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20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘Tarzan’

Tarzan marked the end of an era for Disney animation- as well as a new beginning. This film was released in 1999, ending the famous Disney Renaissance, the era in which Disney was finally back on the map in the world of animation. However, at the turn of the 21st century, most would argue that we stopped getting those renaissance caliber films from Disney for a little while.  Although movies like Lilo and Stitch and The Emperor’s New Groove have since become well loved, almost ever film released in the following 10 years after Tarzan were not the hits that Disney had been used to.

Read: 20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘Mulan’

This was mostly due to the drastic change of style that Disney implemented in their animated films made from 2000 until around 2008. Wes ee the beginnings of this with Tarzan, a film that ended the long line of Broadway-style musicals that had been going strong since 1989. Instead, they brought in Phil Collins to write songs as background music, rather than songs sung by characters (the exception being the opening of “You’ll Be in My Heart”, which is such by Kala). For a lot of people, this worked and Phil Collins’ music won the film an Academy Award for Best Original Song. It even went on to inspire Disney Theatricals to put on a Broadway musical, but more on that later.

Admittedly, Tarzan is not a movie that I have spent a lot of time with. I wouldn’t consider it a classic and, as noted before, it was clearly a departure from the films of the 1990s. Nevertheless, Tarzan is a fun film featuring some great music and top notch voice acting. There are also some truly touching scenes that add real depth to the movie and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Live-action remake: There is no live-action remake planned for Tarzan.

Tarzan in the theme parks: The most prominent use of Tarzan in the theme parks would be Tarzan’s Treehouse in Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland. This walkthrough attraction was originally Swiss Family Treehouse, inspired by the Disney film Swiss Family Robinson, but was rethemed to Tarzan in 1999.

Sequel/Spin-offs: After Tarzan was released, Disney made additional projects featuring these popular characters. The first was an animated television series called The Legend of Tarzan which picked up where the film left off. This show aired from 2001 to 2003, and the last three episodes were bundled together and released as a direct-to-video film called Tarzan & Jane.

The other project was a midquel called Tarzan II. It takes place during Tarzan’s childhood, specifically during the “Son of Man” sequence. During that sequence in the original film, adventures in Tarzan’s childhood are merely hinted at, but in Tarzan II, a more comprehensive story is told featuring familiar characters such as Terk and Kala as well as some new ones. For more details on this and other sequels, check out my 25 Weeks of DisneyToon Sequels.

Tarzan on stage: Following the success of Disney stage adaptations such as Mary Poppins, Disney Theatrical Productions opted to choose Tarzan for their next venture. A strange choice to be sure, largely because the characters don’t actually sing most of the songs in the film. Of course, this was changed for the stage adaptation and Disney’s Tarzan opened on Broadway in May of 2006. Phil Collins returned to the project and wrote several new songs for this stage version. Unfortunately, Tarzan ran for a meager 486 performances before closing about a year later.

Tarzan is available to stream on Disney+.

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