"Ah-ahyeah-ye-ah!" Or is it "Ah-a-ah-ya-ah-aha-haaa!"? Wait. Let me try that again: "Oh-ayo-eyo-eyoeyohhhh!" Whatever, you know the cry, and like most of the film, it's just about perfect, the old, reassuring Johnny Weissmuller yell we all grew up with.
The Disney folks may have felt a little badly about their first DVD release of "Tarzan" having so few extras, making up for it in the "Collector's Edition" and in small part with this new, single-disc "Special Edition" and its intermediate array of bonus items. The sound is also slightly improved, but neither the extras nor the sound is probably enough to warrant a second purchase if you already own the movie on disc. If you haven't bought it, and you've always thought about it, the new edition may be enough to persuade you.
Along with "The Emperor's New Groove" in 2000, Disney's 1999 "Tarzan" was among the studio's last critically and artistically successful animated features. As expected from a Disney animated feature, the colors are wonderfully brilliant and clearly defined in this new version of "Tarzan," but what is most surprising is that the backgrounds are so gorgeously rendered. This was the first Disney cartoon in many years that harked back to the detail and richness of the studio's classic early work, like "Snow White" and "Pinocchio." The backdrops are three dimensional in their realism and so beautiful to behold that the plot seems almost insignificant.
As it turns out, the plot is, indeed, inconsequential. It's the familiar Edgar Rice Burroughs tale of the fellow (voice by Tony Goldwyn) raised in the jungle by apes, the arrival of Jane (voice by Minnie Driver), their romance, and an adventure with greedy hunters and safari guides (Clayton voiced by Brian Blessed). Flimsy as the story is, it doesn't matter because the picture quality is so good and the artwork so glorious, we don't care. The several action sequences are pretty exciting, though. Tarzan's fight with a leopard, his rescue of Jane from a pack of baboons, and his scrap with the villainous guide keep one engaged. And the depiction of Tarzan gliding through the trees like a combination surfer and skateboard champion is a pleasure to watch. Of course, we have to endure some of Disney's close-to-terminal cuteness, too: Ever-so-sweet little monkeys and baby elephants, the hackneyed caricature of a befuddled old professor (Nigel Hawthorne), the usual stuff; keeping up with Rosie O'Donnell as Terk is a chore in itself; although, to be fair, the cutesy factor is kept to a minimum compared to some Disney releases.
One thing I did miss about this Disney project was a standout title song, something to remember, even whistle, afterwards. The closest we get is a tune called "Strangers Like Me," as unremarkable as the rest of the music. Phil Collins wrote the songs, so I guess he's the guy to blame. Along with Mark Mancina's pounding, semi-rock musical score, the combination gets tiresome fast. Maybe it will please a generation of youngsters brought up on MTV; who knows. A brief, jazzy interlude titled "Trashin' the Camp," sung by a gleeful band of gorillas, is momentary relief.
And did I mention that Disney animators make the characters' movements as fluid and graceful as any we have ever seen in a cartoon? "Tarzan" is one of Disney's most beautiful, most spectacular visual treats, even if the story line and characters are watered-down children's fare.
A 1.66:1 anamorphic screen ratio wraps everything up nicely, capturing all the beauty and wonder of the jungle landscapes. At least 1.66:1 is what the keep case says. However, on my set the image measures out at a wider 1.77:1, about the size of a widescreen TV In any case, it's anamorphic and the bit rate is high, so the colors and definition are outstanding.
Disney's first "Tarzan" DVD contained only the movie's Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack, while now it contains not only that but a new 5.1 mix as well. The differences are small but welcome. The sound is clean and clear, and while it is not as stunning as the visual image, it is quite pleasant to the ears.
Things start out in the extras department with a full-length audio commentary by producer Bonnie Arnold and co-directors Chris Buck and Kevin Lima. It's a competent commentary and the participants seem like pleasant people, but I have to admit it sounds like every other commentary I've heard over the years. Next, there are three games under the umbrella title, "Trek's Tree-Surfing Challenge"; they incude "Jungle Memory," "Banana Round-Up," and "Clayton's Trap." I lasted about a minute with each of these. After those are a Disneypedia segment called "Living in the Jungle," about five minutes of background information on real jungle animals. Then, there are three deleted scenes--an alternate opening, "Terk Finds the Humans' Camp," and "Riverboat Fight"--with an introduction by the producer. However, all three scenes are in rough sketch, black-and-white storyboard form only, which to me was a disappointment.
In addition, there are four music videos: "You'll Be in My Heart" by Phil Collins; "Strangers Like Me" by Phil Collins; "Trashin' the Camp" by Phil Collins and 'N Sync; and an all-new video featuring Everlife doing "Strangers Like Me."
The extras conclude with thirty-six scene selections and a chapter insert; plus Sneak Peeks at "Lady and the Tramp," "The Wild Shaggy Dog," "Valiant," "Studio Ghibli Films," "Old Yeller," "Kermit's 50th Anniversary," "Kronk's New Groove," "Power Rangers SPD," and "Toy Story 2." Spoken languages come in English, French, and Spanish; with French and Spanish subtitles and English captions for the hearing impaired. The keep case is enclosed in a colorful, glossy slipcover that duplicates the front cover and chapter-insert graphics.
The new Special Edition of "Tarzan" is hardly the must-have disc of the year in terms of bonus features, but it does offer enough extra things to keep the buyer happy without costing an arm and a leg. "Tarzan" is a pleasure on the eyes, even if its music and adventure aren't as much to talk about.