People have perpetually shown fascination towards stories involving the existence of human beings in the wild, adopting animal-like mannerisms and suffering the necessary changes in order to mingle with animals, thus ensuring survival. The theme has been prolific as a basis for entertainment productions, such as The Jungle Book or Tarzan, the latter inspiring an animated series as well as an animated film, released in 1999 by Walt Disney Pictures.
Tarzan’s peculiar story begins with his life taking an unexpected turn when still a baby, aboard a ship with his parents. As the ship catches on fire, the young couple and their son manage to escape and find their way to the nearest shore, which is a west-African rainforest, where the baby’s parents build a tree house to dwell in. Unfortunately they are eaten by a tiger and their son is “adopted” by a gorilla named Kala, who names dim Tarzan and raises him from infancy to adulthood, which gives him the opportunity to befriend many animals, such as gorillas Kerchak (who is wary of him at first )and Terk, a young female, and male elephant Tantor. When he becomes an adult, Tarzan kills the tiger responsible for his parent’s death and gains a better status among the animals.
Their peaceful, slow-paced life comes to an end when a group of English people with unknown intentions set up camp in the vicinity, namely Professor Porter, interested in studying the local wildlife, his daughter Jane and a dodgy individual named Clayton, who acts as their guide but is in fact a poacher and is looking for gorillas to capture. After saving Jane from a pack of baboons, Tarzan befriends the group and is initiated into speaking their language, and they gradually win his trust, amplified by his growing love for Jane, which is reciprocated. Clayton sees in Tarzan the perfect opportunity to get his hands on a few gorillas, and thus tries to persuade him to lead the group to them. At first Tarzan is reluctant, as a result of cautious Kerchak’s warnings, but in the end, very enthusiastic about his closeness with Jane, he gives in.
The confrontation is inevitable and Clayton brings along some help, consisting of a number of poachers and some related, paraphernalia, such as cages meant to hold the gorillas. But after a long struggle, which results in Kerchek being killed, the animals, together with Tarzan, Jane and professor Porter, are successful in defeating the poachers and imprisoning them in their own cages.
When peace is at last restored, Tarzan and Jane say their good-byes, as Jane and her father are meant to board a ship and return to England. However, at the last minute, Jane (also encouraged by her father to follow her heart) decides to stay in the jungle, and professor Porter joins her.
As well as captivating the public with an alluring and emotional story, this animation raises important issues such as the similarities between humans and animals, poaching and the preservation of the natural landscape. Although among the antagonists there are both animals and humans, the film clearly highlights the difference between a natural threat and the deviousness of the threat posed by the people who have no respect for nature itself.