Disney's legendary adventure is better than ever as TARZAN bursts onto Blu-ray for the first time ever with spectacular picture and amazing sound. Filled with thrills, laughs, and Academy Award(R)-winning music (Best Music, Original Song, "You'll Be In My Heart," 1999), this family favorite will make you go wild. Disney's magnificent adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' story begins deep within the jungle when baby Tarzan is adopted by a family of gorillas. But his "Two Worlds" collide with the arrival of humans, forcing Tarzan to choose between a "civilized" life with the beautiful Jane and the life he shares with his fun-loving friends and his gorilla family. Enjoy this wild and wonderful adventure in a whole new way on Disney Blu-ray!
When Disney's 'Tarzan' was released back in 1999, I remember being pretty thrilled with it. Not having seen it for an number of years now, I was wondering if I'd still enjoy it as much as I did before. Sadly, with some distance and a lot more movie-going experiences under my belt, 'Tarzan' isn't quite the instant classic I thought it was 15 years ago – but it still holds up pretty well.
Unlike most other Disney animated efforts, 'Tarzan' more or less (with a couple of exceptions) nixes characters singing on screen in exchange for background songs written and performed by Phil Collins. Although the former Genesis drummer and vocalist (and later solo act) is neither as active nor as popular as he was in the 80s and 90s, his music still holds up very well. 'Tarzan' includes some highly catchy songs from Collins, my favorite of the lot being 'Strangers Like Me', although 'You'll Be in My Heart' was the one Disney promoted the most (to the point where it won the Oscar for Best Original Song).
'Tarzan's biggest problem is not with its music or even its visuals (an impressive combination of both traditional animation and CGI). The problem is with its story, which provides rather cookie-cutter characters, not much in terms of plot, and some big deviations (you could call them 'Disneyfications') of Edgar Rice Burroughs' original origin story. Without going into event by event detail, some of the bigger changes are the death of Tarzan's parents (in Burroughs' story, Tarzan's father is killed by Kerchack, the ape father that would raise him) and the fact that in this movie, Tarzan never leaves his homeland (Burroughs has Tarzan follow Jane to the United States in his stories).
Also looking back at this movie in hindsight, it's hard to argue about how weak of a character Jane is in the movie. Perhaps we're just now used to Disney creating very strong female characters, but keep in mind that Tarzan was made after The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Pocahontas, so there's really no excuse for the way Jane consistently bats her eyes and gets all flustered every time she's with Tarzan in this movie. She's not exactly clueless or brainless, but far from a role model for young female viewers.
Even with the problems 'Tarzan' has, there's really no denying that it's still a very fast-paced and fun movie to watch. In particular, the montages that are accompanied with Phil Collins' tunes are an impressive display of visuals and music working wonderfully together. Even if you're not a Collins fan, it might take you several days to get his catchy lyrics out of your head after a viewing of 'Tarzan'. Also of note is the presentation of the Tarzan character himself, who swings, slides, and soars through the jungle in some roller-coaster like sequences that only the magic of animation could bring to the screen.
Although 'Tarzan' did nicely at the box office, it was never quite the huge blockbuster that many other Disney animated efforts have been and, thus, has gotten the reputation as one of Disney's 'lesser' efforts of the past quarter century. That's a shame, since even though I have some issues with the story (or, honestly, the lack of an engaging one), the movie still contains some of my favorite tunes from any Disney film. Visually, the movie is quite impressive as well, and looks really good now that it's available to watch in high-def. Despite some flaws, 'Tarzan' is still one of the better renditions of Burroughs ape man to hit the big screen, making this release worthy for both fans of his as well as fans of Disney animation.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Tarzan' swings onto home video in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack. The discs are housed inside an Eco-Lite Vortex keepcase, with the DVD on the inside left and the 50GB Blu-ray on the inside right. A fold-open insert is included that contains the code for both a digital copy of the movie, as well as Movie Rewards points for Disney's ongoing program. A slipcover matching the artwork of the slick slides overtop. Both the DVD and the Blu-ray are front-loaded with trailers for Sleeping Beauty, 'Planes: Fire & Rescue', 'Legend of the NeverBeast', plus an anti-smoking ad. The main menu of both discs contains animation (which is different from the actual movie) of Turk and her pals trashing the humans' camp. Menu selections run along the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
'Tarzan' is presented on Blu-ray in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, which is just slightly opened up from its original theatrical exhibition of 1.85:1. Full of sharpness, color, and detail, 'Tarzan' looks pretty wonderful on Blu-ray, although it's not perfect. There's some slightly noticeable macroblocking that comes into play every now and then, most visibly noticeable during close-up shots of the gorillas, whose fur tends to 'buzz' a bit upon close examination. How much of an annoyance this is to viewers will depend on the size of their television screens and how nitpicky they are about such a defect. However, it's one of those things that you only really notice if you're looking for it, as otherwise the video quality of the transfer is fairly pristine. Although there are some macroblocking issues within the animated characters, there's no such issues around the edges of characters or objects, meaning there's not an issue with 'jagged' edges that is often seen on other animated releases.
'Tarzan' uses a combination of both traditional animation (most of the characters) and CGI (many of the backgrounds and inanimate objects) and they actually flow together pretty well. The characters (particularly Tarzan's) almost lifelike movements through the jungle environment wouldn't look nearly as good with just traditional animation (there's a speed and smoothness to the CGI that really helps), and it adds a lot to one's enjoyment of the movie.
Although 5.1 is indicated on the box cover, it's important to note that the English DTS-HD Master Audio track presented here is only 5.0. With that in mind, it sounds awesome, particularly when Phil Collins' songs kick in, as each musical instrument (particularly the drums) come across as separate and distinct sounds. The fidelity and dynamic range of this track is simply wonderful. Not so obvious is directionality, which was noticeable only a handful of times throughout the movie – but that's usually because all five speakers seem to constantly be in action, often making any additional rear noises harder to detect. The track isn't quite as immersive as I had hoped, but these are minor complaints – in short, 'Tarzan' sounds pretty darn good and fans of this film's soundtrack will certainly be happy with the results they get with this release.
In addition to the lossless DTS-HD 5.0 track, tracks are also available in English 2.0, French 5.0, Spanish 5.0 and Portuguese 5.0. Subtitles are available in English SDH, English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese .
When looking at the back box cover for this Disney release, it at first appears that only a handful of bonus features have been included from the studio's prior DVD releases of this title. However, I'm happy to report that most, but not all, of the bonus features from prior editions has been included on the Blu-ray (a handful of which are also on the DVD in this set). However, with that in mind, Disney has created no new bonus features for this release.
Although I didn't love this movie as much as I did back in 1999 when I saw it for the first time, 'Tarzan' still holds up well and is one of Disney's more underappreciated animated releases of the past 20 years or so. This new Special Edition release provides a pretty strong A/V presentation of the movie, along with most of the bonus features that were included on previous DVD editions. Recommended.