Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 


Howard E. Green' book, The Tarzan Chronicles, has a foreword by Phil Collins, who wrote the songs for the Disney film, the latest in a long 'chronicle' of the Tarzan legend. ANDREW L. URBAN flips through the 190 page book, in which Glenn Close explains why she loved being the voice of Kala, the ape mother to Tarzan. And animator Glen Keane reveals the central metaphor that drove him to animate the character.

Measuring 34 cm x 26 cm, this is a sumptuous coffee table book for a largish coffee table. The hard cover illustration is of rich jungle foliage, with the word Tarzan in gold. In the middle of the hand-made jungle is the rough drawing for the animated Tarzan in charcoal. The drama of the cover carries on through the book, which relies on a combination of dynamic design elements to draw us in.

"work in progress"

One double page spread has but one paragraph of text, the space filled with a collection of drawings - rather sophisticated doodles - that are work in progress materials for the film. Paper texture changes and personal notes between the various collaborators in the making of the film (including hand written notes from Phil Collins during the preparation process) add depth to the feeling that we're looking through a diary of the filmmakers' inner thoughts.

For example, extracts from the journals of animators and others working on the film are peppered throghout. One entry, July 23, 1998 from co-director Kevin Lima's journal, gives an insight into how the process of animation turns on more than drawings:

"When I read the book, certain images revealed themselves and I am quite proud that one in particular has stayed with us to the end: the hand-to-hand metaphor. It's an image that externalises the main character's internal journey. Talk is cheap, but an image burns into the soul and this one burns strong. A baby's hand inside a gorilla's led to a metaphor that is at the soul of our Tarzan."

"elaborate, colourful and fascinating"

The book is elaborate, colourful and fascinating as both a visual and textual reference, but more than that, it reveals both the power of the Tarzan creation and the passion with which this team went about making an animated film centred on the character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Indeed, the book reprints a letter from the Secretary-Treasurer of Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc, Danton Burroughs, to animator Glen Keane, which, among other things, says; "You have without a doubt mastered the portrayal of Tarzan. If my Grandfather were alive, he would embrace you for your keen awareness of his creation." High praise.

But it wasn't easy to get there, as co-director Chris Buck laments (February 11, 1997) when he "felt like hiding under a rock somewhere" after a work in progress screening that did not elicit laughs as hoped, and had the audience file out in glum silence. "I know we've got a good movie," he wrote bravely, "I just hope we can find it."

And they did. The book, which impresses as more than just expanded production notes, documents, informs, entertains and amazes in its own right. It ends with a full listing of credits - but is memorable for its visual dynamics and editorial content.

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Congratulations to David Ross of Maroochydore, Qld, who is the lucky winner of The Tarzan Chronicles book

Winners of CD soundtracks are:
Belinda Yench
Carina 4152

Jacqualine Watchman
Woombye QLD 4559

Nicole Raast


6. John Pearson
Frankston VIC 3199

Alecia Rudge
Bonnet Bay, 2226 NSW

Jerry Dohnal
Hurstville NSW 2220

Pat Toovey
Welby 2575 NSW

Lucienne Dewsbury,
Newnham Tas. 7248

Melinda Standfield
Glenelg, SA 5045

Prizes are being sent by Buena Vista International.

There have been many kinds of JANE in Tarzan's history, as Jeff Sipe tracks her through the past 82 years of Tarzan stories.

See our reviews of Disney's TARZAN


Howard E. Green works in the Disney studio publicity and marketing team, as Vice President of Studio Communications. He has written the official press materials for every animated film from the studio over the past 20 years.

The Tarzan Chronicles

A Welcome Book, Hyperion, New York.

Available Dymocks and other major bookstores; RRP $80

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