Epic Disney Watchfest 12: Peter Pan and Tarzan: A Review That Will Never Grow Up and If It Does It Will Be A Gorilla

I thought about trying to come up with some super duper clever intro, but decided that I want to get right to the reviews. So……..REVIEW TIME!!!!!!!! Peter Pan 10148549_1Guys, here’s what was going on when Peter Pan was released in February of 1953: World War II had ended seven and a half years earlier, “The Greatest Generation” was actually the current generation, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, Ian Fleming was planning the release of his first James Bond book (“Casino Royale”), Mount Everest was yet unconquered (it would be scaled just three months later by Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hilary), and Joseph Falk was over a month away from announcing the polio vaccine. Yes – the polio vaccine! I can hardly believe that, when Peter Pan was released, polio was still a substantial threat to the greater human population.

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Mickey Mantle was in full swing when Peter Pan was released.

Click here to purchase Peter Pan on Blu-ray and DVD

In 1953, brutal Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin would finally leave this world (he would pass on March 5th of that year, exactly twenty nine years before I was born), Mickey Mantle would hit a towering 565 ft. home run (the longest ever), Queen Elizabeth II would become Queen Elizabeth II, Chevrolet would roll out their newest sports car called the “Corvette”, and color television sets would go on sale for the first time ever. The cost? Between $1100-1200. That’s $11,200 today. Imagine spending eleven thousand dollars on a television today. Can you say 100-inch 240 hz 3D LED-LCD?? The point is, the world was drastically different when Peter Pan was released. I’m making a big deal about historical context because (a) I believe one must consider the historical context of a film in order to have an accurate perception of it’s quality and (b) I simply believe Disney does such an amazing job of packaging it’s classic animated films that it’s easy to forget just how long ago they were created. So, are you with me? Are we on the same page? Peter Pan and every Disney movie before it are classic films. They are from a different era with different sensibilities. Uh oh, I think I’m boring myself. The bottom line: is Peter Pan good? Yes. Should you watch it? Yes. Is it fair to expect something akin to a modern Pixar production? No. Is it still a charming jewel-of-a-hand-drawn-animation that kids of any age can enjoy? YES. So, Peter Pan – I have no reservations recommending it. It’s overflowing with creativity, beautiful colors, memorable music and a timeless story. Good, good stuff. Time for a deeper look.

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Peter Pan is a cornucopia of creativity.

Creativity: When J.M. Barrie cranked out “Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”, he dipped deep into the well of creativity and pulled out a gigantic bucketful of fantastic. This thing is a cornucopia of originality. I’ve seen Finding Neverland, but I’m still amazed he ever got the idea of some boy who flies, lives on a beautiful enchanted island, fights pirates and never, ever grows up. What a great premise. Throw in Tiger Lilly (great name), Tinkerbell (great name) Captain Hook (great villain and great name) and the Lost Boys (great group name) and this guy was batting 1.000 for real y’all. I am glad that Disney held true to many of Barrie’s conventions in this adaptation – this movie is overflowing with conceptual textures. If variety is the spice of life, consider Disney’s Peter Pan spicy.

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Peter Pan has beautiful artwork.

Colors: This film has really vibrant colors. My buddy Chris has told me on a couple separate occasions that he often loves movies just for the beautiful colors and landscapes. If you are like Chris (I sure am), then you’ll enjoy this movie. The only gripe I have doesn’t even have to do with the colors, but rather with the aspect ratio. This is the last of the full-frame Disney releases (Lady and the Tramp would be released next, in CinemaScope), so there is a limited amount of material shown onscreen. Since the colors are so lush and vibrant, it would’ve been nice to get a widescreen presentation. But, this thing was made before there was even a vaccine for polio – what can you expect??

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It’s a pirate’s life for Captain Hook.

Music: Peter Pan has strong, effective music throughout, the standout songs being “A Pirate’s Life for Me” and “Never Smile at a Crocodile”. I love the use of the clock in “Never Smile at A Crocodile”. Brazle and I both laughed out loud the first time that old reptile showed up a-ticking and a-tocking. It’s fun times. Another memorable song is “What Made the Red Man Red?”. You might be able to tell from the title that the song is completely non-politically correct by modern standards. If you know the words, it’s even more offensive. But, consider the era and it makes more sense. Regardless, as a sheer melody, “What Made the Red Man Red?” is catchy and memorable.

Tinkerbell may look friendly, but she'll try to get Peter by Hook or by crook.

Tinkerbell may LOOK friendly, but she’ll try to get rid of Wendy by Hook or by crook.

Story: The best thing about Peter Pan is the story. The notion of a boy who never grows up is captivating, and the idea that ordinary kids could join him with just a little pixie dust and some happy thoughts is sure to warm the heart of most any audience. The Captain Hook story is also effective; I feel like Hook is one of the premier Disney villains. He has a ferocious temper, hilarious connection with the croc, funny relationship with Smee and devilish cunning when tricking Tinkerbell. Plus, he has no substantial backstory. He’s just kinda always there, fighting Peter Pan. Great stuff. Top everything off with the over-arching storyline of Wendy leaving the nursery and you have gold. The multiple layers of Peter Pan‘s story make it one of the most interesting and memorable of all of Disney’s films, regardless of the era.

In conclusion, Peter Pan is a must-see film. No, it won’t feel exactly like a modern picture, but that doesn’t matter. It still has creativity, beautiful colors, memorable music and a timeless story. Good stuff indeed. 8.1/10. Tarzan

Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan is a really good animated movie. It was the last box office success of the Disney Renaissance, and as such, marked the end of a solid decade of terrific films from the Mouse Guys. Let’s run that decade back. From 1989 to 1999, Disney proceeded to give the world the following films: The Little MermaidThe Rescuers Down UnderBeauty and the BeastAladdinThe Lion King, PocahontasThe Hunchback of Notre DameHerculesMulan, and Tarzan.

Click here to purchase Tarzan on Blu-ray and DVD

Good grief! That’s $3,816,019,354 in box office revenue. If that’s too many decimal places, try this on: NEARLY $4 BILLION. That’s insane. And if you’re thinking the majority of that was earned by the earliest five films……..well, actually, you’re right. But Tarzan turned out to be the strongest showing of the second half of those films, bringing nearly $500 million in box office receipts by itself. That’s strong. Tarzan‘s success isn’t surprising; like I mentioned earlier, it’s a really good film. It has a touching story, enjoyable music, great voice acting and, most of all, beautiful visuals. I give it a solid 7.8/10.

Now for more on what makes Tarzon good, here’s the middle of the article! This middle of the article is brought to you by www.GrantStevensGroup.com! For all your music needs, remember, www.GrantStevensGroup.com!!

Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan of the Apes

Story: I’ve never read “Tarzan of the Apes”, but apparently this picture is based on it. Respect. I wonder if Edgar Rice Burroughs thought his story would someday earn half a billion dollars. Probably not. At any rate, this movie had a great chance of succeeding just by choosing “Tarzan of the Apes” as its basis. ‘What’s that? A plot centered around an orphaned human baby being raised by gorillas? I’m in!’ It really is that simple. People turn out in droves to watch “man meets wild” stuff; it’s like moths being drawn to a porch light!! Check it: you know those “Man swims with polar bear” and “Woman bodily nurses baby liger back from the brink of death” videos on Youtube? They routinely garner millions of views. For serious. Given Youtube’s nonexistence back in 1999, if you think the world wasn’t going to get its “man meets wild” fix from Tarzan, you’re crazy. But getting back to “Tarzan of the Apes”, Disney didn’t follow Burroughs’ story completely. They amped up the drama surrounding Kala’s maternal instincts, and they included an important life lesson on not trusting fellow humans if you’ve been raised deep in the jungle by a pack of gorillas. Those parts are really good. Basically, the story is excellent because it has a guy being raised by gorillas. Really, do you need to know anything else?

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Tarzan displays a level of compassion uncommon for homo sapiens reared by gorillas.

Music: My friend Crystal told me she loves Tarzan because she loves Phil Collins. Indeed, if you love Phil Collins, you’ll probably feel the same way – he’s all over this movie. Actually, Tarzan is unique in that regard. Most pictures during the Disney Renaissance feature Broadway-style songs written by a songwriter with the intention of being performed by characters. Even in The Lion King, pop superstar Elton John’s compositions are written to be performed by characters. In Tarzan, there is virtually no singing from characters. Instead, musical moments consist of Collins rocking out while action takes place onscreen. This gives Tarzan its own distinct flavor, and while it’s a small distinction, it’s a fun one.

Before leaving Tarzan‘s soundtrack, I have to address “You’ll Be In My Heart”. I had no idea that song came from Tarzan. After graduating from high school in 2000, I spent a couple of summers working at PetSmart, and I gotta tell you, PetSmart played that tune incessantly. I always assumed it was from some random adult contemporary album or something; I never would’ve guessed it was from a Disney movie. It’s a legitimately good adult contemporary song! The charts back me up, by the way – “You’ll Be In My Heart” spent nineteen non-consecutive weeks at #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts. How crazy is that? Further, the song gave a Disney production the Oscar for Best Original Song for the sixth time in ten years (Collins was awarded the Academy Award and Golden Globe for his efforts), cementing Disney’s legacy as a bonafide movie-music dynasty. At the end of the day, I still can’t believe it came from Tarzan.

Jane love birds, Tarzan love Jane.

Jane love birds, Tarzan love Jane.

Voice Acting: I don’t address voice acting very much in these reviews, but I felt compelled to address it in this case, as I feel like the casting features some inspired choices. The first two I want to address are Lance Henricksen and Wayne Knight as Kerchak and Tantor, respectively. Genius! I especially love the choice of Henricksen. If you don’t know who he is, he’s the actor best know for playing Bishop in Aliens. This was the first voice acting job, and it lead to him developing a successful voice acting career twenty years after breaking into the biz. The moral of the story: if you have a skill, keep using it. You’ll eventually be appreciated. Proverbs 22:29.

Other good choices include Rosie O’Donnell as Terk and Glenn Close as Kala. They both bring their characters to life but in different ways. Close makes Kala seem warm and loving, and Rosie makes Terk seem…..well, like Rosie. Take that however you want. I also really like Minnie Driver as Jane – she has such a pretty speaking voice. Whoa, I just realized something – this movie has two Knights in the cast!! Wayne Knight and Sir Nigel Hawthorne, an actual knight!! Alright, I think that’s enough on voice acting.

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Young Tarzan showing off the Deep Canvas.

Visuals: I’ve read that the visuals of Tarzan are completely amazing but I can’t tell you for sure. Why can’t I tell you this for sure? Because an unfortunate thing happened when Brazle, Hayley and I tried to watch it: Amazon Prime decided to stream at under 360p. The picture was less-than-crisp (understatement alert) and often really muddy. But, even in that diminished quality, it was clear that there were some breathtaking graphics going on. It’s logical – jungles and forest always work well for showcasing art design as they have so many different textures. I mean trees, vines, waterfalls, ponds, vistas, dense brush….those things, if done well, can really pop moreso than a benign urban setting (see Great Mouse Detective, The). Tarzan has all those things in spades.

One more thing about the visuals: this film had some of the most sophisticated CGI yet featured in traditional animation. If you recall, starting with The Black Cauldron back in 1985, Disney had begun to use CGI for various elements in its traditionally-animated films. By the time Tarzan came around, they’d perfected the CAPS process and pioneered a brand new piece of software called Deep Canvas. Deep Canvas allows artists and animators to create fully CG backgrounds that have characteristics of hand-painted work, especially brush strokes. The main advantage to this is it allows animators to move the camera around a character (difficult to do with hand-drawn backgrounds) without making it obvious the backgrounds aren’t hand-drawn. Cool stuff.

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Tarzan and Jane swing through the Deep Canvas.

I really wish I could’ve seen the fruit of Deep Canvas in all its glory. At some point I’ll have to rewatch it. Maybe I’ll pick up a copy when/if it’s released on blu ray. NOTE: I was able to eventually resolve the issue with Amazon Prime, but by that time, it was way too late to rewatch the whole thing. I was able to see some scenes before hitting the hay, and from what I saw, it’s a great-looking movie.

So, if Tarzan marks the end of the Disney Renaissance, at least Disney went out with a bang! The film has a great story, wonderful music, good voice acting, and wonderful visuals. I recommend it to every audience. 7.8/10. Next Up: Alice in Wonderland and The Emperor’s New Groove  Please comment below, and feel free to email me your thoughts at grant@grantstevensgroup.com. Grant Stevens is a dude who loves watching movies and eating hamburgers. Actually, he loves Mexican food more than hamburgers. Okay, so Grant is a dude who loves watching movies and eating Mexican food. In fact, he could go for a Flaming Lips from Big Truck Tacos RIGHT NOW. When he’s not watching movies and eating, Grant also writes songs. Check out his music at www.grantstevensgroup.com.

One thought on “Epic Disney Watchfest 12: Peter Pan and Tarzan: A Review That Will Never Grow Up and If It Does It Will Be A Gorilla

  1. Pingback: 20 Facts Not Even Die-Hard Disney Fans Would Know - Just Girly Things

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