As we wrap up the Disney Renaissance with #37, we were happy to finally have someone with us who we’d been looking forward to teaming up with for a while now. Justin Blankenship is a pretty talented guy we met here in Chicago when working on “A Klingon Christmas Carol” in 2016. Since then, he’s been gaming and hanging with us on all sorts of other fun things… but this is his first Disney Odyssey appearance. He also did a really hilarious (somewhat sweary, slightly NSFW) webseries called “Muggled” and we highly recommend it! Additionally, you can catch Justin on our brand new weekly live stream through One Shot Podcast Network, a Fate inspired game called Warda: Curiosities!
TL;DR – Justin’s cool and he came to watch Tarzan with us. Get hype.
The Film: Tarzan (1999)
- The story and characters for Tarzan are from the “Tarzan” novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of the John Carter of Mars books. In the original “Tarzan” stories, Terk was a male rival ape, Tantor was a mean old elephant, Sabor was a lioness, and Kerchak was the one who actually murdered Tarzan’s parents. Also Clayton and Tarzan were cousins, and Clayton wanted Tarzan dead because of THE LINE OF SUCCESSION to their family fortune. (
The most British reason for murder ever.) Obviously changes were made to make certain characters more sympathetic and… non-traumatic for kids.
- Although there have been many, many adaptations of “Tarzan” for stage and screen, this is the first adaptation to be animated. There are a few references to the older adaptations, such as Jane’s outfit at the end of the film, and the “me, Tarzan, you, Jane” introduction scene.
- This was the first Disney film to be #1 at the box office and receive an Academy Award since Pocahontas. It made $448.2 million and the Oscar for Best Song (“You’ll Be In My Heart” by Phil Collins).
- Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen were considered (again) for the role of Clayton before Brian Blessed was cast. Blessed also provides the signature Tarzan yell in the movie.
- Brendan Fraser auditioned twice for the lead role, but lost it to Tony Goldwyn who could do better ape impressions than he could. Fraser, of course, went on to perform in George of the Jungle.
- Terk was written as a male gorilla sidekick but none of the actors who auditioned were quite what the animators and producers wanted. They finally cast Rosie O’Donnell, who had been eager to do a Disney movie for some time. They decided to have O’Donnell voice Young Terk as well as the adult character. It was said of Terk’s gender switch that there was no textual reason for the ‘best friend’ to be male, so they simply made Terk female.
- In a clear departure from standard Disney formatting, the writers and production team for Tarzan opted to have Phil Collins provide the songs for the movie as a kind of narration, rather than the usual song-and-dance numbers in the context of the film.
- Tarzan was dubbed in thirty-five separate languages – the most for any Disney movie at that time.
- Tarzan’s sweet tree-surfing techniques were thought up by animator Glen Keane, whose son had a passion for skateboarding and was a big fan of Tony Hawk. Disney animators hired a professor of physiology to advise them on how the anatomy for Tarzan’s body should and would look based on his physical habits, abilities, and y’know, being raised by apes. It is this physiology that prompted someone to angrily write a letter that it would give young boys unrealistic body expectations.
But like, Tarzan was literally raised by gorillas in the jungle, I feel like unrealistic doesn’t begin to cover it…
- Future cosplay goals for Aly and Drew include: Tarzan’s parents. THE RESEMBLANCE IS STRONG, y’all.
- Justin: “Fun fact, those storks that fly over are the same storks that fly over in Lion King. They got re-hired through the stork union.”
- Aly: “Who were his parents, that they were competent enough to build this dope treehouse?!” Justin: “Well how long have they been out here, how long did it take to build the treehouse in the first place?” Aly: “But like, how long has Tarzan’s dad been preparing to live in the wilderness like a bushman?”
- Drew: “Suuuper weird that Sabor hasn’t eaten those corpses.” Aly: “He just ate the faces. He likes the faces best.”
- Kala: “I’m going to be his mother now.” Justin: “Ooooooh yeah, about that… did you talk to Kerchak first? Cuz….”
- Drew: “Who’s the voice of Kerchak?” Aly: “This guy… Henrik… Ibsen? No…it’s Lance Henrikson.” Drew: “What else has he done?” Aly: “Stuff where he’s ominous and has a deep voice.”
- [Phil Collins transitions into “You’ll Be In My Heart”] Aly: “OOOH DAT MARIMBA THO.”
- It’s really interesting that even though we as the audience know that Tarzan and Terk are going to be best friends, we see their awkward childhood and adolescence set up in such a way that we see how they definitely don’t start out that way. It’s one of the many complexities in the movie that set the pace for more unique and complicated relationships in later movies.
- Tantor’s Mother: “For the last time there are no piranhas in Africa.” Elephant: “No, she’s right, [piranhas are] native to South America.” Aly: “WHAT FOURTH WALL?!”
- Justin pointed out that this movie has three separate antagonists: Sabor, Kerchak, and Clayton, each being a part of different chapters in Tarzan’s life.
- The theme of gorillas and humans having similarities is so wonderfully integrated – the moments when Kala and Tarzan (and later Tarzan and Jane) press their palms together, and also when Tarzan touches his knuckles to Kerchak’s in apology. It’s really really lovely.
- “Son of Man” is Aly’s favorite song in this movie – and the Broadway version of the tune is extra good for pumping one’s self up for a show, a run, or any such energetic task. Also a solid key change.
- Aly: “Tantor, get it together.” Justin: “Tantor never gets it together. What is Tantor doing? His best, guys. His best.“
- Aly: “Heeeeeere’s my question… whyyyyyyy doesn’t Tarzan have facial hair?” Justin: “He has a genetic condition, okay. Some people can’t.” Drew: “Well that must be the case, cause his whole body is literally hairless except his eyebrows and his head.”
- Drew: “So… do they just adopt Tantor??? Where is his elephant herd family?” Justin: “Hey, c’mon, it’s the elephant in the room, we don’t talk about it.”
- Jane is highly underrated as a Disney heroine. She’s an adorable little mess and she’s so funny and weird. Also Minnie Driver is such a treasure.
- Tarzan: “…Tarzan.” Justin: “Because Tarzan in gorilla translates perfectly to Tarzan in English.”
- Aly: “Why didn’t they like pack up their stuff? They just left their whole camp sitting out.” Drew: “They’re British! They don’t think anything bad can happen to them ever! It’s part of their DNA, it’s the early 1900s!”
- Tarzan takes Jane on the best dates. Obviously. “Girl, you like birds? Lemme carry you to the canopy treetops and show you some BURDZ!”
- Aly: “Dream Disney live-action casting… Jane is Natalie Dormer!” Drew and Justin: “Ooooooh.” (In the movie: Jane and Tarzan: “Oooooh.”)
- This movie has really excellent action sequences, surprisingly.
- That moment when Kerchak finally finally calls Tarzan his son… is absolutely chilling and perfect.
- So is that moment when Jane blubberingly tries to protest against staying in Africa but then DOES IT ANYWAY.
- Ugh this movie. FAMILY, you guys. And apes.
Disney Renaissance Post-Credits Pop Bonus Track REMIX:
(because honestly folks if THIS doesn’t sum up the end of the 90’s…. I… don’t know what does)
Extra special thanks to my patrons who made this and all Disney Odyssey posts possible: AE, Alexis, Allen, Andy, Ben, Cameron, Candace, David, Dennis, Eric, Erika, Josh, Kat, Katie, Mary & Rhett, Mary-Kate, Matt, Mel, Michael, Rebecca, Stephen, and Tiffany. If you’re interested in supporting this blog, the Disney Odyssey, and future fantastical adventures, please consider donating a dollar or more to my Patreon!
Thank you for joining us this time on the Disney Odyssey… and make sure to subscribe to the blog for the next post!!!