This Tarzan Original Concept Art Used in the Disney Feature captures the moody atmosphere of Tarzan as he contemplates his surroundings, Edgar Rice Burroughs style.
Tarzan is a 1999 American animated drama adventure film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation for Walt Disney Pictures. The 37th Disney animated feature film and the last film produced during the Disney Renaissance era, it is based on the story Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is the first animated major motion picture version of the Tarzan story. Directed by Chris Buck and Kevin Lima with a screenplay by Tab Murphy, Bob Tzudiker, and Noni White, Tarzan features the voices of Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn Close, and Rosie O'Donnell with Brian Blessed, Lance Henriksen, Wayne Knight, and Nigel Hawthorne.
Pre-production of Tarzan began in 1995 with Kevin Lima selected as director, being later joined by animator Chris Buck the same year. Following a first draft by Tab Murphy, Bob Tzudiker, Noni White, and Dave Reynolds were brought in to re-construct the third act and add additional humor to the screenplay. English musician Phil Collins was recruited to compose and record songs which were integrated with a score by Mark Mancina. Meanwhile, the production team embarked on a research trip to Uganda and Kenya to study the gorillas. Animation for the film was done in California, Orlando, Florida, and Paris with Deep Canvas, the pioneering computer animation software system, predominantly used to create three-dimensional backgrounds.
Tarzan was released to a positive reaction from critics, who praised the film's animation and music. Against a production budget of $130 million (then the most expensive animated film ever made until Disney's Treasure Planet in 2002, which cost $140 million), the film grossed $448.2 million worldwide, becoming the fifth-highest film release in 1999, the second-highest animation release of 1999 behind Toy Story 2 (1999), and the first Disney animated feature to open at first place at the North American box office since Pocahontas (1995). The film has led to many derived works, such as a Broadway adaptation, a television series, and two direct-to-video films: Tarzan & Jane (2002) and Tarzan II (2005).
The animators were split into two teams, one in Paris and one in Burbank. The 6000 mile distance and difference in time zones posed challenges for collaboration, especially for scenes with Tarzan and Jane. Glen Keane was the supervising animator for Tarzan at the Paris studio, while Ken Duncan was the supervising animator for Jane at the studio in Burbank. To make coordinating scenes with multiple characters easier, the animators used a system called a "scene machine" that could send rough drawings between the two animation studios. Meanwhile, following production on Mulan, two hundred animators at the Feature Animation Florida satellite studio provided character animation and special effects animation where the filmmakers had to discuss their work through daily video conferences among the three studios.
Keane was inspired to make Tarzan "surf" through the trees because of his son's interest in extreme sports, and he began working on a test scene. The directors expressed concern that Tarzan would be made into a "surfer dude", but when Keane revealed the test animation to them they liked it enough to use it in the film during the "Son of Man" sequence. Although Keane initially thought that Tarzan would be easy to animate because he only wears a loincloth, he realized that he would need a fully working human musculature while still being able to move like an animal. To figure out Tarzan's movements, the Paris animation team studied different animals in order to transpose their movements onto him. They also consulted with a professor on anatomy. This resulted in Tarzan being the first Disney character to accurately display working muscles.
To prepare for animating the gorillas, the animation team attended lectures on primates, made trips to zoos, and studied nature documentaries, with a group of animators also witnessing a gorilla dissection to learn about their musculature. In 1996, the animation team went on a two-week safari in Kenya to take reference photographs and observe the animals. On the trip, they visited Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda to view mountain gorillas in the wild, and get inspiration for the setting. In 2000, Chris Buck repeated the journey accompanied by journalists to promote the film's home video release.
To create the sweeping 3D backgrounds, Tarzan's production team developed a 3D painting and rendering technique known as Deep Canvas (a term coined by artist/engineer Eric Daniels). This technique allows artists to produce CGI background that looks like a traditional painting, according to art director Daniel St. Pierre. (The software keeps track of brushstrokes applied in 3D space.) For this advancement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded the creators of Deep Canvas a Technical Achievement Award in 2003. After Tarzan, Deep Canvas was used for a number of sequences in Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), particularly large panoramic shots of the island and several action sequences. Expanded to support moving objects as part of the background, Deep Canvas was used to create about 75 percent of the environments in Disney's next major animated action film, Treasure Planet (2002).