The Legend: Rediscovering Tarzan
It takes a lot of Disney magic to bring a
great story to life. Many different elements must come together
seamlessly to produce what is seen on the big screen. From artists
to animators, voice talent to technicians, everyone plays a crucial
part in completing the picture.
"He could spring 20 feet across space at the dizzy height
of the forest top and grab with unerring precision and without
apparent jar, a limb waving wildly in the path of an approaching
tornado. --Edgar Rice Burroughs, "Tarzan of the Apes,"
It was 87 years ago that Edgar Rice Burroughs first introduced
the character of Tarzan to the world. After making his first appearance
in the October 1912 issue of "All Story Magazine," Tarzan
was an instant sensation.
Since then he has been featured in magazines, comic books, 26
authorized novels, radio and television programs, and more than
43 motion pictures. His popularity knows no bounds, and his adventures
continue to thrill and excite today's audiences.
It was just this timeless appeal and rich story that cried out
to be produced with animation. Only animation could capture his
physical abilities and his communication with animals. Disney
went to its top artist, Glen Keane, to bring this dynamic new
Tarzan to life.
When Glen Keane was first approached by Disney, he realized it
would be a challenge to deliver a new Tarzan to the world. "I
knew that I didn't want to do something that had been done before,"
he recounts. "And then I discovered that the Burroughs book
was really different from any of the Tarzan films I had seen.
Around this same time, my son was into watching extreme sports,
which showed guys snowboarding off cliffs, and other amazing feats."
Keane knew his Tarzan would be motivated by the same adrenaline
rush his son got from extreme sports, so he rolled together the
agility and body types of surfers, in-line skaters, and snowboarders
to create Tarzan's physique.
Keane and his team prepared for Tarzan by studying animal movement.
In one exercise, each artist took a specific animal and transposed
the characteristics of its motion into Tarzan's body. Among the
animals selected were a panther, a leopard, a gorilla, a chimpanzee,
a gibbon (wait, what's a gibbon?), a snake, and a baboon. The
exercise proved both productive and humorous, and the outcome
was a Tarzan that moved with the swiftness of a jungle animal
and possessed the strength of Michael Jordan -- the ultimate athlete.
And taking a cue from Dennis Rodman, Keane knew he couldn't give
his superstar just an ordinary set of locks, so he endowed Tarzan
with Rastafarian dreadlocks to go with his jungle appearance.
In the end, Tarzan evolved into a handsome and athletic hero like
no one had ever seen.
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