A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tarzan is a 1999 Disney movie. Several important sympathetic characters die in this film, some off-screen and some onscreen. In separate instances a baby gorilla and Tarzan’s parents are killed by a rampaging leopard. Though these incidents occur off-screen, in both cases the aftermath is clear: grieving gorilla parents coming to terms with their loss, and Tarzan’s parents’ lifeless bodies seen surrounded by bloody paw prints on the floor of their house. There's also a climactic onscreen death of the heroic leader of the gorilla band, shot by a scheming human. There’s lots of cartoon action: an escape from a burning ship; the leopard’s fierce threat to the animal kingdom in numerous scenes; Tarzan’s fight to the death with the leopard; rampaging frightened elephants; and, finally, villainous humans attacking and trapping Tarzan and his gorilla family, resulting in a lengthy final battle.
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What's the story?
TARZAN begins with two sets of mothers and fathers care for their babies. One set is human, shipwrecked, and making a new home for themselves in a tree. The other parents are gorillas, raising their baby in the gorilla community. When the human baby's parents and the baby gorilla are killed by a tiger, the gorilla mother, Kala (voiced by Glenn Close), adopts the human baby and raises him as her own. Her mate Kerchak, the leader of the gorillas, agrees reluctantly, but insists that the boy is an outsider, who can never be one of them. The boy, called Tarzan by Kala, is hurt by Kerchak's snub, and tries desperately to fit in. He hurtles through trees at lightning speed and even walks on his knuckles. He's comfortable in his world until more humans come ashore, bringing with them curiosities good and bad. While Jane (Minnie Driver) makes the human world tempting, the hunters and their cruelty draw him back to the jungle. Which life will he choose?
Is it any good?
Although there's some pretty serious peril and a few upsetting moments, most kids will be charmed by this version of the popular story. Disney's engaging animated epic owes as much to The Lion King and the tale of the ugly duckling as it does to the Johnny Weissmuller live-action series or the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels.
The storytelling is solid and the characters are memorable, especially Rosie O'Donnell as Tarzan's trouble-loving gorilla friend and Nigel Hawthorne as the bumbling professor. Kids will immediately be drawn in to this version because of its pace and action. Tarzan whips through trees and slides down their trunks like Tony Hawk (indeed the animators watched videos of skaters as inspiration). The music is catchy, too. Phil Collins won an Oscar for the tearjerker "You'll Be in My Heart."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Tarzan and his life between two worlds. Do you think he belongs with the apes or with humans? How did he adapt to life with the apes? Why wasn't he accepted right away? Why does an ape decide to raise Tarzan?
Have you seen any other versions of this story? Which do you like best?
The animators were inspired by skateboarders when they created Tarzan's scenes swinging through the trees. Can you see any skateboarding moves in the animation?
- In theaters: June 27, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: October 18, 2005
- Cast: Glenn Close, Minnie Driver, Tony Goldwyn
- Directors: Chris Buck, Kevin Lima
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Wild Animals
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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