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Tarzan II

List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Scott Weinberg | posted June 5, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Movie

If I offered the opinion that Tarzan II is noticeably less flimsy and disposable than most of the Disney Studios' direct-to-video-sequel fare, would that actually be a lofty compliment? To say that a 64-minute movie is more entertaining than are Cinderella 2: Dreams Come True, 101 Dalmatians 2: Patch's London Adventure, and Lady and the Tramp 2: Scamp's Adventure is not exactly high praise.

But it seems that the hard-working animators over at Disney's Australian subdivision (known down under as DisneyToon Studios) have been taking these well-earned criticisms to heart -- because I expected Tarzan II to all but reek of quickie animation and relatively tacky production design. I was pleased to notice that things seem to be improving in this department, which means that someone must have passed out a memo that says, "Make DTV sequels better. Consumers are starting to notice the stink."

That's not to say that Tarzan II comes close to approximating the sort of quality you'll find in the theatrical Tarzan ... or even Treasure Planet. But if it's only fair to knock the studio for churning out what's clearly some inferior product, I think it's only right to take notice when said product starts to show signs of improvement. Most of the Disney DTV sequels look (and feel) exactly like Saturday Morning Cartoon material -- and I really doubt that's what Mr. Disney had in mind when he built his kingdom. You can still feel free to question the studio's method of revisiting, rehashing, and regurgitating literally everything in their back catalog, but if you've seen as many of these things as I have ... you'll most likely notice the slight step up in quality.

Remember the scene from Disney's first Tarzan adventure in which our vine-swinging hero morphs from boy to man over the course of one tree-surfin' musical montage? Well, Tarzan II takes place somewhere right in the middle of that sequence ... I guess. Seems that young Tarzan is proving to be quite the hyperactive little handful among his adopted family of apes. So when the little fella falls off a cliff and finds himself lost in the wilderness -- frankly, it's pure Lion King material, folks: Tarzan butts heads with some bullying baboons (actually, they're gorillas) and makes friends with a weathered old primate who just wants to be left alone. A few mild adventures occur, all the cuddly creatures are eventually reunited, there's a G-rated sort of action sequence, and everything ends on a nice little note of forgiveness and love. Awww.

Nothing new or even remotely revolutionary here, but Tarzan II earns a few points merely by telling a simple story well and delivering some animation work that's head and shoulders above many of its DTV predecessors. Also worthy of note is the rather impressive stable of voice actors who were brought in for this mini-movie: George Carlin, Glenn Close, Brad Garrett, Estelle Harris, Ron Perlman, and Lance Henriksen (!) add some class to the affair, and any sort of asset in a Disney Video sequel is generally worth its weight in gold. For better or for worse, Phil Collins is also back on board, contributing two new tunes and reprising his "Son of Man" song from the original Tarzan.


Video: Here's a riddle: Why is it that the Disney DVD gurus will sometimes release a widescreen film in a full frame format ... yet their tailor-made-for-TV productions are always Widescreen (1.78:1) and anamorphic affairs? I'm not exactly complaining in this case; the Tarzan II transfer is lush, crisp, and exceedingly colorful. Just wondering out loud why the TV fare gets the royal treatment ... and some old theatrical release gets the Pan & Scan backhand.

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English or French) or a rather impressive DTS 5.1 option (English only).


Bringing the Legend to Life is runs about five minutes and features amiable blather from a few of the filmmakers and voice cast members. No real insight into the moviemaking process or Burroughs' source material. Just a fluffy little behind-the-scenes peek that the kiddies might enjoy ... about once.

Tarzan Matter-of-Facts is a text track that runs concurrently with the movie. It offers up trivia bits regarding the film's production, the original "Tarzan," and the various jungle animals you'll find onscreen. Not an awful little feature if you're trying to train your child to appreciate the fine art of DVD supplements, but nothing too exciting either.

Kids might also enjoy a Simon-esque game called Gorilla Grumble and the who's-who of wild animals entitled Terk and Tantor's Jungle Guide -- but they can get a lot more information on the Discovery Channel, and without the Tarzan II characters and their endless babbling.

You'll also find a music video for Tiffany Evans' rendition of Collins' "Who Am I?" tune, and a collection of trailers for Cinderella: Special Edition, Chicken Little, Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie, Kronk's New Groove, Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest, and Power Rangers SPD.

Final Thoughts

If you've long since given up on the Disney Video Sequel line of movies, I certainly can't say I blame you. But if you're the sort who doles out second chances with your DVD dollar, and your kids really like the original Tarzan, I say Tarzan II is absolutely worthy of a weekend rental. If the kiddies eat it up with a spoon and ask for more, then you can drop the 16 smackers for your very own copy. I'm pleasantly surprised to say that Tarzan II was considerably better than what I've grown to expect from this sort of release ... but that doesn't mean it's particularly excellent. Still, a solid step up, all things considered, and I sincerely hope this is a sign of better sequels to come from DisneyToon Studio. Because we all know the sequels are coming...

(Currently in production for DisneyToon Studios: The Little Mermaid 3, The Aristocats 2, The Fox and the Hound 2, Lilo & Stitch 2, and, yes, Bambi 2. Let's all keep our fingers crossed extra tight regarding that last one, shall we?)

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