Toon Talk: Tarzan & Jane
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
Tarzan and Jane
The LaughingPlace Store
From Johnny Weismuller and Buster Crabbe to Ron Ely and Christopher Lambert, all the way down to Miles OKeefe and Casper Van Dein, Edgar Rice Burroughs legendary ape-man has always been popular in movies and on television. So it was no surprise that after the success of their 1999 animated Tarzan, Disney would turn their take on the Lord of the Apes into their newest franchise.
Soon to follow was the debut of The Legend of Tarzan, an animated television show featuring the further adventures of Tarzan and company. When none of the films original voice cast returned for the series, The Pretenders Michael T. Weiss and The Wonder Years Olivia dAbo stepped in as Tarzan and Jane. Similar to the television versions of Aladdin and Hercules, continuing the story of Tarzan was a natural; the writers of the series even cleverly inserted references to many of the original Tarzan books written by Burroughs himself.
The series proved popular enough to merit the latest home video offering from Disney, Tarzan and Jane, which collects three previously unseen episodes of The Legend of Tarzan and, with newly animated scenes, presents them as one connected, 70-minute feature. Not, as has been mistaken by other media outlets, a true sequel, Tarzan and Jane, like last years House of Mouse Christmas video, is merely an extension of the television series, nothing more, nothing less.
Picking up a year after the events of the movie and the off-screen wedding of Tarzan and Jane (they couldnt very well live together unmarried, you know), Tarzan and Jane begins with Jane planning a special surprise for her husband on their first anniversary. When she mentions this to jungle pals Terk and Tantor (voiced by April Winchell and Jim Cummings, respectively), they remind her of her past attempts to civilize her loin-clothed mate through three separate stories, tied together with the clichéd framing device last used in Cinderella II: Dreams Come True: you remember that time when
- three of Janes schoolmates came to rescue her from the wild man and ended up being chased by a pair of snarling panthers (stepping in for the slain leopard Sabor, these two always escape his grisly fate, this being a kids show, yknow).
- Tarzan, wanting to give Jane a present from mans world, agreed to guide a couple of shady diamond hunters (led by Seinfelds John OHurley) to a so-called dormant volcano in the jungle.
- Janes old high-flying boyfriend, who has secrets of his own, showed up in search of a mysterious music box he gave to Jane before she headed to Africa.
The cumulative message of these stories is that both Tarzan and Jane have learned to grow closer together by learning to embrace each others differences, as revealed in the final scene where Tarzan shows just how much he understands Jane and the world she left behind in England, a world she left so that she could be with him.
On a television budget, it was impossible to replicate the lush jungle scenery and fluid character movements from the feature. Some concessions were made to suggest the unique style of the film, mostly by superimposing shadows of leaves onto the characters whenever possible, a feeble attempt that just becomes distracting over time. And while Tarzan performs such daring feats as surfing on a river of lava, dangling from a bi-plane and wrestling crocodiles (Steve Irwin, eat your heart out), nothing can compare to the pure athleticism of his silver screen exploits.
Which, of course, is asking way to much of this program. Taken as it is, the stories do offer something exciting for young Tarzan fans in general and Jane fans in particular; not for nothing does she share top-billing, for this Jane Porter shows real character development from her first appearance in the original film as a British fish-out-of-water. Not only can she swing from the vines as well as her hubby, she can take care of herself out in the wilds of the jungle quite well, thank you very much.