was rather noticeable.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=23962[/img]Now, the audio for “Tarzan” was a real treat, and even though it’s a 5.0 track rather than a 5.1 track the energy and power of the low end came through quite prominently even without a dedicated LFE channel. The track literally sizzles with pizazz and energy as the catchy Phil Collins score croons around you. Phil is very much an 80’s and 90’s era singer and the score gives it that same nostalgic feeling of that time period. Pouring in from all sides it makes good use of all 5 channels and the lets the music wash over you in an immersive wave. Not to be outdone the rest of the track follows in strong suit, using the surrounds equally as impressively as the score, with gunshots that blast around the viewer as well as the rustling and creaking of the tropical jungle. Showing some very nice sonic detail the track distinguishes between the soft sounds of Jane’s footsteps in the sand, the creaking of a vine mid swing as well as the broader ones like Kerchack’s battle roar and the smash of a cage door. LFE is strong, but without a dedicated low end channel it’s not going to blow you away with a wall shaking experience. The majority of the LFE is in the score and accompanying the gunshots and gorilla roaring during the battle sequences. Dialogue is never a problem and is given a VERY wide dynamic range to play with compared to the rest of the effects. Well done Disney.
• Deleted Scenes
• Research Trip to Africa
• The Making of the Music
• "You'll Be in My Hear" Music Video, Performed by Phil Collins
• Disneypedia: Living in the Jungle
• History and Development
• The Characters of 'Tarzan'
• Animation Production
• Story & Editorial
• Audio Commentary
• 'Tarzan' Goes International
• 'Strangers Like Me' Music Video
• 'Strangers Like Me' Live Performance
• 'Trashin' the Camp' Studio Session
• Original Phil Collins Song Demo
As a Disney fan I’m always glad to add another to the collection, and for children and adults alike, “Tarzan” does a very admirable job at filling in the gaps to our shelves. It’s not as strong as the ones before it, but it has a certain 90’s charm to it and the Phil Collins musical score makes it a pleasant experience for everyone. There really isn’t any new special features (and I’m surprised it wasn’t done as a two pack with its sequel), but the audio is fantastic and sports very solid video, so people looking to upgrade their old 90’s DVD’s will be pleased to know that they are getting their money’s worth. Recommended.
Starring: Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Brian Blessed
Directed by: Chris Buck, Kevin Lima
Written by: Tab Murphy, Bob Tzudiker
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.0, English DD 2.0 French, Spanish DD 5.0
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 88 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: August 12th 2014
Buy Tarzan Blu-ray on Amazon
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