Tarzan (Disney film)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Tarzan, released in 1999, is the 37th film in the Disney Animated Canon. Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan books, it stars Tony Goldwyn as the titular hero, Minnie Driver as his Love Interest Jane, and Brian Blessed as the antagonist, Clayton.

The film opens in the late 1880's, with a couple and their infant son ending up in Darkest Africa after a shipwreck. Later, Kala, a gorilla whose infant son was killed by a leopard, Sabor, hears a baby cry in an abandoned treehouse. As she enters, she sees the human baby and blood covered paw prints that show the boy's parents were also Sabor's victims, and takes the boy away to save him from the predator. Her mate, Kerchak, the dominant male of the gorilla band, despises the human for his appearance, but Kala raises him anyway, naming him "Tarzan".

Tarzan grows up to become a strong gorilla-like man, whose best friends are a comedic female gorilla and a phobic elephant (Rosie O'Donnell and Wayne Knight). One day, Sabor attacks the gorillas and is defeated by Tarzan, which earns him some respect from Kerchak. But then a British expedition which wants to study gorillas appears, led by Professor Archimedes Q. Porter. His daughter Jane is attacked by baboons, surviving only after being rescued by Tarzan. Now Tarzan must decide where he belongs - and also prevent the trigger-happy hunter guide Clayton from ruining everything...

The film was very successful, outgrossing its predecessors Mulan and |Hercules, and won an Academy Award for Best Song (Phil Collins' "You'll Be In My Heart"). It was the last big Disney hit until Lilo and Stitch three years later. The story was continued by an animated series, The Legend of Tarzan, and two direct-to-video sequels, Tarzan & Jane (a compilation of some The Legend of Tarzan episodes) and Tarzan II, an Interquel.

Tropes used in Tarzan (Disney film) include:
  • Adaptation Distillation: In the film, Tarzan is raised by gorillas. In the books, he is raised by "Mangani", some kind of ill-defined, made-up Frazetta Man. The books are filled with serial-style adventures with sci-fi and fantasy elements. The movie strips it down to keep focus on Tarzan's identity crisis and his relationship with Jane.
  • Adult Fear: When Kerchak and Kala are asleep, their baby runs off just long enough for a predator to kill him.
    • Kala finds baby Tarzan alone, in a house that was obviously attacked. Not long after, she has to save him from the leopard.
  • Anachronism Stew: Very mild case of mixing Victorian elements, but the Porters tell Tarzan that on returning to England he will be a celebrity who everyone from Charles Darwin to Rudyard Kipling will want to meet. However, Kipling did not publish his first collection of poems until 1886, four years after Darwin's death in 1882.
    • Aside from the Kipling reference, however, the elements are remarkably consistent; the penny-farthing bike, the transition from wooden ship at the beginning to steamship, the magic-lantern technology, and most tellingly the comet pin the date of the main story down to 1882.
  • Animal Talk
  • Attack! Attack! Retreat! Retreat!: "Put me down! Put me down!" Sees baboons coming closer. "Pick me up! Pick me up! Pick me uuuuuup!"
    • Later on, said by Clayton: "Get up, get up! ...Don't get up."
  • Aw, Look -- They Really Do Love Each Other: Kerchak and Kala often bicker onscreen, but they do have their moments that show that they genuinely care for each other.
  • Badass Bookworm: Believe it or not, Tarzan. He becomes utterly fascinated with books and reading once Jane and Professor Porter arrive.
    • Arguably Jane, after she Took a Level in Badass towards the end. She's plenty smart throughout the entire movie.
  • Badass Mustache: Tarzan's human father. Goes without saying.
    • Also Clayton.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Tarzan gets to lead one, swinging in yelling at the last second, but that's par for the course. It's the Chekhov's Army of an elephant herd, a baboon troop, a hippo, and a black rhino from Tarzan's past that makes this truly awesome.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Even when characters get shot.
    • Not all of it is bloodless though. Sabor leaves a visible claw wound on Tarzan during their fight. It seems to disappear pretty quickly, but still.
      • In the beginning of the movie, when Kala enters the cabin, you can see bloody leopard footprints that lead to the bodies of Tarzan's parents.
  • Blue Eyes: Tarzan has blue-green eyes.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Clayton gets several shots in a row from a double barreled shotgun.
  • Brainy Brunette: Jane. And Tarzan as well (if he is naive), considering how much he enjoys learning.
  • Brick Joke: One of the educational slides inspires Tarzan to present Jane with flowers, and later when he tries to give her the flowers he kneels in the exact same pose as the man in the slide, and in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it gag he almost forgets to put his hand over his chest.
  • Building Swing
  • The Cameo: Mrs Potts and Chip show up in the human's camp.
  • Catch Phrase: Tarzan's famous call, of course.
  • Cats Are Mean: Sabor, oh God, Sabor...
  • The Cavalry: In the form of Tantor of all creatures, along with Terk riding him, jump off a cliff, swim up to a boat filled with Mooks, and pull off quite the Big Damn Heroes moment to save Tarzan.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Tarzan teaches Jane a phrase in the gorilla language, and at the end of the movie, in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, she repeats the phrase to the gorilla tribe. The phrase was "Jane will stay with Tarzan."
    • Tarzan's ability to imitate the sound of a rifle with his mouth - he uses it to intimidate Clayton.
  • Close on Title
  • Composite Character: Kerchak. He's still the leader, but this version has more in common with Tublat (who was Kala's mate, didn't care much for Tarzan and was generally benign).
    • The character named Tublat, on the other hand...
  • Conspicuous CG: Much of the scenery, though it's integrated well thanks to the revolutionary "Deep Canvas" process.
  • Cub Cues Protective Parent: Jane encounters a cute little baby baboon which steals her journal. After Jane steals it back, the baby baboon starts crying calling the attention of its mother and the rest of its family.
  • Cue the Rain: When Jane is alone in the jungle.

Jane: It can't get any worse, can it?
Thunder clashes, rain begins.
Jane: Obviously, it can.

  • Cut Song: A few songs cut from the film were actually demo versions of the songs that later appeared in the film. One notable mention goes towards 6/8 Intro which was actually Phil Collins' proposition as to how the music in the film should sound like. Another one is I Will Follow which served as a precursor to Strangers Like Me, but it sounds more like Tarzan is trying to make Jane feel happy.
  • Cute Shotaro Boy: Tarzan as a kid.
  • Daddy's Girl: Jane and her dad really like each other.
  • Dark Is Not Evil / Light Is Not Good: As explained in the directors' commentary, for the jungle scenes the usual symbolism is intentionally inverted--shadows represent shelter, thus safety, and light represents exposure, thus danger. Pay particular attention during the fight between Tarzan and Sabor.
  • Did Not Do the Research: All big cats have round pupils, but Sabor's are vertical like those of many small cats.
  • Disneyfication: The original novels were much more violent, as well as xenocentric and overtly racist, all of which had to be slashed for the animated film. Also, in the novel, it was the much-more-savage Kerchak who was responsible for the deaths of his infant and Tarzan's father, John Clayton Sr. (as Tarzan's mother, Alice Rutherford Clayton, died of natural causes). One of the few examples of a work being improved by this trope.
    • Not to mention that in the novel, William Clayton (portrayed as a villain in the film) is Tarzan's cousin and Jane's fiancé, and Tarzan's real name is John Clayton Jr.! That film is still creepy.
    • Although it should be noted that while it falls into Bloodless Carnage this film is still noticably more violent than standard Disney fare.
    • And in one of those inexplicable "just because we can" changes that Disney is infamous for, the very American Jane becomes British.
  • Disney Villain Death: And a very painful one, even if shadowed.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Jane is nearly killed by a herd of baboons, apparently because she refused to give a drawing to a baby baboon.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Clayton, who provides the trope picture.
  • Eloquent in My Native Tongue: Tarzan not speak good English, since he's just now learning it, but in scenes where it's just Tarzan and the apes, he's shown to be a perfectly eloquent speaker of the ape language. He's even considered something of a notorious Deadpan Snarker, but hanging around Terk will do that to a guy.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys
  • "Falling in Love" Montage: "Strangers Like Me".
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Clayton's demise is a strong contender for most disturbing in the canon.
  • Genius Bruiser: Tarzan. From an early age you can see that he's pretty smart, learning several animal languages, though at first that seems just like his increased mental capacity compared to the apes. Then he starts to show basic engineering capabilities, building spears, umbrellas, and various other useful things. Then, when Jane and the others arrive, he learns English extremely fast, and is a voracious reader. But he can also kill leopards by himself.
    • Also more blatant when you consider that Tarzan first met Jane by picking up her entire body (by her clothing) with one arm while swinging from a vine. Or actually wrestling a fucking male silver back into submission with his bare hands. Muscles Are Meaningless.
      • Considering he's been wreastling with gorillas and elephants and leopards his entire life, his muscles are probably extremely well adapted to that sort of thing.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Tarzan tries to peek under Jane's skirt.
    • And putting his head on her chest. Granted, he was just trying to feel a heartbeat (and he didn't know either of the above things were wrong), but yeah...
  • Gilligan Cut: When Tarzan tries to get Terk and Tantor to distract Kerchak:
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The death of Kala's first baby takes place off-screen.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: When Kerchak dies.
  • Grind Boots
  • Happily Adopted: Tarzan. Invoked after Kala shows Tarzan the treehouse where he was found.
  • Held Gaze: This trope happens between Tarzan and Jane when he first meets the girl, and they stare into each other's eyes in wonder.
  • Hulk Speak: He mostly grows out of it by the end.
  • I Have No Son: Kerchak's attitude towards Tarzan throughout the film, to a small extent. He finally accepts him as he dies.
  • Important Haircut: Jane starts out with her hair up, but in scenes where she bonds with Tarzan and the gorillas she lets her hair down.
  • Ink Suit Actor: Jane bears more than a passing resemblance to her voice actress, Minnie Driver.
  • It's Personal: Subverted; Tarzan doesn't know that Sabor killed his parents (not to mention Kerchak and Kala's son), so the fight between the two has more meaning than he realizes.
  • Karmic Death: Clayton.
  • Large Ham: Terk, and arguably young Tantor. Oddly enough, not Clayton despite being voiced by Brian Blessed, as his animation was more over-the-top than his voice acting.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Jane.
  • Limited Special Collectors' Ultimate Edition: Disney's Tarzan on Nintendo 64 came with a Tarzan figurine.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Averted and parodied: the movie replaces the lions and tiger in the book with a leopard, and when young Tantor says the river has piranha, another elephant quickly remarks they live in South America.
    • Mostly averted. A couple of ring-tailed lemurs, exclusive to Madagascar (where there are no gorillas), show up near the start.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Clayton.
  • Match Cut
  • Mighty Whitey ... or maybe more like Mighty Human.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Tarzan, who can seamlessly cross from being undeniably badass to just plain adorable whenever he's with Jane. His choice of wardrobe also helps too.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Tarzan has an extremely toned athletic build...Yet he's able to wrestle Kerchak, a male silverback with forearms thicker than Tarzans torso.
    • It makes sense, in a way, if you think about it. He grew up with them. He probably learned how to overcome Kerchak (and any other silverback) just by doing what he always does. Observing and copying.
    • Tarzan's legs (particularly his thighs) are drawn much heftier than the rest of his body though, signifying how much he uses him with all of his running and jumping. It doesn't justify his super-strength but it makes his abilities a little more believable.
    • It should also be noted that he wasn't just wrestling Kerchak, he was strangling him, which presumably put a bit of a damper on his ability to fight, or do much of anything, really.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Tarzan after he puts Kerchak in a headlock.
  • Mythology Gag: In the books, "Tantor" is a term for elephants in general.
    • Jane's sketch of Tarzan is titled "Tarzan of the Apes", which is the title of the first Tarzan novel.
    • Tarzan fighting Sabor out of sight and slowly lifting her corpse into sight is directly taken from Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, where Tarzan fights and kills an ape underwater. That movie's Tarzan also appears to be an influence on the Disney version's design.
    • Tarzan smashing Clayton's gun is a throwback to the old Johnny Weissmuller films, where Tarzan developed a habit of smashing stranger's guns on sight after seeing several of his friends shot (and been shot at himself).
  • The Native Rival: Kerchak
  • Not Now, Kiddo
  • Not So Different: Tantor and Terk turn out to be this when the former decides to stand up to her.
  • Nubile Savage: Tarzan, although his hair hangs in messy dreadlocks from lack of haircuts and no combing.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Done realistically. Jane sneaks away but is only just around the other side of the tree.
  • Oh Crap: The look on Clayton's face is understandable when Kerchak charges at him.
    • Watch the expression on Kerchak's face as he watches Clayton pull the shotgun on Tarzan.
  • Opposites Attract: While they get along well (if their relationship has a slightly rocky start), Tarzan starts off as being a lot more naive than Jane herself is. But at the end of the day, they are kindred spirits.
    • Kala and Kerchak have their differences regarding their opinion of Tarzan. They both do want what’s best for their gorilla family, however.
  • Pale Females, Dark Males: Kerchak is black, Kala is brown, the rest of the gorillas are different shades of grey.
  • The Patriarch: Kerchak, so much.
  • Papa Wolf: Kerchak, to his herd, and at the end, to Tarzan.
  • Pop Star Composer
  • Puppy Dog Eyes: Tarzan uses this technique on Terk, who lampshades it.
  • Putting a Hand Over His Mouth: A villain does this to Jane, who quickly bites it.
  • Raised By Gorillas
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Clayton taunts Tarzan with this.
  • Rule of Animation Conservation: The reason for Tarzan's knuckle walking, tree surfing and other acrobatics. They wanted to have Tarzan do things a normal human actor simply couldn't do. Being animated also makes it much easier to show Tarzan having a legitimate bond with his adoptive family.
  • Rule of Cool: The guy is surfing down giant vines. Either he has really smooth feet, or the vines are greased. Otherwise, there is a going to be a lot of friction.
    • It becomes Fridge Brilliance when you realize that the branches and vines are covered in very slick moss.
  • Save the Villain: Well, he tried anyway...
  • Scenery Porn: The jungle is animated beautifully.
  • Science Marches On: The main reason Disney changed the Mangani to gorillas is because of this: Gorillas have been found to be the Gentle Giants of the jungle.
  • Serendipitous Symphony: The "Trashing the Camp" sequence.
  • Shout-Out: In a sense. Evidently Tarzan's "tree surfing" was inspired by the antics of skateboard legend Tony Hawk.
    • According to the DVD and a trailer on the Mulan VHS, Glen Keane was first inspired from his son's skateboarding, actually.
    • There are arguably a couple of quotes referencing past Disney films as well:

Terk: So, whatcha gonna call it?
Kala: I think I'll call him "Tarzan".
Terk: Tarzan? Okay, he's your baby...

    • During the start of the "Trashin' The Camp" sequence, as Tantor is frightened by every single object in the Porter camp, the object that scares him the most is a tea kettle and cup that bear a striking similarity to Mrs. Potts and her son.
      • Terk dances with a white skeleton in similar fashion and design to the classic Disney short The Skeleton Dance.

Kerchak: You came back!
Tarzan: I came home.

    • A more subtle reference to Beauty and the Beast is Kerchak's death. It almost completley mirrors Beast's.
    • What about the Dick and Jane book?
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Tarzan's mom.
  • Stripperiffic: Jane wears less and less clothes as the movie goes on. At the very end, her outfit would have been considered obscene for the time being.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Sabor. A leopard whose seemingly easy prey is suddenly defended by an adult gorilla would probably be better off seeking other prey.
  • Take Care of the Kids: Kerchak tells Tarzan to take care of his pack at the end of the film.
  • Tempting Fate
  • Throw It In: The scene where Jane was ranting about what happened to her to her father and Clayton, after being rescued from the baboons? That whole thing was improvised by her voice actor, Minnie Driver.
    • Likewise much of Professor Porter's reaction to her ranting was improvised along with other lines such as "Oh, just like Aunt Isabelle" when Jane describes how Tarzan walks.
  • Time Skip: Once from baby Tarzan to kid Tarzan, and then kid Tarzan to adult Tarzan. Both happen near a musical number, too - the first is immediately after "You'll Be In My Heart" and the second is during "Son Of Man".
  • Translation Convention: Around the animals, obviously.
  • Tsundere: Terk.
    • Also Jane. Just watch her reactions from when Tarzan is realizing there are other creatures like him and the way they interact during "Strangers Like Me".
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Tarzan. Walking pant-less, too.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Tarzan is constantly seeking the approval of Kerchak, who refuses to accept Tarzan as a member of the gorilla pack, much less as his adopted son. That all changes when Tarzan comes back to save them. Sadly, it doesn't last that long, as Kerchak receives a fatal bullet wound from Clayton. After Clayton's death, Tarzan kneels over Kerchak, who passes on leadership of the pack to Tarzan and even acknowledges Tarzan as his son with his last words.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: "Why didn't you tell me there were creatures who look like me?"
  • Wild Child: The titular character.