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A Review of the Disney Cartoon, Tarzan

Walt Disney Home Video
An animated adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrow's Tarzan
Rated: G
Time: 88 min.

Tarzan's parents escape a burning boat off the coast of Africa and build a tree house. We are shown scenes of the mother and father tenderly caring for their baby. This parallels another scene with a mother and father gorilla taking care of their baby. One family human and the other animal. Or is it? As we will find out later this is a very important question.

The song that plays while these two scenes intersperse each other is very important because it contains important points brought out in the movie, such as, "put your faith in what you most believe, two earths, one family" and "trust your heart, lay fate aside, to guide these lives we see."

A leopard kills Tarzan's parents and also kills the Gorilla's baby. The mother Gorilla, who we find out later is called Carla, wanders through the woods and hears the baby Tarzan crying and finds him in the tree house. She is merely curious until he puts his hand in hers. When she sees the similarity of the shape of their hands (this is a recurring theme in the movie), she then scoops him in her arms and takes him home with her. Her "husband" Kerchak says "it's not our kind." She wins out however. He allows her to keep the child but never accepts him as his own.

Tarzan's "cousin" Turk leads him on several escapades as a young boy that almost get the family killed due to an elephant stampede that Tarzan takes the blame for. Kerchak says, "look at him. He will never be one of us." Which implys that it is merely because of his looks that he is being rejected.

On hearing this, Tarzan runs away sad and rejected by his "stepfather." He smears mud on his face to cover his white skin thinking maybe that will make him acceptable. His ape "mother" Carla consoles him. Tarzan becomes curious about the differences between his features and hers. They compare the shape of their hands--and he is noticeably upset that his hand is shaped different than his "mothers." She tells him to forget what he sees, and asks him, "what do you feel?" He hears his heart beat. Then he listens to her heart beat. She says, regarding his heart and hers, "they are exactly the same. Listen to your heart," implying that the man child and the ape are identical on the inside.

Then we see the expoits of Tarzan as he is growing into young manhood. The same leopard that killed Tarzan's parents attacks Tarzan's ape family and specifically his "stepfather" Kerchak. Tarzan kills it, saves Kerchak's life and presents the body of the leopard to his "stepfather." Kerchak is just about to accept Tarzan into the family, when they hear a gun shot and Tarzan leaves to investigate.

Jane, her father and their guide have arrived from England to study the gorillas. Jane gets attacked by a wild herd of monkeys. Tarzan rescues her and carries her to a tree. He begins to investigate her, holds his hand up to hers, seeing the same shape and realizes they are the "same kind" and she has a heart beat too. From that point on he is drawn to her like a magnet because of the similarities.

Jane is enthralled by the animals, and the birds. Jane's father says that Tarzan "moves like an ape but looks like a man. Maybe he's the missing link." Which is implying there is a so-called missing hereditary link between ape and man. Jane's father and their guide Clayton try to find out where the gorillas are staying but Tarzan won't tell them. Then time is up and Jane has to go back to England and wants Tarzan to come also. He says no, but doesn't want to part from her. Thinking he can convince her to stay he finally agrees to take her to see the gorillas.

Kerchak discovers what he has done and attacks the foreigners. Clayton starts shooting at the gorillas. Tarzan attacks Kerchak to stop him and yells at Jane and her family to leave. He tells Kerchak, "why are you threatened by anyone different than you?" which is another implication that we shouldn't discriminate against those who are different (even if they carry guns???). Kerchak tells Tarzan, "I asked you to protect our family and you betrayed us all." Tarzan is now torn between his two families. He wants to be with Jane and also his ape family, inspite of the bitterness between he and his "stepfather."

Carla decides it's time to tell Tarzan the truth about his real family and takes him to his original home in the tree house where he realizes he is not really her son--he was adopted. She tells him she wants him to be happy and to make his own choice.

Later we see him dressed in his real father's suit and climbing onto the boat to go to England with Jane. Clayton causes a mutiny on the boat, locks up Tarzan, Jane and her father and attempts to go capture the apes for the money he will receive. They later escape and try to save the apes.

Clayton attacks the apes, wounds Tarzan in the arm and shoots Kerchak. Tarzan goes after Clayton who eventually hangs himself in the vines hanging from the trees. Just before Kerchak dies he tells Tarzan, "You have always been one of us my son. Forgive me for not understaing that." So finally Tarzan is accepted by his "stepfather."

Tarzan is now the leader of his "family" and can't leave. Jane decides to stay with Tarzan. The movie ends with the same theme it began with, "two worlds--one family." Tarzan is the key between these two families--one ape and one human--he is the tie that binds, which is again implying that apes and man are one happy family.

I'm sure this has a wider implication to it, i.e., not just apes but all of the animal kingdom, which ties right in with the current movement of worshiping mother earth (the creation) instead of the creator. You can call it New Age, Gaia, Mother Earth, it doesn't matter what name you put on it because it's still anti-Christian and anti-Bible.


Although this movie is quite entertaining and has some very catchy tunes and isn't so blantantly anti-christian, like so many other cartoons, that theme still permeates the whole show because of their push to prove evolution between ape and man. With the current theme of tolerance being preached from political pulpits now, this movie is falling right in line with that ideology also--accept everyone no matter what. For sure we need to accept other people who are different from ourselves physically but that doesn't include animals. God made man to rule OVER the animals (Genesis 1:28), not become one with them.

Lori Eldridge
© September 17, 2000

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