Tarzan (1999 film)

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For the Disney franchise, see Tarzan (franchise).
Tarzan (1999 film) - theatrical poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Chris Buck
Kevin Lima
Produced by Bonnie Arnold
Screenplay by Tab Murphy
Bob Tzudiker
Noni White
Based on Tarzan of the Apes 
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Starring Tony Goldwyn
Minnie Driver
Rosie O'Donnell
Glenn Close
Brian Blessed
Lance Henriksen
Wayne Knight
Nigel Hawthorne
Music by Mark Mancina
Edited by Gregory Perler
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • June 18, 1999 (1999-06-18)
Running time 88 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $130 million[1]
Box office $448,191,819[1]

Tarzan is a 1999 American animated adventure musical film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The 37th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics, it is based on the story Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is the only major motion picture version of the story Tarzan property to be animated.[citation needed] Directed by Chris Buck and Kevin Lima with a screenplay by Tab Murphy, Bob Tzudiker, and Noni White, Tarzan features the voices of Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn Close, and Rosie O'Donnell with Brian Blessed, Lance Henriksen, Wayne Knight, and Nigel Hawthorne.

Tarzan is considered to be the last of the Disney Renaissance, before the studio's decline in the early 2000s. At the time of its release, its production budget of $130 million made it the most expensive animated film ever made, until topped by Disney's own $140 million Treasure Planet in 2002. The film grossed $448,191,819 worldwide and was also the first Disney animated feature to open at #1 since Pocahontas. This was the last major box office success of the Disney Renaissance.


In the 19th century, an English couple and their infant son escape a burning ship, ending up on land near uncharted rainforests off the coast of Africa. The couple craft themselves a treehouse from their ship's wreckage, but are subsequently killed by Sabor, a rogue leopardess. Kala, a female gorilla who recently lost her own child to Sabor, hears the cries of the orphaned human infant and finds him in the ruined treehouse. Though she is attacked by Sabor, Kala and the baby manage to escape. Kala takes the baby back to the gorilla troop to raise as her own, an act of which her mate, Kerchak, disapproves. Kala raises the human child, naming him Tarzan. Though he befriends other gorillas in the troop and other animals, including the young female gorilla Terk and the paranoid male elephant Tantor, Tarzan finds himself unable to keep up with them, so he takes great efforts to improve himself. As a young man, Tarzan is able to kill Sabor with his crude spear and protect the troop, gaining Kerchak's reluctant respect.

The gorilla troop's peaceful life is interrupted by the arrival of a team of human explorers from England, consisting of Professor Porter, his daughter Jane, and their hunter-guide Clayton. Jane is accidentally separated from the group and chased by a pack of baboons. Tarzan saves her from the baboons. He recognizes that she is the same as he is: a human. Jane leads Tarzan back to the explorers' camp, where both Porter and Clayton take great interest in him — the former in terms of scientific progress while the latter hoping to have Tarzan lead him to the gorillas so that he can capture them and return with them to England. Despite Kerchak's warnings to be wary of the humans, Tarzan continues to return to the camp and be taught by Porter, Clayton, and Jane to speak English and learn of the human world, and he and Jane begin to fall in love. However, they are having a hard time convincing Tarzan to lead him to the gorillas, due to Tarzan's fear for their safety from the threat of Kerchak.

When the explorers' boat returns to retrieve them, Clayton makes Tarzan believe that Jane will stay with him forever if he reveals the gorillas. Tarzan agrees and leads the party to the nesting grounds, while Terk and Tantor lure Kerchak away to avoid having him attack the humans. Porter and Jane are excited to mingle with the gorillas, but Kerchak returns and threatens to kill them. Tarzan is forced to hold Kerchak at bay while the humans escape, and decides to leave the troop himself, now humiliated by his actions. Kala takes Tarzan to the treehouse she found him in, and shows him his true past, tells him that she wants him to be happy whatever he decided. When Tarzan returns to the ship with Jane and Porter, they are ambushed by Clayton and his band of stowaway pirates and detained in the brig. Tarzan flees with the help of his friends, and he races back to the gorillas' homeground. Clayton mortally wounds Kerchak and then engages Tarzan in a fierce battle across the vine-covered trees. Although Tarzan spares his life, Clayton is finally killed when he falls with a vine around his neck, hanging him. Kerchak, in his dying breath, finally accepts Tarzan as his own and names him as leader of the gorilla troop. The rest of the gorillas are freed after scaring away the rest of Clayton's men.

The next day, as Porter and Jane prepare to leave on the ship, Tarzan reveals that he now plans to stay with the gorilla troop. As the ship leaves shore, Porter encourages his daughter to stay with the man she loves, and Jane jumps overboard to return to shore; Porter shortly follows her. The Porters reunite with Tarzan and his family and embark on their new life together.


  • Tony Goldwyn (Alex D. Linz, young) as Tarzan, a man raised by gorillas who finds out he is truly a human. Glen Keane served as the supervising animator for Tarzan as an adult, while John Ripa animated Tarzan as an infant and child.
  • Minnie Driver as Jane Porter, daughter of Professor Porter and a part of an English explorer group. She's the first of the group to meet Tarzan and they fall in love. Ken Duncan served as the supervising animator for Jane.
  • Glenn Close as Kala, Tarzan's adopted mother who found and raised him after losing her last biological son to Sabor. She is Kerchak's mate. Russ Edmonds served as the supervising animator for Kala.
  • Lance Henriksen as Kerchak, Kala's mate and the leader of the gorilla troop who does not adjust properly to Tarzan since he is human, but before he dies, he finally accepts him as his son and leaves him to lead the troop. Bruce W. Smith served as the supervising animator for Kerchak.
  • Brian Blessed as Clayton. Clayton is an intelligent, suave, yet impatient hunter who guides the Porters on their quest. Randy Haycock served as the supervising animator for Clayton.
  • Nigel Hawthorne as Professor Archimedes Q. Porter, Jane's short-sized father and an eccentric biologist. Dave Burgess served as the supervising animator for Porter.
  • Rosie O'Donnell as Terk, Tarzan's best friend, a smart-alec tomboy gorilla. She is also Kala's niece, making her and Tarzan adopted cousins. Michael Surrey served as the supervising animator for Terk.
  • Wayne Knight as Tantor, a paranoid elephant and best friend of Tarzan and Terk. He has Terk step all over him most of the time, but when Tarzan is in danger he steps up and tells her off. Sergio Pablos served as the supervising animator for Tantor.


Although Disney had just performed field research on the African savanna in Hell's Gate National Park in southern Kenya for The Lion King (1994), Tarzan required research into a completely different type of African terrain: the jungle. In 1996, director Chris Buck visited Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda to view mountain gorillas in the wild, then in 2000 repeated the journey accompanied by journalists (as well as his wife, Shelley) to promote the film's home video release.[2]

To create the sweeping 3D backgrounds, Tarzan's production team developed a 3D painting and rendering technique known as Deep Canvas (a term coined by artist/engineer Eric Daniels).[3] This technique allows artists to produce CGI background that looks like a traditional painting, according to art director Daniel St. Pierre.[3] (The software keeps track of brushstrokes applied in 3D space.)[3] For this advancement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded the creators of Deep Canvas a Technical Achievement Award in 2003.

After Tarzan, Deep Canvas was used for a number of sequences in Atlantis: The Lost Empire, particularly large panoramic shots of the island and several action sequences. Expanded to support moving objects as part of the background, Deep Canvas was utilized to create about 75% of the environments in Disney's next major animated action film, Treasure Planet, though the results were less stunning, due to the film's tighter painting style which could have been accomplished without such advanced software. Deep Canvas was designed to accomplish a very loose, brushstroke-based style without hard edges, but Treasure Planet's backgrounds were more hard-edged and clean.


Various action figures and plush toys were produced, including a talking Terk and Tantor produced by Gund.[4]


The songs for the film were written and performed by singer Phil Collins.

"Trashin' the Camp" and "You'll Be in My Heart" are the only songs in the feature to be sung by the characters; all the other songs are background music.

Ty Burr of Entertainment Weekly gave the soundtrack a B-, stating that it was awkwardly split between Collins's songs and the traditional score, was burdened by too many alternate versions of the tracks, and in some instances bore similarities to The Lion King and Star Wars.[5]

Home media release

The standard VHS and DVD release of Tarzan was on February 1, 2000. Disney also released a 2-Disc Collector's Edition on April 18, 2000 with behind-the-scenes, music videos, games, and more. Those two editions were eventually put in the Disney Vault. Two direct to video sequels followed, Tarzan & Jane (2002), and Tarzan II (2005), a re-exploration of the ape man’s childhood. In Tarzan & Jane, Goldwyn was replaced by Michael T. Weiss. On October 15, 2005, Disney released a single-disc special edition (despite being advertised as 2-disc special edition). A blu-ray edition was in Europe during the first half of 2012, with different countries having different dates (UK 21/05/2012) [6] The film was released on a Special Edition Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD on August 12, 2014.[7]


Reviews for Tarzan were very positive. It currently holds a rating of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 104 reviews. The critical consensus reads: "Disney's Tarzan takes the well-known story to a new level with spirited animation, a brisk pace, and some thrilling action set-pieces."[8] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 79 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Entertainment Weekly compared the film's advancement in visual effects to that of The Matrix (stating that the backgrounds are "themselves animated – yet still look as if they were painted with feathery brushstrokes"), and that the film far surpasses previous live-action attempts, in some cases on an emotional level.[9]


Tarzan won the following awards:

Annie Awards

Tarzan was also nominated for 11 Annie Awards, winning one.

Result Award Winner/Nominee Recipient(s)
Nominated Animated Theatrical Feature
Nominated Individual Achievement in Directing Kevin Lima (Director)
Chris Buck (Director)
Nominated Individual Achievement in Writing Tab Murphy (Writer)
Bob Tzudiker (Writer) &
Noni White (Writer)
Nominated Individual Achievement in Storyboarding Brian Pimentel (Story Supervisor)
Nominated Individual Achievement in Production Design Daniel St. Pierre (Art Director)
Nominated Individual Achievement in Character Animation Ken Duncan (Supervising Animator - Jane)
Nominated Individual Achievement in Character Animation Glen Keane (Supervising Animator - Tarzan)
Nominated Individual Achievement in Effects Animation Peter DeMund (Effects Supervisor)
Nominated Individual Achievement in Voice Acting Minnie Driver ("Jane")
Nominated Individual Achievement in Music Phil Collins (Songs)
Won Technical Achievement in the Field of Animation Eric Daniels (Computer Graphics Supervisor)
(For the development of the Deep Canvas device in the film)
American Film Institute Lists


Television spin-off

A spin-off television animated series named The Legend of Tarzan ran from 2001 to 2003. The series picks up where the film left off, with Tarzan adjusting to his new role as leader of the apes following Kerchak's death, and Jane (whom he has since married) adjusting to life in the jungle.

Broadway musical

A Broadway musical, also titled Tarzan, produced by Disney Theatrical began previews on March 24, 2006 which had an official opening night on May 10 of the same year. After running for over a year on Broadway, the show closed on July 8, 2007.[12]

Video games


  1. ^ a b "Tarzan (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  2. ^ Falk, Quentin (3 September 2000). "Holidays: Close encounter of the hairy kind". Sunday Mirror (MGN Ltd.). p. 53. Retrieved 30 August 2014.  Available through ProQuest Historical Newsstand.
  3. ^ a b c Essman, Scott (1999-07-05). "State of the Art of F/X". MovieMaker Magazine. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  4. ^ Szadkowski, Joseph (1999-03-01). "Toy Fair `99: More Animated Stuff". Animation World Network. Retrieved 2009-11-07. 
  5. ^ Burr, Ty (1999-05-21). "Music Review: Tarzan (1999)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  6. ^ http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Tarzan-Blu-ray/34218/
  7. ^ http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Tarzan-Blu-ray/7712/
  8. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/tarzan/
  9. ^ "Video Review: Simply Da Vine: With its dazzling high-tech Tarzan, Disney takes to the jungle and swings rings around live-action efforts of the past.". Entertainment Weekly. 2000-02-04. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  10. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees
  11. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  12. ^ "Disney's 'Tarzan' to close July 8 on Broadway". USA Today. 2007-06-24. Retrieved 2013-03-26. 

External links