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BACK TO BASICS: DISNEY FINALLY MAKE THE APE MAN THE KIND.

MORE than 61 years ago, Edgar Rice Burroughs had a dream to make an animated film about an orphaned boy brought up in the jungle by apes.

He pictured his hero talking to the animals and christened him Tarzan.

It has taken 47 live action films for his vision to be finally realised.

Disney have added their magic to Burroughs' dream to produce one of their greatest animated epics.

The film, starring the voices of Glenn Close, Minnie Driver, Brian Blessed and songs by Phil Collins, has taken $170 million in America.

This version of Tarzan isn't saccharine sweet, nor is it a musical.

And Tarzan is not a monosyllabic Neanderthal who grunts: "Me Tarzan, You Jane."

Disney have based the film around the concept of the family - how Tarzan is adopted by apes, but falls in love with a human girl.

Thomas Schumacher, president of Walt Disney Feature Animation, credits Burroughs' genius with the success of the animated Tarzan.

He says: "What struck me most when reading his book was that he had created the perfect template for an animated film.

"Here is a book that cries out to be animated, yet we're the first film-makers to have ever taken Tarzan from page to screen and presented the character as Burroughs intended.

"He is at one with the animals, he talks to them. In other film versions, this connection is marginalised with Tarzan riding an elephant or having a chimpanzee on his shoulder. Now we have Tarzan speaking with them, learning from them."

The first Tarzan was filmed in 1918 - six years after Burroughs published Tarzan of the Apes in All-Story Magazine - for $400.

Elmo Lincoln took the title role and the movie was one of the first in Hollywood history to make more than $1 million.

Afterwards, actors such as Johnny Weissmuller donned the loincloth, but Burroughs, who died in 1950, was never satisfied with the screen versions of his character.

But his grandson Danton reckons the new movie would have pleased his grandfather. He says: "It was great to see my grandfather's characters portrayed as he truly wrote and described them in his books. He would have been thrilled to see this terrific adaptation."

However, Disney have taken one or two little liberties to bring the legend up to date.

Tarzan does not get around by swinging from vine to vine - instead, he SURFS. Animating Tarzan was left to Glen Keane, who was helped by a team of more than 100 at Disney's Paris studio. It was him who came up with that particular quirk.

Keane, who has been with Disney for 24 years and is known for Beauty And The Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Pocahontas, says: "My teenage son was very much into skateboarding and watching videos of extreme sports like snowboarding. I began thinking Tarzan must be a bit of a daredevil.

"I decided to do my animation to the old surfing tune, Wipe Out, and the Deep Canvas (a revolutionary technique which allows the two-dimensional characters to move believably through the jungle) team worked with me to choreograph the test and arrange the trees so that I could have him shooting the curl and other surfing moves."

Tarzan is not the only one who has been modernised - Jane is no longer the helpless soul dependent on Tarzan for survival.

Minnie Driver, whose voice is behind the animation, says: "I didn't want Jane to be a boring Victorian heroine, the sort of damsel in distress that we've seen in other Tarzan films."

Actor Tony Goldwyn lends his voice to Tarzan, while Alex D. Linz voices him as a five-year-old, and Glenn Close is the voice of the other woman in Tarzan's life - Kala, the 300lb mother ape who adopts the orphaned Tarzan.

The actress, who played Cruella De Vil in Disney's live action version of 101 Dalmatians, also duets with Phil Collins in one of Tarzan's most touching tunes, You'll Be In My Heart. She says: "It is a beautiful little lullaby."

British actor Brian Blessed is Clayton - a larger-than-life adventurer with a hidden agenda - while Nigel Hawthorne plays eccentric Professor Porter, father of Jane and noted authority on gorilla behaviour (although he's never actually seen one).

In all great Disney films, there are fun characters we can all laugh with ... and Tarzan is no exception.

Terk, an affable, wise-cracking ape and Tarzan's best friend, is voiced by American chat-show host Rosie O'Donnell, while Seinfeld's Wayne Knight is hilarious as neurotic elephant Tantor.

Tarzan is not a musical, but there are five cracking numbers from Collins, who went to great lengths to get everything right.

One of his songs, Trashin' The Camp, features Tarzan's gorilla pal Terk as the apes invade the human camp and to get the sound he wanted, the singer used a typewriter bell, breaking glass, ripping papers, a phonograph horn ... and his own head.

Collins, who also had to sing four of his songs in French, German, Italian and Spanish for the European markets, reveals: "I was going round the studio bashing different things and ended up smacking my own fists against my forehead to get a particular sound.

"We only did a couple of takes of it, but the next day, my head was all red."

Tarzan began pre-production in 1995 when director Kevin Lima was approached to make an animated version of the famous tale.

Deciding which part of the Tarzan story to tell was the first hurdle for the team - Burroughs' book offered lots of episodes and adventures, as well as an ending that took the lead character out of his jungle environment.

Lima recalls: "We asked ourselves what do we want to say that's different from what other Tarzan movies had said? We thought one of the things we could do would be to explore the idea of family. We also decided we wanted the animals to talk."

But the turning point came when the animators went on their own jungle adventure to capture the mood of one of the world's most unspoiled environments ... and found a real-life Tarzan-like story.

They toured the animal reserves in Kenya, visited the mountain gorillas in Uganda and observed Bwindi's Impenetrable Forest, but the highlight came at the Sweetwater Chimp Sanct-uary. Park manager Vince Smith took them to his home, where they met his five-year-old son Oliver ... and a family of chimps that roamed freely on the property.

Seeing Oliver play with his chimp siblings helped the Disney team visualise how the young Tarzan would relate to his gorilla family.

Chris Buck, best known for his work on The Lion King and Aladdin, admits: "The trip to Africa was life- changing for us - I don't think we could have made this movie if we hadn't gone."

Scots will be among the first this side of the Atlantic to see this modern classic. The European premiere will be hosted by the Daily Record, Disney and Radio Clyde on October 3 at the Odeon Quay, Glasgow. Tickets will only be available through the Record and Clyde. All proceeds will go to charity. It goes on general release on October 8.DISNEY'S TOP TENThe wonderful world of Disney has thrilled generations of children. Here are their Top Ten films, based on box-office performances.THE LION KING (1994)DISNEY'S biggest earner follows Simba, a lion cub whose father is killed. Full of grief he leaves, but returns to take his rightful crownTARZAN (1999)THIS new release has taken the States by storm and some say the ape man could topple Lion King Simba from his box-office throneALADDIN (1992)MAGICAL Middle Eastern tale about a street urchin who falls in love with a princess who can only marry a princeA BUGS LIFE (1998)FACED with the task of finding warriors to save his colony from grasshoppers, misfit ant Flik recruits a group of circus troupe bugsTOY STORY (1995)SPACEMAN Buzz Lightyear and cowboy Woody battle it out to be leader in a kid's bedroom in the first film to be made on computerBEAUTY & THE BEAST (1991)BELLE, whose father Maurice is imprisoned by a bad-tempered beast, offers to take his place in this romantic fairy talePOCAHONTAS (1995)THE daughter of a Native American tribe chief and an English soldier share a romance, while his fellow soldiers to battle with her tribeHUNCHBACK (1996)The Hunchback Of Notre Dame tells the tale of the deformed bell-ringer with a heart of gold who falls in love with a gypsy girlMULAN (1998)IN order to save her father from death, a Chinese maiden dresses up as a man and takes his place in the army and becomes a heroBAMBI (1942)THE tale of the fawn whose mother is shot by hunter is still a firm favourite. Heartbreaking and heartwarming all at onceALL-STAR CAST LINE UP FOR RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLEBRIAN BLESSEDBRIAN relished the chance to play an adventurer in the new blockbuster. The giant actor has starred in everything from TV's Z- Cars to Flash Gordon and has even climbed Everest.MINNIE DRIVERMINNIE loved playing Jane. She says: "I don't normally laugh at what I do, but I was on the floor laughing at Jane. Doing her voice has been one of my all-time favourite jobs."GLENN CLOSEGLENN, who also starred in 101 Dalmatians, plays 300lb ape Kala. She says: "As a child, I fantasised about knocking on Walt Disney's door and asking him if I could be in his movies."PHIL COLLINSPHIL follows Elton John, who was behind the music in Lion King. Phil says: "I pushed myself into a much more dramatic area than I would normally go. I felt I'd grown up a bit as a writer."
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Fulton, Rick
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 17, 1999
Words:1612
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