Tarzan: Things Only Adults Notice In The Disney Classic

Tarzan, the 1999 animated film, was the last film of the Disney Renaissance, and Disney certainly ended things with a bang. The movie released to critical acclaim with noted film critic Roger Ebert giving it four out of four stars. Even decades after its release, the story about an orphaned boy raised by apes remains an iconic classic, beloved by children and adults alike.


If you were a kid the first time that you saw Tarzan, you probably loved it, but when was the last time you viewed this delightful film? If it has been a while since you watched it (or if you've somehow never even seen it before) you'll notice that it's still a charming movie — at least on the surface. Some aspects of the movie, however, are a bit darker than we remember from our childhoods. There are some sinister things about Tarzan that you only notice as an adult.

Why were Tarzan's parents traveling?

Tarzan is based on a series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The first, Tarzan of the Apes, was published in 1912. According to Bustle, it's generally accepted that, based on the publication date and the details provided in the story, Tarzan and his parents were shipwrecked sometime in the late 1880s or early 1890s. This era seems to fit with the one portrayed in the animated film.


It wasn't exactly the safest time to be alive. By 1912, luxury liners like the Titanic still weren't even required to have enough lifeboats for passengers, according to History on the Net. Traveling around the world with a baby is never easy, but, in an era before airplanes, towing around a newborn was even harder.

What was so important that Tarzan's parents decided a boat ride across the ocean was a good idea? Was there some sort of family emergency? Where were they going? What was so urgent that they were making what seems like an arduous journey with an infant? 

Were there no other survivors in Tarzan?

The fact that Tarzan and his parents were shipwrecked is a tragedy, but we can't help but wonder how no one else managed to survive the shipwreck. The film opens on the three of them escaping the burning, sinking ship in a tiny boat. How come no one else is around? Even after they make it to shore, there are no other survivors in sight. Where is everybody? 


Were Tarzan's parents sailing the ship by themselves? If so, this makes us wonder even more about what was so urgent that they would sail around the world with an infant and without any other companions. Even if Tarzan's parents were seasoned sailors, you'd expect them to at least have a small crew to lighten the burden. What would happen if they ran into pirates? Or sailed into a storm that required all hands on deck?

Or was the shipwreck even worse than it appeared, killing everyone but Tarzan and his parents, who end up dying in the first few minutes of the film? If so, this is a pretty morbid start to a movie, at least by Disney standards

Where did Tarzan's parents get construction materials?

While we can wrap our heads around Tarzan's parents being able to salvage wood and rope from the wreckage of the ship, they seem to be extraordinarily well-equipped for a shipwrecked family. Tarzan's dad worked with some pretty good tools to build that treehouse. How on earth did a saw manage to survive the ship burning and sinking? 


The family came away from the wreck with a lot of materials you wouldn't think would have survived — especially considering that there were apparently no other survivors. What is the likelihood that they not only saved tools from the wreckage but also managed to get away with clothes and even a framed picture? Realistically, most of what was on the ship probably went up in flames before sinking below the waves. But somehow, everything that was needed to build what looks like the world's most epic treehouse survived the wreckage. This is either a miracle or Disney magic at work.

Where is the fabric for Tarzan's loincloths coming from?

Tarzan wears a loincloth throughout the film. Realistically (well, as realistic as a story about a boy being raised by apes can be) Tarzan would have been more likely to run around naked just as his adopted family does. Of course, Disney couldn't exactly have a naked Tarzan running around the jungle, so it makes sense that they'd keep his private bits covered up with a loincloth. But... where is he getting the fabric for them


And yes, we are assuming that Tarzan has gone through many, many loincloths throughout his life. There's no material that could hold up for very long considering Tarzan's very active lifestyle. We can also see that the loincloth always covers Tarzan just enough to be Disney-friendly, so it's clear he isn't wearing the same loincloth as an adult that he wore as a child. 

It would have made far more sense if Tarzan's loincloths were made from animal pelts, or even from leaves. At least he could realistically have access to those materials in the jungle. So, did a treasure chest of fabric wash up on the beach? Is there a secret underwear store hidden away in the trees?

Why doesn't Tarzan have any body hair?

Okay, we know that Disney isn't exactly known for its anatomically correct art. After all, Jane's eyes are larger than any human's should be, and her waist is unnaturally small. We aren't expecting these characters to look lifelike, but it's still puzzling that Tarzan has absolutely no body hair. His legs, chest, and arms seem like they are waxed smooth every single day. How is this possible? Surely Tarzan should at least have a beard, unless he somehow taught himself how to shave.


And even if he did figure out how to get a clean shave without so much as stubble, why would Tarzan want to do such a thing? His lack of fur is one of the things that sets him apart from his ape family, so you would think that Tarzan would embrace growing a bit more hair, if only in an attempt to fit in with everyone else.

Jane's outfit is absurdly impractical in Tarzan

Tarzan's Jane Porter is clearly a smart woman. She knows a lot about science, after all, and is incredibly excited to go to the jungle on a research trip. So we've got to wonder, then, why she's dressed so impractically. Why on earth is she wearing a long dress with a bustle, not to mention high heels? It's clear that she's okay running around in a simple skirt and a sleeveless top, so why would she pick this outfit to travel in? 


It's not like Jane doesn't have better options. Tarzan takes place in the early 20th century. Bloomers existed by then, so Jane could at least have been moving without the restriction of a hemline to trip her up as she ran away from a band of angry monkeys. Heck, she's in the middle of the jungle; she could probably get away with wearing pants. They may not have exactly been considered proper attire for women at the time, but, far away from the prying eyes of society, who would know?

Poor Jane probably thinks she's about to be sexually assaulted by Tarzan

Kids watching Tarzan probably find his examination of Jane a comedic moment. She is, after all, the only other human he can remember seeing. Up until then, he had no idea where he came from or even what kind of animal he was, and his curiosity is humorous — that is, unless you're an adult who can't help but feel bad for Jane.


Poor Jane is plainly terrified of the strange man who is touching her, and to adults it's painfully obvious why she reacts this way. She has no idea who Tarzan is or that he is one of the good guys. To Jane, Tarzan is a nearly naked, feral man who doesn't speak English and who seems to be trying to take advantage of her when he puts his head against her chest to hear her heartbeat. Jane is probably afraid that she's about to be sexually assaulted and possibly killed, making the scene more uncomfortable than comedic to adult viewers.

Why does Tarzan have an American accent?

Tarzan was still an infant when his parents died. As such, he never learned how to speak English. When he meets Jane, he eagerly mimics her words, and she eventually teaches him English. This is all plausible (although Tarzan learns the language a bit too quickly to be realistic), except for one thing: Tarzan inexplicably speaks in an American accent.


This simply makes no sense at all. There's no evidence that Tarzan has ever encountered an American, so if he was learning English by copying Jane, then he should also be speaking in an English accent. The actor who voiced Tarzan is an American named Tony Goldwyn, who seems to have been speaking in his natural accent. That's all fine, but wouldn't it have made more sense for him to learn an English accent or for someone with an English accent to be cast in the role?

Why did the Porters pack so much stuff for a short trip in Tarzan?

While we understand the temptations of overpacking, the Porters have kind of overdone it. Their trip is just supposed to be a brief expedition, yet they have done way more than pack too many pairs of shoes. Do they really need a dresser (Jane only has a couple of outfits so what could it be filled with?), a full tea set, a chemistry lab, fine china, and a skeleton? This is just too much. Jane and her dad seem perfectly capable of roughing it for a few weeks. So why did they feel the need to pack up all of their belongings for the trip? 


Jane even has a complete wardrobe set, including a mirrored vanity. This seems totally out of character for Jane who seems to be a pretty self-reliant and practical woman. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look your best, but we feel like putting on makeup and having perfectly coiffed hair in the jungle aren't exactly high on Jane's list of priorities. This seems to be Disney's way of making this strong, female character in Tarzan appear more stereotypically feminine. Ugh.

Is Tarzan's Jane descended from Beauty and the Beast's Belle?

If you look closely, you'll see that Disney's famous teapot Mrs. Potts and her teacup son Chip make a cameo... sort of. The tea set in Tarzan isn't enchanted, but it is definitely the same tea set that we see in Beauty and the Beast. Could it be possible that it came from Belle's castle? Come to think of it, Jane looks a bit like Belle... and her father looks an awful lot like Belle's dad, Maurice.


The similarities aren't just physical, either. They also have some personality traits in common. Jane and Belle are both spirited brunettes who want adventure in the great wide somewhere. They both like books, have scientifically inclined fathers who adore their daughters, and aren't big fans of men who exhibit toxic masculinity. Is it possible that the Porters are actually directly descended from Belle and the Beast? Could that tea set not just be an homage to Mrs. Potts but actually a family heirloom?

How did Tarzan's dad's clothes fit him?

Towards the end of the film, Tarzan visits the treehouse his parents had lived in before they were killed. He finds a suit of clothes that had belonged to his dad which are somehow still intact after decades in the jungle (seriously, how did they not fall apart?) and which also fit Tarzan pretty well.


As we see in the beginning of the film, Tarzan's dad is pretty fit, but there's fit and then there's Tarzan fit. Tarzan has spent his entire life building up muscle, climbing everything in sight, and swinging from tree to tree. In short, the man is totally ripped. How on earth could his bulging muscles possibly fit into the clothing of a slim and far less bulked-out man? 

Perhaps it's some sort of magical suit, enchanted to last forever and fit whoever wears it? Because that's the only way this is making sense.

Tarzan is being a jerk to his family

Come on, Tarzan. Yes, it's a very big, romantic gesture to want to run off to England with the Porters to be with Jane, but at least say goodbye to your family! Poor Terk and Tantor look traumatized when Tarzan runs off without so much as a "see you later." It's been made clear to Tarzan that, once he goes to England, there's little to no chance that he will ever return to his family in the jungle, so why doesn't he think it's important to say goodbye?


He couldn't have asked the boat to wait a couple of minutes? He didn't even try, which seems like some pretty scummy behavior. At the very least, he could have done his Tarzan yell to let his family know something was up. Tarzan may be the hero of the film, but this is one character flaw that we just can't get over.

What happened to Clayton's cronies in Tarzan?

Clayton gives off bad vibes from the beginning of the film, so it's not a huge surprise when he reveals himself to be a bad guy who is being paid to kidnap apes. His men on the ship tie up the captain and members of the crew, and also lock up Tarzan and the Porters so that they can go off to hunt down Tarzan's family.


Tarzan and the Porters escape with the help of Terk and Tantor and, together with the rest of the apes, fight off the bad guys. Clayton dies in the melee, and the other bad guys just... vanish. 

At the end of the film, we see that the captain is now free and is rowing the Porters to the ship. There's no hint of Clayton's cronies. Are they being held in the ship's brig to be sentenced back in England? Did they die? Or did they escape into the jungle, plotting their revenge?

Jane and her dad basically faked their own deaths in Tarzan

The ending of Disney's Tarzan is absolute nonsense: Jane and her dad decide to jump ship and live permanently in the jungle, and Jane's dad tells the ship's captain to tell everyone back home that the Porters had gotten lost.


Um, what? This is the most impractical plan. The Porters couldn't even go on a short trip without bringing along a full set of china. How are they going to survive in the jungle without any modern comforts? Have they thought this out? They're giving up modern medicine, running water, and the companionship of other human beings.

Wouldn't it have been more practical to send a message back home and at least have some supplies delivered? The jungle is dangerous, especially for an old man and for a woman (just imagine how difficult childbirth will be if Jane has a baby). Surely they could benefit from a first aid kit and a change of clothes. At the very least, they could let any friends and family left back home know that they're all right and didn't die some tragic death.


There's no way Tarzan's Jane is going to be happy in the jungle

Not to ruin the beautiful love story of Tarzan and Jane, but how exactly is this relationship supposed to work out? Jane is an intelligent and educated woman who clearly values intellectual pursuits. Just how is she supposed to be happy in the jungle, detached from civilization without so much as a single book to keep her occupied while Tarzan is off swinging from trees? There's also the problem of what will happen if Jane and Tarzan have kids. With no other people around, they're condemning any children to a future without human companionship and without the possibility of a partner and children of their own.


Jane obviously hasn't thought through the living nightmare she has created for herself by deciding to stay in the jungle with Tarzan. It's only a matter of time before she understands her mistake and realizes that she has doomed herself to an unfulfilling life.