Monday, April 23, 2012

Disney's Tarzan

What is the first thing you do when you hear the name Tarzan? You pound your chest and let out a jungle cry. It just comes naturally and makes you feel exhilarated. Tarzan is one of the most well-known characters in literature, with a following of over thirty-five different language speaking countries.
This 20th century hero first leaped into pages in 1912 in a publication called All-Story Magazine and then transformed into a book two years later titled Tarzan of the Apes, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He also wrote John Carter of Mars, a Mars adventurer -which Disney has recently made into a live action movie. Wow, Burroughs really gets around with his writing. Tarzan was a major hit with it's readers that Burroughs continued to write Tarzan adventures good into the 1940's! Tarzan has seen many adaptations including over eighty live- action movies, comics ,television series, and one other animated film other than the Disney's version that came out the same year but went straight to video ( which no one seems to know about except imdb).
You may have a hard time pin-pointing where you've heard the voices in Tarzan before except for one, Rosie O'Donnell as Tarzan's ape friend Terk. The cast though is full of famous actors like Tony Goldwyn as Tarzan, Minnie Driver as Jane, Brian Blessed as Clayton ( he also provides Tarzan's jungle cry),and Glenn Close as Kala-Tarzan's ape mom. Alex Linz plays young Tarzan, you may know him from taking over Macaulay Culkin role in Home Alone 3. Tantor should make you throw your fist in the air and curse Newman (Seinfeld), aka Wayne Knight.
Disney hired famous musician Phil Collins to tackle the task of creating the film's soundtrack. Even if you are not a huge Phil Collins fan the music is still wonderful even though they are not as memorable as other Disney songs. " Son of Man" was a great montage of Tarzan growing up. Actually, this film seem to use montages for almost every song. Clearly, Collins was motivated by all the rhythmic possibilities he could have for the film, especially for the song "Trashin' the Camp". His specialty is in playing drums, so for this song he went all out STOMP by banging on trashcans and whatever else he could find. It's funny, Phil Collins actually said this was the most difficult song for him to write even though it only dealt with three cords. What is really incredible about the music is that since Tarzan was such a well-known character, Disney wanted to share this film with every country using their own languages. So Phil Collins took on the challenge of learning to sing all his songs in those different languages. I don't know if he s ang all thirty-five but there is footage of him singing in Spanish, French, German, and Italian. I can't imagine how long that took him to learn not only the lyrics in another language but how to properly pronounce all those words. I would of said forget it, go hire Ricky Martin to do the Spanish. Well, Collins pulled everything off and won a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Song: "You'll Be in My Heart" and a Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture.
Tarzan made a record of being the most expensive animated film ever made at the time with a budget of $130million until 2002's Treasure Planet with $140 million. The cost of production was so high because of using a technique called Deep Canvas. This technique created the 3D painted jungle backgrounds that Tarzan surfed through. A fun fact was that Tarzan's movement was based off of the skateboarding moves of Tony Hawk. Tarzan was dubbed the last bona-fide hit before the Disn ey slump of the early 2000s grossing $171,091,819 domestically and $448,191,819 worldwide, out-grossing both Hercules and Mulan. And it was the first Disney animated feature to open at number 1 since 1995's Pocahontas.
Of course Disney changed a few things from the original story. The first thing Disney changed was the use of gorillas instead of Apes.They were the first and only adaptation to do this, not sure why. Other characters where painted as being friends of Tarzan, but within the book where his enemies. Terk was Tarzan's arch nemesis. And Clayton is actually Tarzan's cousin. Now, ready to be thrown for a loop? Disney pulled your heart stings with the death of a baby gorilla by the evil Sabor who also then killed Tarzan's father ( his mother had died earlier). But in Tarzan of the Apes it was Kerchack, the lead er of the Mangani, the great apes, Tarzan's future adopted father. That's an awkward conversation for later, "Oh yeah, by the way, I killed your dad." Tarzan does meet the marooned Jane Porter and her father. But instead of never leaving the jungles of Africa ( until Tarzan 2) Tarzan follows Jane back to Maryland not England,where he learns to be a "civilized" man and marries Jane and has a baby boy named Jack. Tarzan becomes homesick for the jungle and convinces Jane to go back with him to live in the jungle and raise their son, who then takes on the name of Korak ( "Killer"). And they all go o n to have many adventures.

Tarzan ended a golden age of Disney movies, though we had no idea at the time. How could we? We thought the good times would last forever. Then came Dinosaur, Atlantis, Home on the Range, and Chicken Little. What happened? Is this some kind of sick joke? We can all be thankful that for at least a little while (mostly our childhood) we had quality movies almost every year from Disney. Truth be told, Craig and I stopped paying much attention after Lilo and Stitch. Luckily, Disney see ms to have found its way back with recent movies like Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Winnie the Pooh. Hopefully by the time we have kids, they'll have great Disney movies to see in theaters!

One last thing: The ending of this movie is probably one of the most graphic. Sure, there's no bloody death for Clayton, but he still technically hangs himself and then you can see the shadow of his dead body against a tree. There is no doubt how Clayton's life ended. No ambiguous falling death that so many other Disney characters have suffered. No, Clayton literally caused himself to be strangled to death and/or get his neck broken. Probably the grisliest death Disney has ever shown us. So, if you haven't seen this movie in a while, go ahead and give it another try. I guarantee you will be entertained.