Tarzan appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie offered a consistently terrific visual experience.
Sharpness looked absolutely immaculate from start to finish; I never noticed the slightest amount of softness or haziness at any point. Moire effects and jagged edges were also blissfully absent, and I noticed no signs of edge enhancement. The print itself appeared perfectly clean and smooth; I saw no signs of grain, speckles, scratches, nicks, hairs or other defects.
Colors were absolutely wondrous, and they displayed fabulous depth, clarity, and vivacity. Jungle greens dominated, but we also got lovely yellows from Jane’s dress and some fiery reds during the climax. All looked dynamic and strong. Black levels seemed deep and rich, and shadow detail looked appropriately heavy but not too thick. I found no reason to complain, as this was an excellent transfer.
Matters became more complex when I examined the audio of Tarzan. This title has had a rough history on DVD. The original movie-only DVD had a problem in which it reversed the front and rear left channels. Disney fixed that for the original Collector’s Edition DVD but the disc still received complaints due to the presence of only a Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack. Folks griped because there was no dedicated LFE channel for that mix.
For this 2005 DVD, Disney finally changed the situation. In addition to the original Dolby Digital 5.0 track, this one also included a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. As one might expect, the major difference stemmed from the reproduction of low-end material, as the 5.1 track presented far stronger bass response. However, that didn’t need to be the case.
Normally when you listen to a 5.0 soundtrack – or 2.0, or 1.0 – your receiver will take the low-end information and send it to the subwoofer on its own. However, that didn’t occur for the 5.0 mix of Tarzan because the DVD presented it as a 5.1 track. Your DVD and your receiver believe that Tarzan presented two 5.1 streams.
If you’re scratching your head, here’s the scoop. Both mixes have been encoded as 5.1; that’s what the DVD read and my receiver displayed. However, the 5.0 track simply lopped off the subwoofer information. That meant nothing went to that speaker, and the 5.0 version lacked substantial low-end. Oh, some bass still appeared, but it all came from the main channels and it lacked much impact.
This meant that the 5.1 track offered a much stronger experience. For both, the soundfield seemed engulfing and active, with a nicely spatial image that offered well-placed sounds. The rears provided a good level of information and were active participants in the mix. The various action scenes worked best, but the general ambience was also smooth and well-defined.
Sound quality seemed excellent. Dialogue was consistently clear and natural. Lines seemed neatly integrated with the image, something that's not always easy to do in animation. The music was smooth and well-rounded, while effects were realistic and detailed, with some very good bass at times.
If you listened to the 5.1 mix, that is. That version offered a strong auditory experience and merited an “A-“. For the 5.0 track, the diminished low-end wasn’t a fatal flaw, but that mix lacked much impact and would only deserve a “B-“.
What went wrong? The original disc did it right and offered an actual 5.0 mix that sent information to the subwoofer, but here someone screwed up and lopped off the bass. In any case, the new one’s 5.1 track worked well and was at least as good – if not better – than the original release’s audio.
One area in which the 2005 DVD fails to live up to the CE relates to extras. The 2005 version includes some of the old supplements – and a few new ones – but loses many pieces from the CE. I’ll note new components with an asterisk, so if you see no star, that means the element also appears on the original two-disc set.
We start with a retread: an audio commentary from producer Bonnie Arnold and directors Kevin Lima and Chris Buck. All three sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. They dig into a wealth of issues such as the music and working with Phil Collins, characters and story, the performances of the voice actors and casting, depictions of animals and the jungle, and animation concerns/technical details like the “Deep Canvas” process.
In other words, they cover pretty much everything we’d expect from this sort of track. They also add decent humor and interact in a lively manner. I think we find more praise than I’d like, but I still can’t offer too many complaints about this informative discussion.
Called “Abandoned Sequences” on the original DVD, we find three deleted scenes. These start with a one-minute and 50-second introduction from Bonnie Arnold as she discusses the reasons these segments didn't make the cut. We get "Alternate Opening" (two minutes, 15 seconds); "Terk Finds the Human Camp" (two minutes, 15 seconds); and "Riverboat Fight" (three minutes, 35 seconds). All exist in the realm of storyreels, as they never made it past the film’s planning stages. In the absence of actual deleted animation, these offer a great look at other directions the movie might have taken.
Under the banner of “Music and More”, three music videos appear. We find Phil Collins’ "You'll Be In My Heart", which offers an odd clip. Collins does the usual lip-synching, but in an unconventional manner, with some high-tech effects involved. This video also barely relates the existence of the film; we see a rough sketch of Tarzan as graffiti in one scene, and some human participants replicate the "hand-joining" facet of the movie, but these are almost subliminal forms of promotion. One could easily watch this four-minute and 18-second clip and not know it has a connection to Tarzan.
Such is not the case with the video for Collins’ "Strangers Like Me". This offers a three-minute clip that pretty closely follows the usual Disney "video for a song from an animated movie" formula: lots of fairly blah shots of lip-synching intercut with many scenes from the film itself. Yawn.
An alternate version of “Strangers” appears as well via a take by *Everlife. This three-minute, 30-second piece shows the group of rockin’ babes (imagine younger, hotter Joan Jetts) as they lip-synch in a live setting; we also get some movie snippets. They’re more attractive than Collins, but it’s a boring video, and their cover’s a glossy attempt at edgy rock Disney-style. That ain’t good. (And what’s with the band’s name? It makes them sound like a Christian rock group.)
“Music and More” ends with Studio Sessions With Phil Collins and 'N Sync, a two-minute and five-second snippet that combines shots of those improbable partners recording in the studio with some interview clips. If you just can't get enough of those teeny-bopper boy bands, you'll love this. As for me, I thought it was a bit dull.
Under “Games and Activities”, we find two separate components. *Terk’s Tree-Surfing Challenge breaks into three smaller areas. It gives us “Jungle Memory”, “Banana Round-Up” and “Clayton’s Trap”. The first requires you to remember movie characters, while the second offers a simple reflex game. “Trap” combines the two. None of them are challenging or much fun.
“Games and Activities” also presents a *DisneyPedia entry called “Living in the Jungle”. Similar features appear on other DVDs, as this teaches us about various animals like gorillas, leopards, baboons, and elephants. The five-minute and 54-second program should offer minor education for the kiddies.
The DVD opens with a few ads. We get clips for Lady and the Tramp, The Wild Shaggy Dog, Valiant, and Studio Ghibli Films. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with ads for Old Yeller, Kronk’s New Groove, Power Rangers SPD, Kermit’s 50th Anniversary, and Toy Story 2.
Tarzan isn't a perfect movie or a perfect DVD. However, it's solid on both accounts. The film itself seems to improve with extra viewings, and it looks and sounds absolutely fantastic on this DVD. A few good supplements round out the set, with a very nice audio commentary as the highlight.
If you don’t already have the prior Collector’s Edition of Tarzan, I’d go with this one. However, those who possess the previous 2-DVD package won’t find much reason to repurchase the film. It offered similar picture and audio, and it also included many more supplements. It remains the best Tarzan out there.