Tarzan is one of those stories where many versions exist on film. It’s almost like Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol or William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. If you want to see a film version of any of these stories, you have to ask yourself, “Which one?” Now, at this point, I can’t really provide a comparison of all the different cinematic versions of Tarzan. I will, however, give you my take on Disney’s 1999 animated feature Tarzan, which I think is quite good.
The story is probably familiar to you, but I’ll lay it out here anyway. Tarzan is a male human raised by apes, because he was stranded as a baby when his parents died. As a result of his upbringing, he is very skilled in swinging from vine to vine through the jungle. When Jane, a woman from civilization, wanders into the jungle and meets Tarzan, there is fear and suspicion of this savage human. There is humor, though, when Tarzan tries to look up Jane’s dress.
The villain is a hunter named Clayton, so if you’re wondering what the central conflict is, it comes from this guy. That’s not to say this movie is dark. Not really. Even with the action-packed climax, it’s doesn’t feel that way. Also, there are a few lovable characters, like the gorilla Terk voiced by Rosie O’Donnell, though they are only a small part of the movie. That’s not what this movie is notable for.
There are really just two reasons why this movie is very good. One, the relationship between Tarzan and Jane. There is a process of change as Tarzan learns to become more like a civilized human. You can also see Jane slowly falling for him, even though she seems to be denying it. Two, the visual action. This is not a Tarzan movie where the character swings through the jungle in stationary camera shots. Rather, the animators provide plenty of shots that show the trees sweeping by in Tarzan’s eyes. This first-person perspective makes you feel as if you yourself are flying through the jungle. Also, Tarzan is quite agile when he moves around this way.
I saw this movie not expecting something spectacular. It turned out I was wrong. It was quite spectacular, if not the most spectacular. Like I said above, if you’re wondering how this Tarzan movie compares with other Tarzan movies, I can’t really say anything about that. I can, however, compare this Disney to other Disney movies. I rate it between the best Disney movie and an average Disney movie, but leaning more towards the former. To skip this movie thinking it’s OK is to overlook this movie that’s actually quite entertaining.