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Tarzan - Groundbreaking Technology Coupled with a Classic Story

Jun 4, 2008
Tarzan is the Academy Award-winning animated movie produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation. It was released by Walt Disney Pictures in 1999, becoming the thirty-seventh film in the Disney animated features canon. Based on the famous story by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the story follows the adventures of a feral child raised in the African jungle who returns to England to reclaim his birthright. This adaptation of the Tarzan tale is the first animated version

Disney's Tarzan is considered the very last great hoorah before the slump of the early 2000s. The film garnered $171,091,819 domestically and $448,191,819 worldwide. It managed to top both Mulan and Hercules and was the first feature since The Lion King to open at #1.

The narrative begins in the late 1880 when a young couple and their infant son are shipwrecked off the coast of Africa. The parents build a tree house, only to fall victim to a savage leopard, named Sabor. The infant son is about to be killed, when Kala, a female ape, saves him. The babe is raised by a clan of apes, proving his worth by eventually killing Sabor. An expedition of humans, led by Professor Porter, who is accompanied by his daughter Jane and a hunter named Clayton, stumbled upon Tarzan and his tribe, forcing them to flee. Eventually the group sets sails for England. Tarzan must choose whether or not he will join Jane in the civilized world, or if he will stay to reign as "Lord of the Apes."

To create the spectacular 3D backgrounds, the production team pioneered a bold 3D painting and rendering technique known as "Deep Canvas." This method allows artists to create CGI backgrounds that look, by and large, like traditional paintings. Indeed, this technique prompted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to award the creators of Deep Canvas a Technical Achievement Oscar in 2003.

Following Tarzan, Deep Canvas was used for key sequences in Atlantis: The Lost Empire, in particular the engaging panoramic shots of the island and several action sequences. Furthermore, the Deep Canvas technique was used to create roughly 75% of the backgrounds and environments in Disney's animated action film, Treasure Planet, though yielding less than spectacular results. Deep Canvas was likewise used on the last two traditionally animated theatrical releases, Brother Bear and Home on the Range. Presently, despite the extravagant results of Tarzan, the Deep Canvas technique was shelved as Disney moved towards Pixar-based computer generated animation.
About the Author
Steve Collins is an Author and Journalist based in Encino, CA. A big Disney fan, he uses the Disney Movie Club to fill the gaps in his collection. Read his reviews of the Disney Movie Club here.
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