Disney History – Tarzan (Down to Disness)


Hello and welcome back to Down to Disness, a monthly show where I pick a Disney animated movie and talk about it! History! Fun facts! Impact on pop culture! This month’s movie is Tarzan, Disney’s 37th animated film released in 1999. Like most Disney movies, Tarzan was based off of a book, or a book series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. There are a ton of Tarzan books in the series and there are also a ton of Tarzan film adaptations. The only other story that beets Tarzan out in terms of most film adaptations is Dracula. Tarzan is the second most film adaptations of any story. Ever. Can you believe it? But Disney’s version of Tarzan is the only version of Tarzan with a one word title. Tarzan. There are a lot of lovable characters in the movie Tarzan. There’s Tarzan, and Jane, and the Professor, and Terk, and Tantor, and Kala, and all of these animal characters that we fall in love with very quickly before the humans even show up. But what’s interesting is that a lot of these characters were inspired by characters in the actual Tarzan book series, but their roles were kind of moved around. For example, Clayton, the villain in Disney’s version, is actually William Cecil Clayton in the book, and he’s Tarzan’s cousin. In the books Tarzan’s real name is John Clayton. His birth name. His hu- his English… his human species name. In the books Terk is Tarzan’s arch nemesis among the Apes. Disney added Sabor to the movie because in the books it’s actually Kerchack, the ape, who kills Tarzan’s family. It’s a little bit too intense for kids. ‘Hey, Tarzan, remember me, your adopted father? Well actually I killed your parents.’ The two things that stand out to me when I think about Tarzan are the music and the imagery. The always awesome Phil Collins did the entire soundtrack for Tarzan and this was an intentional move on Disney’s part to break away from the sing-songy theater type music from the previous Disney renaissance films. Tarzan’s soundtrack is so good. I feel like it’s a little bit underrated. You can’t really argue with an academy award for best song for You’ll Be In My Heart. And the imagery! The sets! The backgrounds of Tarzan are out of control. The mid to late 90s are when Disney started experimenting with throwing in 3D aspects to traditionally hand drawn 2D animated movies. The animators for Tarzan actually created a new rendering technique called deep canvas specifically to do the backgrounds for Tarzan. Deep Canvas allows the animators to create fully CGI backgrounds that look like actual paintings and then place 2D animated characters into it. They used this later in Atlantis and then more so in Treasure Planet, but it was first used for Tarzan. In 2003 the academy even gave them a technical achievement award for this new invention. And, speaking of awards, not only did Tarzan win best song at the Oscars the year it was released, but it was also the last Disney -straight Disney. not Disney Pixar- animated movie to win an Oscar until Paperman in 2012. My favorite Disney animator ever is probably Glen Keane. If you don’t know about him, you really should. Glen Keane worked on all of our favorite Disney renaissance movies. He worked on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladin and, yes, Tarzan. He worked on Tarzan and something that Glen Keane is famous for is using his family and friends to inspire his artwork. Tarzan is no exception. Glen Keane’s son was a surfer and a skateboarder and he used the movements he saw his son do on his boards to inspire the way that Tarzan slides on branches. Traditionally, Tarzan swung from vines, and he does do that in the Disney version, but he mostly surfs on tree branches. And his skateboarding skills were also inspired by Tony Hawk, but… Tony Hawk. Because Tarzan is such a well known character in the movie industry and in literature, Disney dubed this movie over into a lot of different languages. Phil Collins even learned how to sing the whole soundtrack in a bunch of different languages. Italian, German, French, Spanish. It’s crazy. He sang the soundtrack himself in a ton of different languages. There are a few Disney character cameos in Tarzan, most famously, the appearence of Mrs. Pot and Chip from Beauty and the Beast during the scene when Terk and the other animals go to trash the camp. This is probably the most famous cameo in the movie because it’s also a cameo that they used at Disneyland Park. When they transformed the Swiss family Robinson tree house into Tarzan’s tree house they added Mrs. Pots and Chip to the attraction. What’s interesting about Tarzan is that, even if you haven’t seen the Disney movie, or any of the film versions of Tarzan, you still know who Tarzan is, and you still know what sound he makes. (quiet tarzan yell) aahhyayayaaahahya
that’s the sound he makes, right? In Disney’s movie the Tarzan yell is actually voiced by the voice of Clayton! The villain! He’s the one who did Tarzan’s scream… signature sound for the movie. Brian Blessed, the voice of Clayton, can aslo take credit for having the most gruesome Disney death of all Disney deaths. Most Disney villains, you’ll remember, usually fall to their death and we don’t really see their body, or it’s not very explicit at all what happens to them. Not the case with Clayton. Not only does Clayton actually doom himself… slicing… vines but then he hangs to death. Hangs himself by accident. And you see his body… amongst the trees. It’s very gruesome and graphic. So congratulations on having the most gruesome Disney death. Like I said, what I mostly enjoyed about Tarzan is the soundtrack and the beautiful Deep Canvas imagery. I also really enjoy how disney clearly did their research in looking at how animals move and how Tarzan, being a human raised by animals, would move if he existed. Tarzan was the last movie of the Disney renaissance era. A lot of people argue, was it mulan, was it Tarzan? Sources say, it was Tarzan. And while I love a lot of the movies that came after Tarzan, it truly was the end of an era, my favorite era, and for that reason it will always stick out in my mind as an important movie in Disney history. Let me know in the comments what your favorite thing about Tarzan is, besides his rockin’ bod. My most recent Down to Disness was on Alice in Wonderland. If you want to watch that you can click right here. But there are also links to my other Disney videos. I did a peter pan makeup tutorial recently, and I do Disneyland vlogs, and I talk about Disneyland food. All of those links are in the description box below. Thank you guys, as always, for watching and I’ll see you real soon. Bye!

Comments 17

  • the music is incredibly.my favourite song is son of man.

  • can you do the lion king next

  • wasn't Sherlock Holmes 2 to Dracula

  • What about The Goofy Movie? My fave, your fave. 🙂

  • Love these thanks for doing them also love the themed shirt

  • You mentioned MR PC is a good way ( so often he is unfairly critised ) – you should mention Brotherbear as well. I dont think winning an Oscar for music is up to much though ( obviously happy he won ) but look at what other songs have won this award….seems like if your in the news you'll get the oscar. Anyway, keep up the good work and long live PC!! He has an amazing back catalogue of music.

  • The Horned King has the most gruesome death in a Disney animated film… HIS FLESH IS STRIPPED FROM HIS BODY AND HIS SKELETON EXPLODES! AND WE STILL HEAR HIM SCREAMING AFTER HE'S DEAD!!!

  • fan fact! that it was said that Jane porter was supposed to be included in the disney line. but! later removed due to legal issues and confusion of kids to belle from beauty and the beast…. (>.>) too bad she could be my fave disney princess…

  • That scene where Tarzan picks up the body of that leopard and screams is TOTALLY EPIC!!!

  • I love everything about Tarzan. The music, the characters, the imagery and I love the way Tarzan moves through the jungle

  • The 2nd most adapted vampire stories is Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla!

  • BTW Clayton was a super weak villain!

  • I saw the tarzan movies and the shows Disney and original and I even saw the legend of Tarzan

  • 2 things I'm obsessed with in this movie 1 Phil Collins soundtrack same with brother bear and 2 adult Tarzan was animated in Paris

  • Disney's Tarzan is the only time I've ever seen red elephants.

  • A goofy movie

  • Speaking of Glen Keane using family for inspiration, he learned from the best. His dad is Gil Keane creator of the “Family Circus” newspaper cartoon which means that as the oldest sibling Glen is also little Billy in the comic strip.

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