Sunday, March 18, 2012


Following up on my now well documented excitement over John Carter of Mars, I'm reading Master of Adventure: The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burrough by Richard A. Lupoff. In the introduction to the newest edition, Lupoff relates a story of being in the hospital and stumbling across the Disney series The Legend of Tarzan while channel surfing.

"To my utter delight I realized that that they were produced with taste, care, and a degree of respect for the Burroughs originals. Best of all, there was a high fantasy content in the cartoons.

"It had always been my chief complaint about Tarzan movies that they were reduced to simplistic jungle adventures. The great appeal of the Burroughs books had been the author's vivid and creative powers of imagination. Lost races, exotic species, strange powers, magical potions, miniature cities, ancient colonies of Rome or of Atlantis surviving in the depths of the African jungle... and the people behind these cartoons were taking full advantage of the freedom their medium. The cartoons were a pleasure, and revelation, to me."

So, I set TiVo to record some of this magical show for me. I mean, really, that seems like quite a recommendation to me.

At this time, I've seen three episodes. None have quite lived up to that promise. So far, it reminds me of Disney's earlier TaleSpin, not in an entirely unpleasant way. As none of them have involved any high fantasy content, I'll continue to follow it for a while.

In the meantime, I decided to check out the 1999 Tarzan feature cartoon. I'd always been ambivalent at best about the so-called Disney Renaissance, and this one being at the end, came after whatever interest I had waned completely.

I liked it.

Ok, I was totally a sucker for it, and the strained father-son relationship stuff. I thought it was a treat to see how they unfolded it, and some of the watercolor design, whether true watercolor or not, I can't say, is beautiful and made me wish I had seen it at a theater, where I'm sure that was put to really fine effect.

If I wanted to argue with myself, I'd note that it was written with a clear formula in mind, and it definitely does not get into any of the high fantasy elements I was still hoping might have gotten into this. It's a solid start, and if I end up taking more from "The Legend of Tarzan" more, I'll take this as a fantastic pilot.

Not to mention, it restored my interest to go back and see some post-"Renaissance" Disney. I remember I even meant to see Treasure Planet at the time, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire has potential... and, hey! Did the "Renaissance" end because they started making "boy movies" instead of "girl movies"?

I can't be the first person to think that.

UPDATE: This morning, TiVo presented me with the episode Tarzan and the Mysterious Visitor.

This episode featured Edgar Rice Burroughs, voiced by Steven Weber, blocked after the success of A Princess of Mars, his debut.

On his quest for inspiration, we are provided with references to stories such as Tarzan at the Earth's Core and Tarzan and the Foreign Legion, told by characters such as a semi-mad Samuel T. Philander, voiced by Craig Ferguson and Hugo & Hooft, voiced by SCTV veterans Dave Thomas and Joe Flaherty.

The episode serves mostly as a clip show, or perhaps merely as an advertisement. As the latter, to this potential fan, it was quite effective. This will assuredly be staying on my TiVo selections.

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