Where Disney Went Wrong: Tarzan

Updated on July 6, 2016

I Love Disney

Before I begin, let me make note that I am a huge Disney fan. I love pretty much anything Disney does, and I have been a fan practically since birth. However, there are some movies they have made that are nothing like the books they are based on.

In most cases, that’s a very good thing because Disney had managed to successfully kid-ify books that they would not have been able to understand and omitting the sick and nasty parts, or just changing the absolutely depressing endings.

For this particular article, I will be naming off nearly all the things that Disney left out or slightly changed in from Edgar Rice Burroughs classic, Tarzan of the Apes. I will try and keep the events in chronological order, and I will elaborate on each point. I also should also note that I have actually read the book and took notes along with it, so feel free to read the book yourself and see that I covered as much as I could and was accurate.

Beware...Spoiler Alert


If you are planning to read the book, I highly suggest, not reading this because there are several things that I give away in the points.

1. The ship did not sink, Tarzan’s parents were stranded.

Yes, the ship did sink into the ocean, it was taken over by a mutinous crew who then left the recently married couple on a part of Africa to die there. Well, at least the new captain was nice enough to leave them some things. I suppose that made him feel better.

2. Tarzan wasn’t born yet.

Tarzan’s young mother gave birth to Tarzan in the little cabin that his father makes to shelter them from animals (this is maybe why Disney made the tree house way up high and isolated), and she goes crazy (probably from post partum depression), thinking that they are still in English and she keeps asking why the house looks so strange. She eventually passes peacefully lying on a bed.

3. Sabor was a lioness, not a leopard

A note: I was confused while reading the book that though Tarzan killed Sabor, the name Sabor popped up again in reference to a living lioness. Turns out that all lionesses were named Sabor. They didn’t have individual names.

4. Kala’s baby wasn’t killed by Sabor

Kala’s baby fell off of her back from a very high height, and died that way, not from being food for Sabor. Kala was up high in order to get away from Kerchak, who was in a violent fit of rage. Kala continued to carry her dead child in her arms as the gorilla family traveled, refusing to give him up.

5. Kerchak wasn’t Kala’s mate

Kala was the mate of another male gorilla named Tublat, who was very violent.

6. Kerchak kills Tarzan’s father

Kerchak wants the mysterious weapon John Greystroke (Tarzan’s father) has, so he goes into the cabin and kills him for it.

7. Kala swaps her child for Tarzan

Kala takes Tarzan from his crib and puts her dead child into it, then runs away to make sure Kerchak doesn’t kill him too.

8. Tarzan tries to use a noose to hang Kerchak several times

As a child-like game, Tarzan would try to throw a noose over Kerchak’s neck to purposefully kill him. This is one reason why Kerchak hates Tarzan, and Tarzan never does try to be on good terms with him.

9. Kala is killed

Kala is killed by an African hunter, and Tarzan later takes revenge on kills him too, using the noose.

10. Tantor isn’t Tarzan’s friend

Tantor is mentioned in the book (another generic name of elephant), but the gorillas are afraid of elephants because there are stronger and they try and stay away from them. However, Tarzan and Tantor get along okay.

11. Tarzan separates from the gorillas, never to return

Tarzan never goes back to the gorillas, and this is about midway through the book. He had become leader at that point, but he then left the leadership to someone else.

12. Jane, Clayton, and Mr. Porter are stranded too

Their ship was also the victim of a mutinous crew, and they left these people alone on the island. (Sound familiar?)

13. Jane is a blonde American

Yes, she’s not an English brunette like Disney made me believe.

14. They were searching for gold, not gorillas

Jane had tagged along with her dad, who came in possession of a map, to try and find gold.

15. Clayton is in love with Jane

I was grossed out at this part because of how he was in the movie, and how much younger she was. But then again, that was probably common back then. Still, ugh.

16. Clayton is Tarzan’s cousin

Yep, Clayton and Tarzan are both Lord Greystrokes. And they don’t know it.

17. Jane and Tarzan’s first encounter

Tarzan saves the damsel in distress, but not from baboons. From a gorilla that was in Tarzan’s group. This gorilla, named Terkoz, hated Tarzan, and when he saw Jane, it noticed that she was a hairless ape like Tarzan. Terkoz snatched up Jane and ran off with her to be his mate, revenge against Tarzan. Tarzan does save her.

18. Tarzan doesn’t learn English until near the end

Tarzan was able to write in English, though he was not able to speak it. And technically, the first language that he learned was French from a character that was omitted in Disney’s version of the movie.

19. The humans never meet the gorillas

Clayton, Jane, and Mr. Porter never see the gorillas because they weren’t even looking for them.

20. Tarzan chases Jane to America

The humans leave without Tarzan (though they do wait for him), and he goes to try and win Jane in America, where she is about to get married to someone else that she doesn’t want to get married to.

21. Tarzan and Jane don’t end up together

Jane ends up choosing Clayton over Tarzan because she starts to realize that she is afraid of Tarzan since he threatened to kill the guy she was about to marry, and because she thought he was unpredictable. She thought Clayton could give her a place in society, and she would learn to love him.

Despite the Fact...

Dsepite the fact that Disney might as well have made their own story with some borrowed characters, this is one of my favorite Disney movies as a child. Still is.

I love it, and how though it isn't a musical, it still has awesome music with Phil Collins and is a good movie in it's own right. Thanks for reading, and have fun watching the movie with what I've just told you.

Should I do another article similar to this?

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    • profile image

      clasicnovels 4 weeks ago

      Also Tantor and Tarzan were friends and Tarzan does return to the apes for a time during the second book.

    • profile image

      clasicnovels 4 weeks ago

      Tarzan and Jane do end up together at the end of the second book.

    • profile image

      Oliver (Ollie) Knox 8 months ago

      I hate Disney's Tarzan movie. I love Warner Bros' The Legend of Tarzan movie (2016) ten trillion times more.

    • profile image

      Cthonis Princess 9 months ago

      You had all of your facts right up until #21. Tarzan and Jane DO get together, Professor Porter is the one to marry them in fact, it happens at the end of the second book in the 24 book series. At the start of the 3rd book, after spending some time in England, they return to Africa with their son Jack (His name's actually John, like Tarzan's real name).

    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 15 months ago from Illinois

      It makes more sense, even as a kid I never really thought Clayton's motivation made sense. Studying gorillas isn't exactly a huge business, compared to other things in Africa like salt and gold. Heck, even having a villain who wanted to bulldoze the jungle for farmland would have made more sense.

    • profile image

      Kellen 21 months ago

      Tarzan and Tantor were friends I just finished the book. But everything else you said was correct. However in the book Tarzan of the apes, it's very graphic not as graphic as some books or shows these days. Disney just went with a new take on the king of beast's. The only think I didn't like about the Disney movie was the fact that Tarzan would have man handled Clayton (which in the book was his cousin and wasn't there to harm Tarzan or the apes) he had superior strength. That is my only complaint about the movie other than that I enjoyed it.

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      SomeGuy 21 months ago

      I think the William Clayton of the Novel is similar in age to Jane.

      He eventually gets wounded by the real villain, a Russian Nobleman, and is left to die. Will Clayton is rescued by Tarzan, and Jane in his final moments, during which he reveals the truth of Tarzan's heritage which they'd previously made an agreement with Tarzan to keep secret. He gives Tarzan, and Jane his blessing, and passes on.

    • profile image

      Bruce100 21 months ago

      Wel done, but you've overlooked the fact that the apes of Tarzan's tribe are not gorillas.

      They are the Mangani, a fictional species of great apes.

      Not chimpanzee and not gorilla, something between these two species.

      As a matter of fact gorillas are Tarzan's arch enemies in the books of Edgar Rice burroughs.

      He named them the Bolgani.

    • profile image

      gc 22 months ago

      I have enjoyed reading this but there is just one quite major thing missed out.... Tarzan hates gorillas! his grouo of apes are far more intelligent and are in almost constant conflict with girrillas! He and Jane also do end up together and have a son. He later returns to the jungle to save his son in later books :)

    • profile image

      M. Stafford 3 years ago

      He is John Clayton, Lord of Greystoke.

    • profile image

      LiveLiveWrite18 3 years ago

      Spoiler alert!

      His real last name is greystroke and Clayton is his cousin.

    • profile image

      M. Stafford 3 years ago

      Actually, I believe that Vlayton is Tarzan's real last name, isn't it?

    • profile image

      LiveLoveWrite18 3 years ago

      I have not had the chance, so I am not sure.

    • profile image

      M. Stafford 3 years ago

      Did you read the other books in the series? I believe that Jane and Tarzan do end up together.

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      Brandon Page 3 years ago

      The Disney version is far better as it makes far more sense.

    • LiveLoveWrite18 profile image

      LiveLoveWrite18 4 years ago

      If I remember correctly, there is ok specific region named other than the African coast. It would make more sense in the story with later occurrences if it took place on the west side.

    • profile image

      Malakai 4 years ago

      What part of africa