This newest release for Tarzan marks the third such version of the film since it graced DVD back in 2000. Previously available as a regular edition and 2-disc collector's edition, the film is just as good but does the new content warrant yet another double dip? If you're going to buy into this edition it really all depends upon if you can get your hands on the prior 2-disc version for a reasonable price or not.
Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan has been around since the early 1900s and has seen several adaptations of the story and characters. Whether the tales of the ape man have been in written form, on television, or even the big screen, there have been countless retellings of the original story. The trademark Tarzan yell is a part of our culture and the character has inspired many more classics.
When Disney released their animated version of Tarzan back in 1999 it was met with a mix of reviews from fans and critics alike. First of all, purists will probably credit this film as the redirection of classic Disney into the modern era with the dropping of musical numbers from their animated motion pictures. The movie still had music, but it was in the form of a soundtrack and some very light singing bits. There are no grand opuses to be found anywhere within the film and instead we hear the product of a very close collaboration with musical artist Phil Collins.
If you've ever experienced Tarzan before, in any form, then you pretty much already know the scoop with the Disney version. As a baby Tarzan and his family were washed ashore in the middle of a terrifying storm. In the new home they found themselves in they started a new life and made the best of it. Well, until the big nasty leopard came by to eat them. Fortunately for baby Tarzan, he is rescued by a mama gorilla who is mourning the recent loss of her own child. She raises Tarzan as her own and even though he is all man, he grows up like an ape and learns to act like them and speak to them as well.
His buddy goes by the name Terk (voiced rather annoyingly by Rosie O'Donnell) and together they get into all sorts of trouble. Then one day some more humans show up. An arrogant hunter known as Clayton (Brian Blessed) leads an elderly professor and his daughter Jane (Minnie Driver) on their quest to study gorillas. What ensues is an action packed childish comedy that proves to be entertaining, but lacks any real depth.
The character of Tarzan gets the most fleshing out as he learns more about who he is, what it means to be human and also what it means to be an ape. There are some very touching moments with a lot of drama, but considering this is a kid's movie, everything that is here is pretty light. A lot of the film centers mostly on action and style over substance, and in that regard the movie is excellent.
Tarzan moves through trees as you'd imagine a surfer or skater would. It's a little far fetched and just because he has grown up with apes, doesn't mean he has supernatural reflexes, but I digress. He also stays true to character and swings along on vines, plus has the ability to communicate with various animals of the jungle. Yes, this is traditional Tarzan, of that there is no doubt, and Disney adds some childlike charm to the character and world that makes this version their own. I enjoyed the film a lot when it originally came out, and still like it to this day, but it's just not as "magical" as some of the studio's earlier productions.
Tarzan is presented with a 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio and is technically a masterpiece. The image is very crisp and clean with all details of the animation being evident in just about every frame. I couldn't find any flaws upon deeper inspection of the film. There is no aliasing, cross coloration, pixilation or stuttering framerate to mar the visual experience of watching this picture. Disney films are known for their astounding image quality and vibrant color palette, so in that regard Tarzan is no different.
The original releases for Tarzan came with an audio presentation of Dolby Digital 5.0, but with the advent of technology the new Special Edition of the movie offers up a 5.1 track in addition to the original 5.0. The difference is very subtle, but for those of you with a good ear you'll be able to tell the difference. Overall the quality is very good with some great sound effect and vocal directionality, though the aural features aren't "quite" as impressive as the visual.
If you already have the Collector's Edition then you've already been through a plethora of bonus material for Tarzan. Some of those features are regurgitated on this Special Edition release, but if you haven't seen the version from five years ago you'll probably never notice.
For starters the disc contains the exact same commentary (presented with 2.0 channel audio) as in the Collector's Edition release. Producer Bonnie Arnold and co-directors Chris Buck and Kevin Lima lend their time to talk about the film and produce a commentary that is pretty entertaining and informative. Many commentaries tend to get boring as time goes on, but I found this one to be pretty enjoyable and worth the watch.
The new version of Tarzan also includes the same Deleted Scenes as the Collector's Edition did, right down to the same introduction by Bonnie Arnold. More repeat features are the "You'll Be In My Heart" Music Video by Phil Collins, "Strangers Like Me" by Collins, and "Trashin' The Camp" Studio session with Collins and 'N Sync. The only other features on the disc are in the form of a few games to keep the kiddies happy.
Tarzan is a great adventure through an incredibly stylistic animated world done only as Disney can. It stays as true as possible to the original material as it can, but considering this is a comical spin aimed at children there are a few things that the concept loses. Even so, if you haven't watched the film yet it is worth your time and is definitely something the kids will enjoy. The visual and aural presentations are very good and the addition of a 5.1 Dolby Digital track is appreciated. My only real beef with this release is that aside from the new audio track, there isn't anything that makes this title worth a double dip. If you already own the Collector's Edition from 2000 you can pretty much skip this one, but if you haven't purchased the film on DVD or only own the lesser release from 2000, then you can't go wrong here. Recommended