Fluid Movement, Powerful Visuals and A Gorgeous Soundtrack | 25 Years On Tarzan Is as Fresh As Ever

I have fond memories of the Tarzan books from childhood. They were dusty things, that my father kept in a small cupboard and even though the stories were old and dated in such a way that young me had zero interest in reading them, the illustrations on the cover intrigued me, and the concept of a man raised by gorillas in the African Jungle, conjured up images of adventure for me. Edgar Rice Burroughs created a timeless character and this year, the Disney animated version of Tarzan of the Apes, turns 25. It provides me with a chance to look back at the beauty of this film, reliving the stories of the tribe of Kerchak. 

The topic of our retrospective is the 1999 film, a story that came at the time of the Disney renaissance, giving us some spectacular visuals. The first thing to look at is the voice cast, featuring the talents of Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver and Glenn Close, we are treated to characters that have distinct voices that fit their designs, and breathe believability into their actions. The designs themselves are of the typical Disney aesthetic but still stand out and feel different from the norm. Directed by Kevin Lima, the story looks at the origins of Tarzan, being taken in by the apes and his growth in their world. We see the arrival of Jane and a difference in culture and lifestyles as Tarzan experiences the in-between of both the life he leads and the one he could. We also have conflict in the villain, Clayton, and that serves to add some darker elements to the plot. 

Moving on to the animation, there must be much said for the fluidity of movements throughout, the way Tarzan swings through the trees, and slides on branches, is stunning. The team studied not only this but also the muscular structure and anatomy of both humans and primates to best capture the subjects of the animated film. The research even went as far as a two-week safari trip to Kenya and Uganda, and it really shows in the final piece. Aside from the animation, the writing managed to evoke themes of family throughout the narrative, and this was accompanied by a gorgeous soundtrack, much of which features Phil Collins as the singer. Songs such as “Son of Man” and “Strangers like Me” added so much ambience to the already powerful visuals, creating a three-dimensional backdrop for the characters to emote. The legacy of Tarzan spawned an animated franchise, featuring a series, The Legend of Tarzan that ran from 2001 to 2003, two direct to video sequels, Tarzan & Jane, and Tarzan II. Video games, a live action feature and a Broadway musical also followed, and it’s all thanks to the wonderful animation that first graced our screens in 1999.

Upon rewatching this, looking back, it was clear that Tarzan has aged well as a film. It doesn’t feel like it’s 25 years old. The colours and animation are still crisp, and the concepts and themes are as important now as they were all those years ago. The theme of family is an important one, and when watching Tarzan, one can’t help but be reminded of their own families and what family means to them. In conclusion, Tarzan is a film based on an extremely popular character, a new take on a familiar classic, created for what at the time was a new audience. If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out. If you have, then now is the perfect time to fall in love with this gem all over again.


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