The 900-pound gorilla (so to speak) of Computer Generated Imagery really begins to make it self felt in this feature. CGI had been used by Disney as far back as The Great Mouse Detective in 1986, and in scenes here and there in all the movies after that. But this one relies on a program called Deep Canvas for most of its backgrounds, which are three dimensional virtual spaces and allow the hand-drawn characters to move in any direction through the created universe. Toy Story, the first totally-CGI animated feature, was already four years old. It was quite an achievement, but all the surfaces in that movie were hard-edged. Deep Canvas allowed for a more organic feel to the environments, and it’s quite impressive to see.
As for the movie itself, I’d say it falls into the upper midrange of Disney animations. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s not bad at all. Its major accomplishment is the animation of Tarzan himself. His body language is pure gorilla, but of course his arms aren’t long enough and his legs are too long to truly walk like a gorilla, so the animators had to compensate for that. I suspect they filmed a lot of people walking on their knuckles to get that look, and they nailed it. And here, Tarzan not only swings though the trees on convenient vines, he surfs along moss-covered branches on his bare feet. I didn’t care for that too much, it was such an obvious suck-up to the surfing and skateboarding crowd. Some of those branches even grow in spirals, so he can shoot through a leafy pipeline. The usual liberties are taken with the story line, which bothers me not at all since I never liked the Tarzan books enough to get past Chapter Two in any of them. The voice cast is good, but as usual I would never have been able to name them, except maybe for Rosie O’Donnell as a tomboy ape. Minnie Driver is Jane and Glenn Close is the gorilla mother. I had no idea until I saw their names in the credits.