Saturday, March 24, 2018

Lord Of The Jungle!


The first season of Filmation's adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle is among the smartest and most literate presentations of the Ape Man which either the small or large screen have ever seen. If anything, the Tarzan presented in these cartoons is a little bit too reserved and too cautious. He's certainly not the grunting, barely verbal creation of the popular Weissmuller movies. The Tarzan here is the master of his domain who by his absolute willingness to help others weaker than himself finds himself cast into weird and time-lost domains all across the mythical geography of his Africa.


The folks at Filmation apparently had a deep understanding of the original Burroughs novels and sought to bring that literary version of the famous jungle hero to the small screen rather than the skewed rendition which still sadly dominates the popular imagination today. Tarzan here is not exactly the same character from the books (no Jane, no expansive estate either in England or Africa, no Waziri) but he is an intelligent and literate man who lives in the jungle and has a special affinity to the animals there by dint of his peculiar upbringing. And the use of the monkey N'Kima and not that tiresome Cheetah was most welcome as well as the inclusion of the remarkable Jad-bal-ja the Golden Lion.


He finds himself visiting versions of famed ERB locations such as Opar, the Golden City, the Forbidden City, and even Pellucidar. But he also takes on robots and outer space aliens when those show up in his jungle too. Tarzan in these stories always seems to have someone to take care of, usually a denizen of the civilization he's visiting who has a reason to object to some aspect of that society. Usually the kingdom in question whether the Golden City of Zandor, the tree-top city of the Giants, or some other are despots who need to be defeated or deposed. Sometimes they are misguided and Tarzan's lesson is all they need to mend fences and make a better life for their subjects such as the land of the Vikings. As in most romantic fiction, the very notion of monarchy is rarely objected to, rather complaints are about personal failings in leaders and not in the very notion of class societies. But that's a bit much for Saturday morning to be fair.


This is Filmation at its finest. The limited animation requires lots of repeated action, but generally that stuff is very well done to begin with and seeing it again and again is not really a problem. The real weakness with Filmation is in the sound recording. Tarzan himself is excellent but often there seems to be an indifference to other voices in the show, with some meager acting filling in and hurting the proceedings. Having read about Filmation, I realize that Lou Schiemer was often part of these recordings as were his kids, but I don't really know the extent they are used here. It's a weakness for certain.


But that said, this is still a rousing version of Tarzan and I heartily recommend it to everyone with an interest in the Lord of the Jungle.

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5 comments:

  1. I loved this series. It was so much more like the Tarzan I had been reading about in books and comics at the time. I was not a big fan of the Filmation animation style (even at a young age), but looking back, I really admire their commitment to the material.

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    1. Filmation was a company I took for granted. Like you I nitpicked about the animation, not realizing at the time how the limits they used allowed them to keep putting out some really dandy narratives, and as you say much more like the Tarzan of the novels.

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  2. Along with the Johnny Weissmuller movies, this was my introduction to Tarzan. I was torn -- I preferred my Tarzan "smart" like Filmation, but it really bothered me that the cartoon version didn't carry his knife.

    Still, this is a beloved childhood memory that I was able to revisit on DVD without losing much of its luster.

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    1. There are still more to be released, I just hope they do eventually. Filmation can be very good and sometimes the opposite, but they are always sincere about the effort.

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  3. I loved this cartoon as a kid and liked how the Rotoscoping made Trazan move realistically. I agree that Filmation's animation efforts were not always consistent, but when given a decent budget from a broadcast network willing to spend more on animation, the studio demonstrated moments of brilliance.

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