With the last few animated features, Disney was trying to shed its kid-flick image and appeal to a broader, more mature audience. Tarzan was no exception to that effort.
Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic novel Tarzan of the Apes, this beautifully animated film is one of Disney’s more faithful adaptations. The film explores big themes like identity and family — both biological and the ones we create for ourselves. Tarzan spends much of the film intimately aware of the differences between himself and the ape family who adopted him after he was orphaned in the jungle. His journey of self-discovery is truly touching and the film packs a pretty good emotional punch at points. His efforts to please pack leader Kerchak provide interesting tension throughout the story, as well as a nice, film-long subplot while Tarzan befriends Jane and her father, and learns more about who he really is.
The characters are quite likeable. You really feel for Kala (voiced beautifully by Glenn Close) and her journey — she is the ape who takes Tarzan in after her baby’s life is claimed by a menacing leopard. Minnie Driver brings a certain sass and independence to Jane that is a delight to watch. And it’s refreshing to see a female lead who has more on her mind than getting married.