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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> June 1999 >> Tarzan


Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
3 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
June 1999
IMDB Name:
Tarzan (1999)
Chris Buck
Kevin Lima
MPAA Rating:

Visual Mix

Disney's animators have been raising the bar on quality for quite some time. I've read about the increasingly amazing computer-rendered scene in the musicals starting with Beauty and the Beast. I've missed out on all of the Disney musicals starting with Little Mermaid, so I can't speak for myself. I have seen the all-computer efforts Toy Story and A Bug's Life, both of which were visual marvels.

Tarzan makes tremendous use of computers, creating a jungle so filled with detail that if it weren't so gosh-darned perfect we could almost believe it was live action. The animators also took advantage of the otherwise-impossible camera movements afforded them by computer animation and do a few scenes where the perspective can only be described as a roller-coaster. The opening scenes of the burning ship are also dazzling, with excellent water and impressive reflections.

Tarzan is certainly a feast for the eyes, but there's one disconnect that bothered me at the start. For all the amazing attention to detail in the background and props of the movie, the characters look somewhat out of place. Disney folks can still draw the cutest animals you've ever seen, but when they drop them in hyper-realistically rendered environments, they look shoddy. I don't mean to knock cell animation, which I love, but this movie would've worked more seamlessly if the production team had decided on one look or the other and stuck with it.

Canned Father Dialogue

Any reasonably seasoned movie-goer can guess in advance just about every line that Kerchak will say. There wasn't a single line from him that surprised me in the least. His dialogue could've been lifted from any number of other movies with reluctantly adoptive fathers. Odd as that character type should be, it's a little too popular sometimes. I should mention that I didn't really have any significant knowledge of Tarzan going in, so it was definitely predictable without preparation.


I was glad that the writers didn't choose to have Tarzan either "remember" English or pick it up instantly. They definitely didn't have a linguistic consultant on staff, though, because humans have trouble producing sounds that they don't hear early enough in life. The few snippets of untranslated ape-speak that we hear certainly don't comprise enough to explain Tarzan's facility with English pronunciation.

The animators took extreme liberty with momentum. Tarzan, who can't possibly weigh in at more than 200 pounds, often swings in on a vine and knocks much heavier creatures out of the way. Kerchak, the alpha-male gorilla, towers over the humans, yet Tarzan is able to tackle him as though they were of equal mass.

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Copyright 1999-2001 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.