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YMMV / Tarzan

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The books and general franchise

  • Audience-Coloring Adaptation:
    • The Weissmuller films made Jane (and her father) British instead of American, and later films followed suit including the Disney version, which further cemented this in viewers' minds. This resulted in many people being surprised when The Legend of Tarzan portrayed Jane as an American again. It was previously only done in Greystoke and the Pre-Weismuller films.
    • The Weissmuller films are also responsible for the popular image of Tarzan speaking in Hulk Speak, as well as establishing what his Signature Roar sounds like (which, in the book, is just described as "the victory cry of the bull ape").
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  • Fair for Its Day: The books are rife with Burroughs' well-meant ethnocentricity and sexism. Burroughs repeatedly mentions the vicious and exploitative treatment the African natives received at the hands of white men, and attributes at least part of their bloodthirst to an understandable desire for revenge. He usually finds something to praise about his various ethnic characters, even if it might be in a way that would be extremely offensive today. Jane may not be an Action Girl (let's not be ridiculous!), but she's intelligent and remains level-headed no matter how dire the emergency. While later stories introduce the Waziri people and have them as subservient to Tarzan and Jane, but they are shown to be intelligent, dignified, competent, beautiful, and kind even before Tarzan met them and helped save them from exploitation; something virtually unheard of in literature at the time's portrayal of native Africans.
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  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In 1996, a subspecies of chimpanzee has been discovered in the Bili Forest of the Congo Republic that shows many gorilla-like behaviors — much like how Burroughs' Mangani mix traits of those same apes with some primitive human. Doubles as Accidentally Correct Zoology.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: When Tarzan first lets loose his signature yell you know the awesomeness has only begun. The best known version from the Johnny Weissmuller films was a combination of two chorus singers and a hog caller. Intriguingly, the yell for the Disney version was provided not by Tony Goldwyn, but by BRIAN BLESSED (who was ironically playing the villain Clayton) since Goldwyn couldn't create his own satisfactory version of the yell.
  • The Scrappy: Cheetah is outright hated by Burroughs purists.
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  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: Thanks to the Disneyfied animated adaptations, the books are sometimes mistaken for being child-friendly jungle adventure stories. In reality, Burroughs' novels present a fair amount of violence, racist and sexist content, and occasionally even Gorny torture scenes.

The Disney film

  • Accidental Innuendo: In the song "Strangers Like Me", a lyrics goes "Why do I have/This growing need to be beside her?" Then again, the entirety of the song could be considered a metaphor for Tarzan's own romantic awakening.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Did Kerchak not accept Tarzan for so long because he was different, or because he never got over the death of his first son? Or both?
    • Did Terk not want Tarzan hanging around with her and the other gorilla children because she was embarrassed by him, or because she knew they didn't like him and didn't want him to feel like any more of an outcast than he already did?
    • Did Sabor kill Tarzan's birth parents out of predatory instincts, or because she had never seen humans before and thought they were invading her territory?
  • Awesome Art:
    • The film features Disney's most complex character (at the time, anyway). Complex not just because of surface detail but because Tarzan was rendered with as much anatomical accuracy was possible. Tarzan moves like a gorilla and pulls off spectacular acrobatics and his muscles still flex and move believably. For the majority of the movie he wears very little, with his physique on full display. Not to mention the groundbreaking use of CGI for backgrounds that beautifully blended 3D movement with a classic hand painted look.
    • Surprisingly the Midquel Tarzan II, despite being Direct-to-Video, has visuals almost interchangeable with the first.
  • Awesome Music: Considering that the entire soundtrack is done by Phil Collins, it's to be expected. In particular, the optimistic main theme of the film, "Two Worlds, One Family", will get stuck in your head for days.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: "Trashing the Camp." Other than letting Jane learn that Tarzan is part of the gorilla community, all the scene does is show off a cool scat jam written by Phil Collins. The commentary reveals that the directors considered cutting it several times, but it was a big hit with kids in the test audiences, so it was kept in.
  • Broken Base: As with many Disneytoons Direct-to-Video sequels, the Interquel Tarzan II is very divisive and drifts even further from the original material in favour of a standard Disney cartoon story. It is considered one of the better paced and nicely animated of the lot however. They even got Phil Collins to provide more songs. Despite its positive qualities, Disney didn't include it on the Tarzan Blu-ray Disc, making Tarzan one of the few post-Lion King DAC movies of the '90s not to include a DTV spinoff on its BD.note 
  • Fanon: It's a popular notion among fans that Sabor is female, mainly because in the original novel that name was used to describe lionesses in the apes' language (male lions were referred to as Numa). The movie never gives any indication of the leopard's gender, neither does the sequel or the tv series, leaving Sabor as an example of Ambiguous Gender. The film commentary, however, has the creators referring to Sabor as male and Sabor is also credited as male in the Kingdom Hearts universe.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • It may just be a coincidence, but Tantor freaks out when a skull is bounced between his tusks in "Trashin' the Camp"; elephants are the only other animal besides humans who recognize bones.
    • Another one that's likely unintentional, but Tarzan has no idea what Jane is doing when she kisses him. Other species of ape do kiss, gorillas included, but protracted, romantic, mouth-to-mouth face mashing is only really seen in one other species, and that's bonobos.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Thanks in no small part to the fact that the hugely popular Ákos Kovács did the songs for the Hungarian dub of the movie, this film's music is immensely popular in Hungary, enough so that Ákos regularly performs them at mainstream concerts.
    • The stage musical had a short run on Broadway due to audiences and critics not being impressed, but in Germany it ran from 2008 to 2018, moving from Hamburg to Stuttgart and then Oberhausen.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Kerchak's death has been compared to the death of Harambe, a gorilla from the Cincinnati Zoo, in 2016.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Applicable to the above due to Harambe becoming a viral joke.
    • Terk is forced to dress up like Jane, which Tantor compliments her on. In an episode of the TV series, Tantor himself would have to crossdress as a distraction.
    • A movie heavily featuring gorillas and music by Phil Collins is rather funny when many years later, the Cadbury chocolate company would release a bizarre ad that quickly went viral featuring a gorilla playing the famous drum solo from Collins' "In the Air Tonight".
  • Moe: The design Disney used for Jane evokes a protective instinct - but then again, this is one of literature's archetypal Damsel in Distress characters.
    • Tantor as a calf as well, especially since his voice actor was too young to read his lines.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Clayton from the Disney version crosses this when he shoots Kerchak, Tarzan's adoptive father, then, much like Gaston, tries to kill Tarzan after being spared, resulting in a gruesome Karmic Death afterward.
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: The PSX/N64 game is actually really fun platformer with various difficulty settings based on the levels and it's actually quite complete. The version for GBC is also really good, having gameplay similar to that of the Donkey Kong Country games.
  • Obvious Judas: Clayton is an Egomaniac Hunter who is rude, condescending and shows an open disregard for the wildlife in the jungle. Is it really a surprise that he's plotting against the protagonists?
  • Older Than They Think: The combining of Kerchak and Tublat originated with the first Tarzan film in 1918.
  • Sequelitis: Downplayed. The Interquel Tarzan II has a moderate fanbase that considers it enjoyable, but is not considered on par with the first movie, being yet another Denser and Wackier B-Team Sequel.
  • Signature Scene: The shot where Tarzan "surfs" across the jungle foliage at the end of the "Son of Man" sequence.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Despite being introduced as a formidable threat with a personal vendetta against Tarzan, Kala and Kerchak, Sabor is killed by Tarzan before the halfway point of the film and not mentioned again afterwards. Many audiences were disappointed when she was replaced with Clayton, who is mostly a two-dimensional greedy hunter with no real personal connection to the protagonist.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The fact that Clayton and Tarzan are cousins in the source material could have added an interesting dynamic between the two and further explored the film's question of familial ties, as well as fleshing out Tarzan's biological parents. Instead the film never alludes to it.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion: Terk, though she was apparently based off a male character. It doesn't help that in the stage musical Terk is now male. It`s at least alleviated a little when you know she was voiced by a woman. The animated series lampshades this and makes it something of a Running Gag.
  • Vindicated by Cable: Not to the extent of The Emperor's New Groove but it's getting there. It's slowly been recognized over the years as one of Disney's most underrated films, helped also by its soundtrack.
  • Vindicated by History: The film's soundtrack of all things went through this. By 1999, Phil Collins had become so widely detested for his sheer overexposure in the preceding decade that many were vocally apprehensive towards the Tarzan soundtrack simply because it was Collins' work. However, the critical and public redemption of Collins in the 2010's, spurned on by a mix of 80's nostalgia, nostalgia from people who grew up with the movie, and endorsements of Collins by popular R&B artists, ended up extending to the Tarzan soundtrack as well. Nowadays, it's gone from being seen as gimmicky treacle to one of the best film soundtracks for a Disney film to date.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The hand-drawn animation is beautifully blended with CGI backgrounds in several shots, some of which move in strong perspective and constantly change angles.
  • What an Idiot!: A baby baboon snatches Jane's drawing (her sketchbook along with it) since he was so flattered with it. Though Jane manages to get her sketchbook back.
    • You'd Expect: Jane could just make another sketch or walk away with whatever she salvaged of her drawings to meet up back with her father and Clayton.
    • Instead: Jane tricks the baby into looking away and snatches back the sketch.
    • As a Result: The baby then cries, which then alerts the baboon pack who then chase Jane and almost maul her. Fortunately, Tarzan rescues her.
  • The Woobie: Kala. One of her first scenes involves her losing her child, she has to watch her adoptive son struggle to be accepted by the other gorillas and by her mate Kerchak, and at the end of the movie, she loses Kerchak too.


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