Before the Disney animators abandoned traditional 2D animated features, they did produce one final masterwork: their own version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan. With the most up-to-date computer software at their command and a terrific story voiced by superb actors playing a raft of memorable characters, Disney’s 2D animation really had no place to go but down after this terrific film.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 28 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copykeep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 08/12/2014
Orphaned in the jungle after a shipwreck strands his parents and then they’re subsequently killed by a vicious leopard, a newly born baby, soon to be christened as “Tarzan” (Alex D. Linz as a child, Tony Goldwyn as an adult), is adopted by Kala (Glenn Close), a mother gorilla who’s just lost her own baby to the same ferocious leopard Sabor. Kala’s mate Kerchak (Lance Henriksen) isn’t in favor of a creature so different from themselves joining their family, but he doesn’t have the heart to say no to his already heartbroken love. Tarzan grows into a formidable jungle creature, far different from his gorilla family but loving and eager to please, but even later saving Kerchak from Sabor doesn’t quite win the gruff leader over to his side. When an expedition led by Professor Porter (Nigel Hawthorne) arrives on the African shores to search for and study gorillas, Tarzan for the first time views creatures like himself, and he’s fascinated by Porter’s daughter Jane (Minnie Driver) who, after her initial shock at the “ape man,” works with him to understand him and to teach Tarzan some of her speech and mannerisms. But with the landing party is the evil guide Clayton (Brian Blessed) who has his own plans for the gorillas and who isn’t about to be stopped by some untamed jungle man.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
The screenplay by Tab Murphy, Bob Tzudiker, Noni White, David Reynolds, and Jeffrey Stepakoff spends more than a third of its running time establishing Tarzan’s jungle origins and his growing attachment to his gorilla family and with other jungle friends, and it’s time well spent once Tarzan meets those of his own species and must decide with whom he belongs, conflicts which bring greater depths to this animated feature than are commonly found in the genre. Sure, there are bows to the younger generation with unnecessary toilet humor and an occasionally overdone relentless pace set by directors Kevin Lima and Chris Buck. The two primary villains, especially Clayton, are cut from the standard Disney rogue mold, and Tarzan’s jungle pals – loudmouth gorilla Terk (Rosie O'Donnell) and innocent elephant stooge Tantor (Wayne Knight) – likewise recall associates of the protagonist from many previous movies (especially another jungle epic The Lion King’s Timon and Puumba), but it’s refreshing that Tarzan isn’t instantly romantically smitten with Jane nor she with him but rather their natural curiosity about one another fuels a later developing feeling of attachment. The other standout aspect of Tarzan lies in the use of its Deep Canvas software which gives the most convincing 3D effect to the jungle world ever captured in an animated feature produced in 2D. The complexity of the network of limbs and vines that Tarzan can traverse so astutely remains the movie’s most breathtaking achievement and still impresses more than a decade after the film’s release.
Unlike many of the resurgent Disney animated features of this period, Tarzan is not a musical. It does contain an evocative song score by Phil Collins (who won an Oscar for his haunting ballad “You’ll Be in My Heart”), but apart from Glenn Close as Kala singing a couple of the opening bars of that tune, the songs serve instead as mood enhancers for the movie, all crooned on the soundtrack by their composer. “Two Worlds” which begins and ends the movie catches the major theme of families joined by love while “Son of Man” is used against a montage of Tarzan as he matures from childhood to young adulthood, and “I Want to Know” shows Tarzan and Jane working together to educate each other about their very different worlds. For this project, making the songs complementary to the action rather than tunes sung by the characters was likely the right decision and as with other aspects of the movie gives Tarzan a decidedly different tone and feel from the other Disney animated musicals which preceded it.
The voice casting is simply wonderful. Every character has been beautifully matched with the personalities that the actors are portraying with special praise going to Tony Goldwyn’s deeply felt title character, Minnie Driver’s funny and sometimes abrasive Jane, Brian Blessed’s snarling menace as Clayton, and Glenn Close and Lance Henriksen as noble parents who have different ideas about the importance of family and belonging. Rosie O'Donnell may be a trifle loud and over-the-top as Terk, but that’s obviously what the directors wanted from her and she certainly delivers. Nigel Hawthorne as Professor Porter doesn’t quite get as much to do as such an acclaimed actor merits.
The film is presented at 1.78:1 and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. This is reference quality work all the way with striking sharpness revealing much detail in the animation, wonderfully rich and solid color that is always nicely under control, contrast which has been dialed in perfectly, and no banding or aliasing in the solid line structures. It is a simply beautiful presentation. The film has been divided into 36 chapters.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 sound mix offers tremendous opportunities for the wide soundfield to immerse the viewer in its complex mixture of sounds, words, and music. While most of the well-recorded dialogue has been placed in the center channel, there are occasional bits of directionalized dialogue which are always most welcome. Phil Collins’ songs and the background score by Mark Mancina get a terrific spread through the fronts and rears as do the sound effects of jungle life and especially well done pans during momentous action scenes.
Audio Rating: 5/5
Audio Commentary: Producer Bonnie Arnold and directors Kevin Lima and Chris Buck share a friendly and anecdote-laden commentary track looking back on their work with obvious and deserved pride.
Special Features Rating: 4.5/5
All of the bonus features were previously released on the Collector’s Edition DVD of Tarzan. Nothing new has been added and a few items from that set have not been ported over. All are in standard definition (SD).
Deleted Scenes (9:56) three scenes with an introduction by producer Bonnie Arnold may be viewed individually or together.
History and Development (SD): a series of featurettes about the production that features the following personnel: Walt Disney Studios President Thomas Schumacher, directors Kevin Lima and Chris Buck, producer Bonnie Arnold, supervising animator Glen Keane, Borroughs’ estate heir David Burroughs, actors Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Rosie O’Donnell, Wayne Knight, Glenn Close, Lance Henriksen, Nigel Hawthorne, and Brian Blessed, and the lead animators for each of the principal characters.
- From Burroughs to Disney (7:37)
- Creating Tarzan (4:04)
- Animating Tarzan (6:39)
- Creating Jane and Porter (2:58)
- Creating Kala and Kerchak (3:04)
- Creating Terk and Tantor (3:00)
- Creating Clayton and Sabor (3:22)
Deep Canvas Demonstration (5:06, SD); the process is shown as it’s layered to produce the finished product.
Production Progression Demonstration (1:07, SD): a montage of scenes is shown in four progressions: story reels, rough animation, clean-up, and finished animation.
Intercontinental Filmmaking (2:05, SD): Lead animator Glen Keane and producer Bonnie Arnold describe how Keane worked on the title character with artists in Disney’s Paris studio while the other characters including Jane and much of the other artwork was completed in the Burbank studios.
Building the Story (3:13, SD): story supervisor Brian Pimental and others describe the storyboard process where the plot gets changed over the film’s three year production period.
Story to Film Comparison (3:23, SD): split screens are used to show how the storyboards are realized into finished animation.
Theatrical Trailers (SD): three trailers run 1:58, 1:08, and 2:12 respectively.
Disneypedia: Living in the Jungle (6:06, SD): brief factual and pictorial descriptions of animals featured in the movie: gorilla, leopard, baboon, and elephant.
The Making of the Music (2:51, SD): composers Phil Collins and Mark Mancina each speak briefly about his work on the project.
Tarzan Goes International (2:24, SD): Phil Collins sings a bit of his songs in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German.
“You’ll Be in My Heart” Music Video (4:18, SD) Phil Collins performs.
“Strangers Like Me” Music Video: Phil Collins’ version (2:59) and Everlife’s version (3:32) are offered.
“Trashin’ the Camp” (2:06, SD): Phil Collins and N’Sync perform together.
Phil Collins’ Song Demo (20:08, audio only) features a video introduction (1:51, SD)
Promo Trailers (HD): Sleeping Beauty, Planes: Fire and Rescue, Legend of the Neverbeast.
DVD/Digital Copy: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.
Disney’s final 2D feather in its animation cap (though some others are undeniably entertaining), Tarzan comes to Blu-ray in a beautiful audio and video transfer and with most but not all of the previous bonus materials included. Highly recommended!
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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