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Swinging Through History: 11 Fascinating Facts About Disney’s Tarzan

Disney’s “Tarzan” is an animated masterpiece that swung into the hearts of audiences in 1999. This film, known for its breathtaking animation, poignant storytelling, and groundbreaking music, marked a significant milestone in Disney’s animated legacy. Adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic novel, Disney’s “Tarzan” brought a fresh, emotionally resonant take to the well-known tale of a man raised by gorillas in the jungles of Africa.

Beyond its visual splendor and narrative depth, “Tarzan” is a film rich with intriguing behind-the-scenes facts, innovative animation techniques, and cultural impact. From Phil Collins’ mesmerizing soundtrack to the technological advancements in animation, this article explores a trove of fascinating details about Disney’s “Tarzan.” These insights not only enhance our appreciation of the film but also shed light on its unique place in the pantheon of Disney classics.

Fascinating Facts About Disney’s Tarzan

Tarzan swinging on a vine

Disney’s “Tarzan” stands as a landmark in animation for its storytelling, technological innovation, and musical achievements. This adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic story brought new life to the tale of the boy raised by gorillas in the African jungle. Here are eleven interesting facts about Disney’s “Tarzan” that highlight the film’s unique qualities and its impact on animation:

  1. Innovative Animation: “Tarzan” featured groundbreaking animation techniques, particularly the use of “Deep Canvas,” a technology that allowed artists to create three-dimensional backgrounds.
  2. Phil Collins’ Soundtrack: The soundtrack, composed by Phil Collins, was critically acclaimed. The song “You’ll Be in My Heart” won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
  3. Character Development: Animators studied real gorillas to create authentic movements and behaviors for the gorilla characters, particularly for Kala and Kerchak.
  4. Tarzan’s Movement: To animate Tarzan’s unique way of moving through the trees, animators took inspiration from skateboarders and surfers rather than traditional vine swinging.
  5. Voice Cast: Tony Goldwyn provided the voice for Tarzan, while Minnie Driver voiced Jane Porter. Glenn Close was the voice of Tarzan’s gorilla mother, Kala.
  6. Rosie O’Donnell’s Role: Comedian Rosie O’Donnell provided the voice for the character of Terk, Tarzan’s close gorilla friend.
  7. Critical and Commercial Success: “Tarzan” was both a critical and commercial success, grossing over $400 million worldwide.
  8. Extensive Research: The production team went on a research trip to Africa to study landscapes and animals, which greatly influenced the film’s visual authenticity.
  9. No Tarzan Yell: The film is notable for not including Tarzan’s iconic yell, a staple of previous adaptations.
  10. Animation Firsts: “Tarzan” was the first Disney animated feature to open at number one at the box office since “Pocahontas” in 1995.
  11. A New Take on Jane: Jane Porter’s character was given more depth and intelligence compared to previous adaptations, making her a more integral part of the story.

These facts reflect the intricate artistry and creativity behind Disney’s “Tarzan,” showcasing how the film pushed the boundaries of animation and storytelling, creating a memorable experience that resonates with audiences of all ages.

The Creation of Disney’s Tarzan

The creation of Disney’s “Tarzan,” released in 1999, marked a significant chapter in the studio’s rich history of animation, blending traditional storytelling with groundbreaking technological advancements. The journey to bring Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic tale to life in animation was a blend of artistic ambition and technical innovation.

Disney’s decision to adapt “Tarzan” into an animated feature was driven by the desire to explore new narrative territories. The story of a man raised by gorillas in the African jungle offered a unique opportunity to delve into themes of identity, family, and belonging, set against a lush and vibrant backdrop. The challenge was to remain faithful to the spirit of the original story while infusing it with Disney’s signature style of heartwarming storytelling and musical grandeur.

A pivotal aspect of “Tarzan’s” development was its animation. The studio sought to push the boundaries of what could be achieved in the realm of animated filmmaking. This ambition led to the development of the revolutionary “Deep Canvas” technology, which allowed animators to create rich, three-dimensional backgrounds. This technology gave “Tarzan” a distinct visual style, immersing viewers in a lush and dynamic environment that was previously unseen in animation. The jungle of “Tarzan” was not just a backdrop; it was a living, breathing world that added depth and realism to the story.

Another crucial element in the creation of “Tarzan” was its music. Disney enlisted the talents of Phil Collins, a choice that would significantly shape the film’s emotional landscape. Collins’ soundtrack, which included the Oscar-winning “You’ll Be in My Heart,” provided a contemporary and soulful undertone to the narrative, resonating deeply with audiences worldwide. The music was not just an accompaniment but an integral part of the storytelling, driving the emotional arcs and themes of the film.

The character design and animation in “Tarzan” were also key focal points. The animators embarked on extensive research, studying the movements and behaviors of gorillas to portray them as authentically as possible. Tarzan’s own movements were inspired by the fluidity and athleticism of surfers and skateboarders. This approach resulted in a Tarzan who was more grounded in reality yet dynamic and expressive in his movements.

The creation of Disney’s “Tarzan” was a harmonious blend of storytelling, music, and technological innovation. It was a testament to Disney’s commitment to pushing the envelope in animation, creating a film that was both a tribute to a classic story and a landmark in the evolution of animated cinema. The result was a film that not only honored the legacy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ character but also stood on its own as a modern classic in the Disney canon.


Exploring the fascinating world of “Tarzan” unveils a rich tapestry of creativity, innovation, and enduring appeal. The film’s blend of dynamic animation, soul-stirring music by Phil Collins, and a narrative that explores profound themes of identity and belonging make “Tarzan” much more than just an animated feature—it’s a cinematic experience that resonates with audiences of all ages.

The unique approach to character movement, the innovative techniques used to create the lush jungle environment, and the emotional depth of the music work in harmony to create a film that is both a visual and auditory feast. “Tarzan” not only entertained but also pushed the boundaries of what animated films could achieve, leaving a lasting impact on the genre and continuing to captivate viewers with its timeless story and groundbreaking animation.

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