Main cast: Brian Blessed (Clayton), Glenn Close (Kala), Minnie Driver (Jane Porter), Tony Goldwyn (Tarzan), Nigel Hawthorne (Professor Archimedes Q Porter), Lance Henriksen (Kerchak), Wayne Knight (Tantor), and Rosie O’Donnell (Terkoz “Terk”)
Directors: Chris Buck and Kevin Lima
Another fable underwent the Disney scalpel and emerged more vividly colored. Let me start off by saying, “How do they do all those lovely scenery?” The opening scenes of the rainforests are breathtaking. You could see the every motion of the cascading waterfall. The sunlight shining through the forest canopy in lovely hues. Absolutely heavenly. I wish the artist folks would come around and paint my house for me.
Tarzan started out wonderfully too. A shipwreck, with Papa and Moma rescuing baby Tarzan only to be stranded on a deserted tropical island. They made the best out of it, building a treehouse and making the place as hospitable as possible. In a brilliant juxtaposing of two different souls connected by the spiderwebs of Fate, we see a gorilla chimp straying from its herd only to be attacked by a hungry leopard. The same leopard would kill Tarzan’s parents. Kala, the mother of the baby gorilla, was grieving over her lost baby when she heard Tarzan crying. Driven by maternal instincts, she rescued that baby from that villainous leopard and adopted him. Here, I must say Phil Collins’s You’ll Be in My Heart song was wonderful. I didn’t care much for it on radio, but as an accompaniment to the bonding between Kala and Tarzan, it was very effective. Did I mention I actually cried at the first fifteen minutes of this show? Something about dead babies and grieving mothers pushed all my maternal instinct buttons. I was wiping away tears in the cinema, making all the under-12’s around me wondering if that old Granny had gone dotty.
The movie continued with Tarzan growing up with an identity crisis, neither fitting in among the apes and couldn’t fit in anywhere. He drove hard to be the best gorilla, and in a heartfelt scene, even dabbed mud on his face so that he would look just like his family. My heart went out for this poor boy. And dear Kala, voiced by Glenn Close, she was wonderful. Whenever she was with Tarzan, even while sprouting things that normally I would consider corny, I was moved dearly. Truly, Disney had managed to capture well the relationship between mother and son in its finest. It made me vow to give everyone in the family a big hug before the day was done. Simply lovely, this aspect of Tarzan.
Unfortunately, and I never imagined I would say this, the romance spoiled everything. Jane and his primatologist father arrived, and they were so naïve they couldn’t see their guide was a gorilla hunter. Tarzan rescued Jane from a mad pack of baboons, and predictably got all, er, curious (this is a cartoon from Disney after all) about this woman. I admit, the way Tarzan fitted his palm against hers, and his awe and relief that here was a person who wasn’t so different from he, was very well-done. I prepare myself for a moving, star-crossed relationship.
No such luck. Apart from a lively all-access-gorilla rampage on the humans’ camp, things got really boring from there onwards. Jane and Tarzan never really clicked. The romance was pretty bah-humbug and unexciting. The finale was a sleepy yarn of a climax. You know, bad guy betrays good guys, bad guy kidnaps hero’s friends, hero and singing talking sidekicks to the rescue. You’ve seen that in many other Disney cartoons. It’s a sad fizzling-out after such a strong, powerful start-up of the movie.
In the end, despite its cutting age Deep Canvas technology that generated those breathtaking panoramas, Tarzan is a pleasant, cookie-cutter Disney cartoon. Despite some moments of sheer brilliance, it wasn’t exactly anything I’d get really excited about.