Tarzan may not be the one Disney film people rave about constantly and it tends to be completely forgotten these days with the company's CGI efforts being such a huge hit everywhere. Even nostalgia-wise, the film is left in a kind of no man's land between Mulan and Toy Story 2.
My Disney loyalty, when it came to the animated features, unfortunately ended post-Mulan, which is odd since I loved the latter. I wouldn't sit through or fall in love with another Disney flick until finally seeing Toy Story years after everybody else. This thankfully kick-started my interest in those movies again and I started going back to watch all the good stuff I'd missed. Honestly, Tarzan was one of those. Like Hercules, I never thought I'd have any interest in it at the time: nothing about it sounded or looked all that interesting to me.
I was an idiot.
It's exactly that kind of attitude which made me miss The Emperor's New Groove back in the day.
What I found was that Tarzan was actually surprisingly good. Not perfect, but still a solid, memorable effort. Visually, the film boasted mesmerisingly fast animation/motion, colourful, likeable characters and musically, no one spontaneously burst into song but you did get a sweet 80's-style Phil Collins soundtrack which brought a welcome retro vibe to the whole thing. The movie opens on a heartbreaking note as you see Tarzan's parents' untimely demise and find out how he came to be raised by gorillas. Admittedly, some of those talking apes (especially that Rosie O'Donnell-voiced one) are pretty annoying but on the plus side they're barely present. Mostly, we spend our time with the pointy-chinned Tarzan (voiced by Tony Goldwyn) and adorable airhead explorer Jane (a spot-on Minnie Driver). Some good side characters include dodgy hunter Clayton (Brian Blessed, of course), a cowardly elephant voiced by Wayne Knight and Kerchak, the leader of the gorilla troupe (a reliably intimidating Lance Henriksen).
Plot-wise, Tarzan could have been a little more ambitious, maybe taking the action to the city for a bit, if only to get out of the jungle for a breather but also to see Tarzan himself struggle to fit into a world completely different than the one he grew up knowing. The whole thing at the end where Jane stays in the jungle with him and becomes just as badass sliding down trees etc. happens way too fast and feels a bit rushed. The villainous Clayton also needed a bit more of a backstory in order to be a believable threat (and a three-dimensional character) and you do wish that the scary leopardess, who was the movie's villain up to a point, hadn't been disposed of so early on.
All that said, Tarzan is still a good, underrated Disney effort and one that's definitely worth checking out if you haven't already. It's a visual treat with a heart and it's also tons of fun so kids and adults (especially those with a soft spot for the band Genesis) alike should enjoy it.
I know I did.