Tarzan & Jane

Tarzan & Jane
Rating: G
Release Date: July 23, 2002
Running Time: approximately 70 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: As Jane ponders how to celebrate her first anniversary with the ape-man, her jungle friends recount some of the adventures the couple has had in the past year.

  • "Build Your Own Treehouse" game
  • Tarzan and Jane's Adventure Builder
  • short documentary - "Mandy Moore: Singing To The Song Of Life"
  • Previews of upcoming Disney releases - including Treasure Planet

    Tech Specs: Widescreen anamorphic, aspect ratio 1.66:1, English DTS 5.1 surround sound, French mono, English subtitles
    Type of disc: Dual Layer Format

    In the ninety years of the character's existence, the best adaptation of Tarzan to the screen has been the Disney version. Most Tarzan movies reduced him to a mono-syllabic nature boy, throwing away the keen intelligence that makes the character worth watching in the first place. But the Disney studios managed to find the right balance, adding heart to the tale that only Robert Towne's Greystoke could have hoped to match.

    So news of a direct-to-video sequel kind of made fans blanch. But the surprising news is that while Tarzan & Jane isn't quite the amazingly moving experience of the first film, it does stand out as the best direct-to-video product the Disney studios have done. Watchable and fun, the video amps up the adventure side of the story, and as an obvious anthology of TV episodes, promises good things for a series. (The Internet Movie Database lists a 2001 series called The Legend of Tarzan; has anybody seen this?)

    Like Cinderella II, Tarzan & Jane sets up a light framing story, which is really little more than an excuse to do flashbacks to shorter adventures. Jane frets over the couple's first anniversary, while Tantor, Terk, and Professor Porter all remind her of how disastrous her other attempts to civilize her husband have been. In one story, three of Jane's school chums come to rescue her, a tale played strictly for laughs as Tarzan tries to fit in with his wife's attempts to be cultured in the jungle. Thankfully, two panthers interrupt, so our hero can do what he really does best.

    For the sequel, the studio has added a little more sense of encroaching civilization. Rene Auberjonois voices Rene Dumont, a Frenchman who has set up a trading post near Tarzan's treehouse. While the first film left Tarzan and family in relative isolation, this change does bring things more in line with the original novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. After all, how many times can fighting panthers, leopards and occasional rogue gorillas be exciting?

    The second two tales are old-fashioned pulp adventure, as Tarzan leads two thugs to discover a diamond mine at the base of a volcano, and another old friend of Jane's arrives to reclaim a gift he had given her long ago. That old friend stirs unease in Tarzan, borne out when an agent of British Intelligence follows in close pursuit.

    All the voice actors do a decent job of making the characters their own. The only odd choice is in allowing new Tarzan Michael T. Weiss (The Pretender) to make his own animal sounds. Instead of being frightening in his snarls, he pretty much just sounds like a guy grunting.

    A lot of unexpected care has gone into this effort. Usually the television animation division pulls character designs out of a bland Disney cartoon pot. But every new character here looks as if they had been designed for the original movie and just never used before. It's a nice extra touch, as Tarzan had a very distinctive design.

    In their efforts to look like the lush original (on a much lower budget), the animators have done a surprisingly good job. Tarzan's fight scenes show some real creativity, taking advantage of the physique established in the first film. The animators play with shadows more than is usually allowed in video, and fake their way through some scenes with a jungle shadow overlay. Though it looks a little stiff, the effort is appreciated.

    The extras on the disc are variations on the usual Disney DVD materials. Build Your Own Treehouse builds kids listening skills, as they have to figure out exactly which item on the screen Professor Porter is asking for. Disney throws a neat twist on the old Choose Your Own Adventure books with Tarzan and Jane's Adventure Builder; it's basically the same concept, but they utilize a nice montage effect that is a step up from the usual extras.

    As for the Mandy Moore video, it's basically a commercial for Radio Disney that proves to adults that most pop stars should sing, not talk. Kids will probably eat it up.

    Along with Return To Neverland (coming next month to video), Tarzan & Jane will force a re-thinking of these video sequels. Yes, they're still cash cows for the studio, but occasionally, a little care slips through, and the product ends up still having a bit of that Disney magic. I laughed. I cared what was happening. And I appreciated that they used Burroughs' names for the panthers.

    Tarzan & Jane


    Derek McCaw


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