STUDIO: Disney
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 88 Minutes
• Deleted Scenes/Alternate Opening
• Commentary by producer Bonnie Arnold, directors Chris Buck, Kevin Lima
• Music Videos featuring Phil Collins, ‘N Sync, Everlife
• DisneyPedia: Living in the Jungle educational featurette
• Three games playable w/ remote

The Pitch

"Oh, damn it. The only thing we haven’t done yet is Tarzan."

The Humans

Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn Close, Brian Blessed, Lance Henriksen, Rosie O’Donnell, Wayne Knight, a Partridge, and a Pear Tree.

The Nutshell

Really the last great hurrah from the Disney 2D animation studios, Tarzan is the story of a young English boy who is marooned in remotest Africa. The boy is taken in by a pack of gorillas and raised in their small society. He learns to speak gorilla, he develops physically like a gorilla (sans opposable toes), and he somehow manages to have name bestowed upon him which contains consonants that gorillas couldn’t possibly pronounce.

In Disney’s version of the story, a bumbling professor named Porter has ventured into the African jungle, along with his daughter Jane, to study gorillas. They are accompanied by Clayton, their muscle-bound guide whose intentions regarding the gorillas are suspect (but not that difficult to decipher, seeing as how the first thing he does when he hears the word "gorilla" is fire his rifle blindly into the underbrush).

It’s a small world in the jungle, so Tarzan meets up with Porters, and is immediately exposed to both the best and worst humanity has to offer, as well as helping to popularize the new tree-surfing craze.

Monkey see, monkey do.

The Package

Disney does their typically fine job with this DVD, though the film has seen release in the format once already. This release adds a brand new Dolby digital 5.1 track, in addition to the theatrical 5.0 track. The aspect ratio is the original 1.66:1 with a beautiful, smooth transfer that actually improves upon the color of the first DVD release.

The bonuses are kind of skimpy. There is a feature commentary with producer Bonnie Arnold, and directors Chris Buck and Kevin Lima. Arnold has an engaging voice and has a way of arguing her points that make them seem perfectly reasonable, even if they originate from a Hollywood economy mostly arcane to casual viewers. There are also three deleted scenes, which are an interesting inclusion. Had these scenes been used in the movie, it would have taken a decidedly more adult tone. They are more focused on action (much like the finale setpiece of the studio’s Atlantis) and feature some heavy gunplay.

Other bonuses include a set of music videos (featuring Phil Collins, ‘N Sync, and Disney-channel favorites Everlife). There is a section of simple games that can be played using your DVD remote, as well as a "DisneyPedia" childrens’ reference to jungle ecology.

This reviewer’s vote for best single shot from a Disney movie, ever.

The Lowdown

It’s hard not to be conflicted about Tarzan. On the one hand, it’s a fantastic story, which has been ripe for adaptation by the House of Mouse ever since Edgar Rice Burroughs himself wrote to the studio to suggest the same. On the other hand, it’s features a piss-poor plot. Back on the first hand, the animation quality is among the best their 2D studios have produced, both in character animation and in backgrounds. Returning to the second hand, the music (both the score and Phil Collins original songs) are atrocious and never fail to kill the aim.

I have a theory regarding that last point. It is that the filmmakers saw the potential for their movie to become decidedly more dark than their target audience could handle, and brought in Phil Collins to tone things down again. His songs are distracting, and feature such banal lyrics as to stick the mind into a state of cognitive dissonance when compared to the almost-mature themes appearing on screen.

The voice work is top notch on all fronts, but the dialogue slots into a plot that meanders needlessly and wastes too much time giving the characters any sort of motivation. Clayton, the villain, gets the larger portion of the shaft in this; his goal of kidnapping the gorillas is implied, but left alone, for over half the film’s running time, and then when he finally gets around to declaring his evil plot, which consists of kidnapping gorillas, it takes additional time to get to his explanation for why he wants to kidnap gorillas. The three acts are hammered together with only character threads to stitch them in place, and it doesn’t work well.

It’s a Disney flick with a visual quality that’s unmatched and a darker tone than many (though you just can’t beat The Rescuers) but it’s a bad sign when a skimpy running time is barely justified.

6 out of 10