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Details At A Glance

Category Animation/Adventure Trailers - Preview (3)
Featurette - From Burroughs To Disney
Featurette - Making Of The Music
Featurette - Tarzan Goes International
Music Video - Strangers Like Me
Music Video - You'll Be In My Heart
Featurette - Trashin' The Camp
Featurette - Building The Story
Storyboard Comparison (1)
Deleted Scenes (3 with Introduction)
Trivia Game
Trailer - Dinosaurs
Year Released 1999
Running Time 84:48 minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (64:28)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Kevin Lima
Chris Buck
Walt Disney Pictures
Warner Home Video
Starring Tony Goldwyn
Minnie Driver 
Glenn Close
Rosie O'Donnell
Brian Blessed
Nigel Hawthorne
Lance Henriksen
Wayne Knight
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music Mark Mancina

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No English (Dolby Digital 5.0, 384 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
Macrovision ?Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    After a couple of completely digitally animated features through the DVD player, it is somewhat of a pleasure to have a more traditional-looking animated feature to review. Why? To me, traditional animation is much more of an art and a craft, whereas digital animation is too much into the realm of science. Perfection might be a wondrous goal in animation, but it is the achieving of that perfection by traditional means that has the greatest meaning. However, it does have to be recognized that traditional animation in reality does not exist anymore. Whilst Tarzan is a wonderful example of animation, it is also a stunning example of the combination of the traditional with the computer, for quite simply there are significant portions of this film that simply could not be done any other way other than through the computer. This blending of animation has been coming for a while now, and even such traditional animated features as Beauty And The Beast contained some examples of computer generated animation. Tarzan merely extends that blending to an even greater extent, mainly by the use of software called Deep Canvas, which is responsible for much of the quite stunning jungle animation here. The evidence of how good animation can be is seen here. Whilst there is no denying that other studios have been catching up with Disney in the area of animated features, there is also little doubt that Disney are the ones that keep on raising the level that has to be attained in order to wrest the mantle of greatest animation studio from them. Whilst Dreamworks has come extremely close with The Prince Of Egypt, my view is that this effort just puts Disney back in the driver's seat.

   Like so many of the Disney wonderful legacy of animated features, the broad story is quite well known and its translation under the guidance of the Disney studio has involved an awful lot of bastardization. However, this process also tends to result in an interesting (read commercially beneficial) retelling of a familiar story, and this is certainly such an instance, as well as making a couple of obvious points about life. Shipwrecked as a child, Tarzan (Tony Goldwyn) has a troubled early life as his parents, after surviving the shipwreck, are killed by a tiger. Rescued from the clutches of that same tiger by a gorilla known as Kala (Glenn Close), Tarzan is raised as part of the gorilla family lead by Kerchak (Lance Hendriksen). As he grows, Tarzan becomes a bigger part of the troublesome element of the family, especially as he tries to become part of the gang, which includes his friend Terk (Rosie O'Donnell). He grows up to be the quintessential ape man. Trouble is never far away, and in this story it comes in two forms - man and woman. Taking the lesser evil first, Archimedes Porter (Nigel Hawthorne) and his daughter are in search of gorillas and are being aided by Clayton (Brian Blessed), a man whose loyalty is to the huge sums of money he can get for capturing live gorillas. As a result of the second evil, namely Porter's daughter Jane (Minnie Driver), the besotted Tarzan and his ravaging hormones foolishly lead Clayton to the family thus exposing them to great danger. Where do Tarzan's loyalties lie?

    The story is well crafted and this is a very tight film as a result. Still, the story still gives plenty of scope for the obligatory laughs, as well as allowing a few old friends from previous films to make cameos. In that regard, this story is actually one of the better recent efforts, as the interest level is kept quite high throughout, even though the usual "I saw that coming a mile away" clichés still abound, but what would a Disney animated feature be without the obligatory Disney saccharine? The other usual formula approach of a couple of catchy tunes by a well-known name is also rolled out here, although the choice is a little unusual for the talent - Phil Collins. The results are suitably acceptable, even if not quite up to the standards set in some of the earlier films, notably The Lion King. The main theme song did of course walk off with the Oscar for Best Song, but that is pretty much a Disney tradition too by now. Another generally well-cast effort here, with notable performances from Minnie Driver as the proper English lady turned ape man lover and Nigel Hawthorne as Archimedes O. Porter - the quintessential British gentleman actor voicing the typical English explorer. One especially interesting casting is that of Rosie O'Donnell as the young female gorilla Terk - I don't know who came up with this piece of casting, but I am still trying to work out if it is the work of a genius or a madman. But above all else here you have to see the animation. This is stunning stuff, even by Disney's lofty standards, and it is difficult to imagine how they are going to top it. The superb work is especially exemplified in the intricate detail of the backgrounds, which really are utterly amazing. There have been certain landmark features amongst the many that Disney have done - Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs obviously, The Jungle Book and The Lion King amongst them - that have raised the level of animation. Tarzan now joins that list.

    Tarzan is an utterly superb piece of animation backing up a good story that is very nicely brought to the screen. This is Disney at its absolute best as far as animated features go and this should not be missed.

Transfer Quality


    Let's see know - can you spell perfect? How about superb? Well, whatever superlative you want to use, the spelling is exactly the same - T-A-R-Z-A-N.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. This is perhaps the one downer on the whole show, as the original theatrical ratio was 1.85:1 according to most sources I checked out.

    This is short and very sweet: utterly magnificent sharpness, unbelievably detailed, superb clarity. Quite simply that is it - in a word: perfect. And don't even mention grain or low level noise - non-existent. When you look up the words reference quality in the DVD dictionary, it will simply say Tarzan.

    The use of colour here is stunning in every way. Superb rendering that leaves no room at all for any quibbles about lack of vibrancy, oversaturation, undersaturation or bleed. This is a rare gem where everything just seemed to blend so well, so that even the colour rendering of night scenes made characters stand out in a wonderfully subdued way.

    As far as I can see, there is not a blemish on this transfer at all. Nothing. Sorry if you want huge detail here, but I don't have the superlatives to describe this wonderful transfer.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc, and the layer change comes at 64:28. It is quite well placed, not especially noticeable nor especially disruptive to the flow of the film at all. Certainly it could have been a little better, but not by much!

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Matching the video transfer is a wonderful English Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack. Some may quibble about the lack of a full Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but in reality it is not missed at all.

    The dialogue comes up extremely well in the transfer and there is nothing but the usual animation sync problems here.

    The original music for the film comes from Mark Mancina, and this is a very decent one indeed. Unfortunately, it gets overshadowed completely by the Phil Collins songs, a fate that has befallen many a Disney score in similar comparisons in recent animated features.

    The lack of the bass channel is another example of the restraint used by Disney to minimize the aural impact upon younger viewers, which in this instance is a bit wasted since for some reason that escapes me this has been slapped with a PG rating. Complain all you like though, since the Region 1 release is similarly bass-less, there is not much relief to be had, and that would be the only complaint about the soundtrack, for otherwise it is superb. Some lovely surround channel ambience, and some wonderful encompassing soundscapes make this a joy to listen to.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    For once, Disney have given us something of an extras package! Just when you thought it was time to give up on them, they do this to you. Mind you, it is not quite the Collector's Edition that Region 1 have got, but a good step in the right direction as far as I am concerned.


    Whilst they are all 16x9 enhanced, they have no other enhancement at all. Pity that as I am sure that some of those songs would have sounded quite good over the top of the menus. Functional, if a little clunky in the transition between menus.

Preview Trailers (3:46)

    When you fire up the DVD, you get launched into - an advert! Yes, you get three consecutive preview trailers - for The Little Mermaid II: Return To The Sea, The Tigger Movie and Toy Story 2 - as the advertising material from Disney. If you don't skip it (you can scan through it or press Menu to skip them), do not be tempted to hit the Preview Trailers item on the first Bonus Materials menu - otherwise you will get to see them again. All three are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and are not 16x9 enhanced: the first two are in a Full Frame format whilst the third is in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. I don't object too much to advertising on DVDs, as long as it is skippable, but to call the advert an extra is a bit much.

Featurette - From Burroughs To Disney (2:34)

    Edgar Rice Burroughs himself first raised the possibility of Walt Disney doing an animated Tarzan feature over sixty years ago, so you could say it has taken a long time to get this project to fruition. This effort, like most of the featurettes on the DVD, are basically three minute short electronic promotional kit style efforts that really give a glossed-over account of the topic. They really are not a good substitute for a proper sixty minute documentary. Presented in a Full Frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Making Of The Music (2:43)

    This short effort is predominantly interview material with Phil Collins. Presented in a Full Frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Not especially inspiring stuff and no substitute at all for a good length documentary.

Featurette - Tarzan Goes International (2:19)

    If you happen to have the Region 1 release of The Prince Of Egypt, you will recall the feature on the vocal casting of the various dubbed versions of the film with the whole thing being demonstrated by one sequence from the film. This is the Tarzan equivalent with Phil Collins singing one of the songs he wrote in five or six languages, seamlessly segued together into one song. Presented in a Full Frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Mildly interesting but... no substitute at all for a good length documentary.

Music Video - Strangers Like Me (2:52)

    Sung by Phil Collins, and presented in a Full Frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Music Video - You'll Be In My Heart (4:07)

    Sung by Phil Collins, and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The video itself is a little weird in its presentation within the context of this package.

Featurette - Trashin' The Camp (2:07)

    This shortish effort is a behind-the-scenes look at the recording of the song with N-Sync. I presume they are some popular group of the day. Presented in a Full Frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Not especially inspiring...

Featurette - Building The Story (3:07)

    Exactly what it says - a look at how the story was written. Presented in a Full Frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Not especially...

Storyboard Comparison (3:16)

    Now we get to something a little more inspiring. Whilst we only get one scene, it is not a bad one - the opening sequence to the film. Whilst this could be better seen on a larger screen, this is a fascinating comparison between the original storyboard concepts of the sequence and the final film version presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 picture in picture style. It is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Not especially... oops, sorry. This is perhaps the best item in the extras package, although the next is also worthy...

Deleted Scenes

    Called abandoned scenes in the program for the simple reason that they really are not deleted scenes, as they never got out of the concept stage. There are three scenes, with an accompanying introduction from producer Bonnie Arnold. The scenes are:     The reasons why they were dropped are espoused in the introduction. They are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, are not 16x9 enhanced and come with minimal Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. A quite fascinating look at story concepts that were never adopted in the final film - and with good reason.

Trivia Game

    Answer questions about the film - get the answers right and you get a rendition of the famed Tarzan jungle cry. Get the answers wrong, and you get a suitable jungle inspired raspberry. At least I think that is how it works. Truly essential stuff - not.

Storybook (10:32)

    The kiddies can get a short, ten minute storybook adaptation of the film, which they can either have read for them or they can read themselves. Suffice to say that I did not bother checking this one out too extensively, but it seemed decent enough if you are in the target age group - which given the PG rating may be a tad difficult.

Sneak Peak - Dinosaurs (4:47)

    This is just short of five minutes and really is just an appetizer to get you along to watch one of the most expensive Disney productions ever, the computer animated feature Dinosaurs. If this is anything to go by, it is a superb piece of work from the technical point of view. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Based upon this little example, it leaves Jurassic Park for dead as far as animation is concerned.

R4 vs R1

    Tarzan is released in Region 1 in two forms: a plain jane single DVD, and as a super-dooper two DVD Collector's Edition. The most appropriate direct comparison is the single DVD issue, from which the Region 4 release misses out on:     The Region 1 release misses out on:     This firmly makes the choice a solid Region 4 if you want just the single DVD version. However, much of what the Region 1 release misses out on in the single DVD version is included with a whole heap more in the two DVD Collector's Edition. Whilst it is in my collection, I have not yet had the chance to watch it. However, the packaging indicates the following additional extras:     Basically, if you are into extras, there is only one version of the DVD that you want - and it is not the Region 4 release. Now if only Disney were to do the right thing and give us the full Collector's Edition in Region 4...


    Tarzan us another great entry in the Disney animated features listing. It has been given an exemplary transfer in every respect and a decent extras package at least in quantity if not in quality. Had this have been the full Collector's Edition treatment of the Region 1 DVD, this would have been put straight into the Hall Of Fame as the release of 2000. Perhaps we will yet get that entry. Until then, this is arguably the best example of Disney animation to yet appear in Region 4 and should be on a lot of "to buy" lists. Highly recommended purchase - forget renting, as this is one that can be watched over and over again.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
4th December 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL