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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," 1912.

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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