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The adventures of an orphaned infant raised by a family of gorillas and ultimately accepted as one of their own. As Tarzan matures into a young man with all the instincts of a jungle animal and the physical prowess of an athletic superstar, his life changes forever when he finally meets other humans, with whom he feels an immediate and irrestible bond.
For more about Tarzan and the Tarzan Blu-ray release, see Tarzan Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 6, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn Close, Lance Henriksen, Rosie O'Donnell, Wayne Knight
Directors: Chris Buck, Kevin Lima
» See full cast & crew
Tarzan Blu-ray Review
"And you will always be in my heart."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 6, 2014
Disney loves August. I don't quite understand the trifecta of late summer, Blu-ray and family entertainment, but the Mouse House has once again settled on August as the month du jour, unleashing another deluge of new releases. Four Walt Disney Animation Studios feature films are making their BD debut -- Fun and Fancy Free (1947), The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), Hercules (1997) and Tarzan (1999) -- as is the nearly forgotten RKO Radio Pictures feature The Reluctant Dragon (1941), live-action classic Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), direct-to- video DisneyToon movie Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers (2004), brand spankin' new sequel Muppets Most Wanted (2014) and DisneyNature's latest natural history documentary, Bears (2014). For those keeping count, that's nine films spread across seven Blu-ray releases. (The Ichabod and Mr. Toad 2-Movie Collection is actually a 3-Movie Collection, with The Reluctant Dragon buried inside.) Whew. Most studios would space it out. But Disney? Open the floodgates, gentlemen. Given the second, sometimes third tier nature of most of the films, though (save Muppets Most Wanted), it isn't exactly overwhelming. Most fans will pick and choose their favorites. Only a select few completists will have to find a way to purchase all seven in bulk.
Tarzan is easily one of the best of the bunch. It isn't Aladdin -- come on, the one we're all waiting for -- but it's still a terrifically fun, energetically animated adventure with much closer ties to the classics of the Disney Renaissance than the films that dominated the erratic, ill-begotten era of Disney Animation that followed.
Wild with exotic adventure and laughs, Disney's 37th animated feature is an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic story, "Tarzan of the Apes." Raised by a family of gorillas, including his loving adoptive mother Kala (Glenn Close), wisecracking Terk (Rosie O'Donnell) and skeptical Kerchak (Lance Henriksen), a man named Tarzan (Tony Goldwyn) develops all the instincts and prowess of a jungle animal. But with the sudden appearance of Tarzan's own kind, among them the beautiful Jane Porter (Minnie Driver), her kindly father Professor Archimedes Q. Porter (Nigel Hawthorne) and villainous hunter Clayton (Brian Blessed), two very different worlds collide.
Tarzan wasn't Disney's first foray into blending traditional and CG animation. Far from it. But it was the first studio film that employed hybrid techniques to such stunning, near-seamless effect. As much a part of the evolution of the title character as a way to dazzle wide-eyed audiences in 1999, Tarzan's jungle surfing remains a sight to behold; as thrilling as it was fifteen years ago. But it isn't just select scenes that impress. I'd go so far as to call the film one of Disney's most impressively animated features, flaunting a fluidity, expressiveness and confidence that draws upon the classics of old and the future (now the present) of animation. The ease with which the animators move from lightning quick action to expansive world exploration, amusing character beats, and everything from heart-wrenching drama to zany, slapstick comedy puts a number of modern animated efforts to shame, and almost looks as good today as it ever has. (Barring a minor but glaring BD presentation issue. More on that in a moment.) These aren't just animators at work but storytellers at the height of their craft; before CG would begin to supplant traditional animation and shove it towards its untimely grave.
The voice cast is excellent as well, with enough colorful delivery, comic timing and warm human touches to set the characters, animal and human, apart and make the most of every clash, embrace, conflict and encounter. Goldwyn and Driver do a particularly good job of selling Tarzan and Jane's romance, even with a chemistry the animators are largely responsible for creating. O'Donnell comes on a bit too strong, but then so does Terk, which will either irritate or endear, depending on your tolerance. Kids will continue to love the rompin', stompin', fun-lovin' apes, though, even if adults will find more satisfaction in Close and Henriksen's performances. Likewise, Blessed, and really Clayton, are mustache-twirling-ly obvious. Menacing, yes, but truly, under-the-skin frightening like Disney's most fearsome foes? Eh. Clayton's grisly end is more disturbing than any villainy he brings to the table. But the only voice that spoils the film, at least in part, belongs to Phil Collins. Only "Two Worlds," "You'll Be in My Heart" and "Strangers Like Me" are welcome (if a tad forced, thematically). "Trashin' the Camp" and "Son of Man" are akin to bad narration, and add little to the mix that the animation, voicework and film score aren't already accomplishing.
And it's in those accomplishments where Tarzan really shines, delivering a truly cinematic experience in the guise of an animated adventure. With more ambition and heart than several notable animated features have mustered over the course of an entire franchise run, the film is an infectious delight from start to finish. A flawed delight, sure, but one that never once doubts itself, looks back over its shoulder or hesitates. There are better animated films, but few that make viewers of all ages feel this much and feel it this deeply.
Tarzan Blu-ray, Video Quality
Tarzan's 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation is a strange surprise, and not in a good way. Flawless at first glance, its five-star transfer quickly becomes a three to four-star remaster upon closer inspection. Why? Prevailing issues that, once seen, can't be unseen. Pay close attention to animal fur. See it? There, hidden in the browns, purples and grays of the gorillas... macroblocking. Next, allow your eye to drift to the line art. Catch it? The aliasing, the blink-and-you'll-miss-it pixilation. The intermittent banding, faint and infrequent as it is. Dig through the screenshots accompanying this review and you'll find examples of each. Viewers with smaller displays may only note slight flickering, and only on occasion, while those with larger displays will see the extent of the problems more clearly. (You may notice more or less of the anomalies depending on your video settings and television's noise/artifact filters. It's also important to mention they're more apparent in screenshots than in motion.) Thankfully, it all amounts to a minor eyesore. Not negligible, mind you, but relatively minor. Most of the film fares nicely, with bold splashes of color, vivid primaries, inky black levels and carefully balanced contrast. Detail is pretty striking as well, with (mostly) crisp line art and precisely resolved background textures. Significant ringing and other distractions are kept to a minimum, and there isn't too much to complain about. Too much. Had Disney eliminated -- or even noticed -- the aforementioned artifacts, this could have easily been a top tier animated presentation. As is, it falls short of a perfection fans will have to dream of a little while longer.
Tarzan Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Rather than further remaster Tarzan to create a full-fledged 5.1 surround track, Disney has chosen to forgo LFE support and stick with a still-solid DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 mix. The disappointment comes in realizing just how thunderous the film might have been with proper oomph; a disappointment that bubbles to the surface whenever Tarzan finds himself in battle or on the run. Fortunately, the rest of the track is remarkable enough to almost, almost make up for the lack of low-end power. Dialogue is clear, intelligible and believably ground amidst the action, drama and comedy. The rear speakers are a good deal of fun too, with a directional playfulness that makes jungle surfing, camp raiding, prison escapes and other adventures an enveloping experience. Phil Collins's songs and Mark Mancina's score also stream from the soundfield effortlessly, making for a full, immersive soundscape that's really quite engaging. All told, Disney's lossless track isn't all it could be, but it comes oh so close, which may as well be the tagline of the entire AV presentation.
Tarzan Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Tarzan Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Tarzan may be second tier Disney, but it's very close to the classics that came before and far better than many of the films released from 2000-08. Most consider it the final film in the Disney Renaissance, although the Renaissance is hardly an official era, no matter how much the studio embraces the label. Other movies aside, Tarzan remains a wondrous adventure that holds up extremely well, even some fifteen years after its release. Beautifully animated and full of memorable characters, big laughs and bigger heart, exciting action and sharp, clever uses of Burroughs' original stories. It isn't perfect, but then few are. Unfortunately, the same could be said of Tarzan's Blu-ray debut. The video presentation would be stunning... if it weren't for several minor issues. The lossless audio track would be outstanding... if it were a 5.1 mix rather than 5.0. The supplemental package would be incredibly insightful... if the studio had produced any new extras of substance. Don't misunderstand. This is by no means a release to avoid. Buy it. Enjoy it. Pull it off the shelf whenever the kids ask. Just don't expect perfection. You won't find any here.
Tarzan: Other Editions
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• This Week on Blu-ray: August 12-19 - August 10, 2014
For the week of August 12th, Sony is bringing the first season of NBC's uneven procedural The Blacklist to Blu-ray. Other titles include the intense Tom Hardy-starring drama Locke, Disney's Hercules (part of a spate of catalog releases from the Mouse House that ...
• Upcoming Disney Catalog Title Details Revealed - July 4, 2014
Walt Disney Home Entertainment has revealed further details about five of its upcoming catalog titles: Tarzan, Hercules, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers. All five Blu-ray releases ...
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