Last week, in my latest Saturday morning rant, I mentioned that Craig Crumpton of Voice Actors in the News was dedicating his Saturday posts to reliving our lost heritage. Well, due to a recent tragedy, he won’t be doing so for a while. My prayers and well wishes to him and his family.
So I’ve decided that until Craig is up to posting again, I will utilize the “Saturday Night Showcase” towards the SatAM goal, although I will approach things more from a story perspective than a voice actor prospective. After all, voiceovers are his passion and career, while writing is my passions and would-be career. However, both serve the cause of storytelling.
Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle was one of my earliest cartoon memories. Based on the novel series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and basing the art on the work of comic artist Burne Hogarth (who, according to my research, was Burrough’s favorite), the series was produced by Filmation Studios (who pretty much shared the ownership of Saturday Morning with Hanna-Barbera for much of my childhood) and is a beautifully drawn world. The episode I chose to show isn’t the best quality of the episodes I found online, but the sound is OK, the video whitewashed at times but still viewable.
The reason I chose this fourth season episode is the first appearance of Tarzan’s well-known love interest, Jane. Jane, of course, is involved with every Tarzan project to date, from the classic movies, to the hit-or-miss TV shows and made-for-TV movie, to the recent Disney film and cartoon (the only other Tarzan cartoon I know of). I’m not really that steeped in Tarzan lore (I haven’t read the novels or seen the Greystoke movie, nor do I plan to do either as it’s not “my thing”, I’ve only seen parts of the classic movies, one made-for-TV movie, and watched non-animated TV series), but did enjoy this cartoon as a kid, and it’s lost none of its magic today.
According to my research, this is the most faithful version of the novels to date, but that depends on whether or not my sources updated for the Disney film. The above cartoon doesn’t have Clayton the ape hunter, but I don’t know if he’s a novel character or not, either. My reading experience comes from the one Marvel comic I own and a few newspaper strips my friend had, so I don’t know if Tarzan regularly fought dinosaurs. However, Tarzan’s sidekick, N’Kima, is from the original novels while Cheetah is from the classic movies, and only Tantor and Kala I can vouch for in the Disney film. (Except for Tarzan, Jane, and the professor of course.)
However, other aspects of the novels, from other animal characters to the use of the novel’s “Mangani” language makes an appearance in the series. (Wikipedia claims that some words Filmation made up themselves, but most of the language is intact.)
Animation wise, Rotoscoping is used quite often. Rotoscoping is an animation technique where a live-actor is used as a model for the animators, who take the model footage and draw the character over it. Filmation used this quite often (also for spaceships, like in the Flash Gordon series, where they used models of the ships), and so did Disney in some of their theatrical movies. Think of it as the father of today’s “motion capture”. Character model and backgrounds are also fantastic, something Filmation excelled at, although most people know them for their limited animation. Filmation used a number of tricks, including Rotoscoping, to cut costs, but they seldom produced a bad story. Once the story and art suck you in, you can usually forget the limited animation, which is why I love Filmation so much. They did a lot with a small budget.
In honor of Craig, I should bring up the voice acting, but that’s where my research failed me. Voice acting credits on this series is limited to Lou Scheimer, which should be no surprise to Filmation fans, and the late Robert Ridgely, who played Tarzan, at least that I can find easily. (I should note that the infamous Tarzan yell in the series, according to IMDB, was done not by Ridgely, but Edgar’s grandson, Danton Burroughs.) Ridgely had quite the list of VO credits to his name until his passing in 1997. I think he’s also the Tarzan in my head, but Tarzan is not a character I think of very often. That’s certainly the yell I’ve judged other yells by, so points to Danton. I also haven’t seen the cartoon in years, as I was originally going to use Freedom Force, one of the shows Tarzan teamed with during the Super 7 line-up. (Throughout the show’s history, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle shared a programming block with Batman and/or Lone Ranger as well.) However, while I didn’t really remember that show, I did remember watching Tarzan, and seeing it again was like reconnecting with an old friend.
To my knowledge, only one episode of this series is available on DVD, as part of one of the recent Saturday Morning Cartoons sets. I hope they put more out. Even putting down the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, I think today’s kids might at least find an interest in this series.