When it comes to movie adaptations of classic children's stories - from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to The Hunchback of Notre Dame - the Disney versions frequently tend to be the yardstick by which later films are measured. As far as visuals go, Disney's 1999 film Tarzan is something of a titan of innovation, being the first film to use the Deep Canvas technique in its animation (which made it possible to create a painterly textured 3D environment through which a 2D character could move). Because of this legacy, striking out with a new animated film based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' books poses a challenge for any studio.
There is, however, a brand new version of Tarzan heading to theaters this year, which was animated using motion capture performances and designed to be seen in 3D. The film was directed by Reinhard Klooss (Animals United) from a script written by Klooss, Jessica Postigo and Yoni Brenner, and was financed and produced by German studio Constantin Film (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones). The studio has just released a full trailer for Tarzan, and the film's imagery looks pretty stunning: from the crash that lands Tarzan with his new family, to the extensive sequences of him running and swinging through the trees.
The trailer is in German, but the dialogue is minimal and it doesn't take a vast knowledge of linguistics to figure out what "Ich Tarzan, du Jane" means. The only thing you will miss out on is the actual 3D experience, but even when viewed in 2D it's easy to tell that the animation for the film has been designed specifically with the 3D format in mind. What with all the swinging on vines and jumping from irresponsible heights, Tarzan is a tale that lends itself very naturally to 3D, so much so that somewhere down the line we will probably get a 3D rerelease of the Disney version.
There are a few differences in this latest incarnation of Tarzan, compared to the original novel and previous adaptations thereof. The orphan is three years old when he is lost in the helicopter crash, rather than being an infant, which means that he could feasibly still have some memories of his parents and of human language when he meets Jane at the age of fourteen. He also has another name - John Jr. - and a heritage as the son of entrepreneur John Greystoke, the founder and owner of Greystoke Industries. Resident bad guy William Clayton shows up in the jungle when Tarzan accidentally triggers a signal in the helicopter wreckage, and has some sort of plan to destroy the ecosystem that Tarzan was raised in.
In the English-language voice cast for Tarzan is Kellan Lutz - who played Emmett the Dude Vampire in the Twilight franchise - as Tarzan himself, and Spencer Locke (Resident Evil: Afterlife) as Jane Porter. The movie doesn't, however, have a US release date yet, as the North American distribution rights have yet to be sold. Hopefully they'll be picked up soon, as it would be a shame if these film went straight to DVD without US audiences getting a chance to see it in 3D on the big screen.
Interestingly, this isn't the only Tarzan movie to be developed in recent years (one of the benefits of public domain works). Warner Bros has a live-action version in development, with True Blood star Alexander Skarsgård in the lead and Jessica Chastain set to play Jane, and if things pick up again (the production offices were shut down earlier this year), filming should begin some time in 2014. The reasons behind the resurgence of interest in the boy raised by apes is unclear - perhaps it's just a case of nineties nostalgia.
Tarzan is out in German theaters on October 10, 2013. We'll keep you updated on any further news regarding a US release.
Source: Constantin Film
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