Tarzan (1999)

Genres - Adventure, Children's/Family  |   Sub-Genres - Animated Musical, Jungle Film  |   Release Date - Jun 18, 1999 (USA)  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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In an effort to take its familiar animation style one technological step further, Disney pioneered an effect called "deep canvas" for its big-screen version of Tarzan. The enthralling effect, which tricks the eye into seeing Tarzan's high-speed travels through the jungle in three dimensions, is just one reason to watch this surprisingly affecting tale of a misfit working to reconcile his differences from both apes and humans. At heart, it's an action movie, and a pretty hip one at that -- Tarzan's motions, as he surfs along serpentine tree limbs and hurtles through the vines, are modeled on those of skateboarders. Plus it has a handful of clever set pieces in which no less than a vicious tiger, a sadistic hunter, and a herd of stampeding elephants threaten the safety of the gorillas. Many of these are funny, too -- when the elephants debate whether a prankster Tarzan swimming in their drinking hole might be a piranha, one of them points out that it couldn't be because the piranha is indigenous to South America. But in a way that only Disney can manage, these moments alternate with Tarzan's genuinely touching attempts to earn his keep, such that when he lets out his trademark blood-curdling yell after vanquishing a foe, the swell of pride is contagious. The vocal work is unspectacular, outside of Minnie Driver as a teasingly proper Jane and Wayne Knight as a neurotic elephant. The film could benefit from a slightly smaller dose of Rosie O'Donnell's wisecracking. But the most visually advanced film that Disney had produced at the time is also one of its most loveable, and even Phil Collins' dutifully inspirational score gets swept up in the general joy.