Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle: The Complete Season One

| June 14, 2016

American animation studio Filmation produced this serialized adaptation of the Tarzan tales by Edgar Rice Burroughs for CBS beginning in 1976. The series embodies all the most predictable yet charming techniques at Filmation’s disposal including the rotoscoped figures and the oft-recycled sequences of animation that make Filmation cartoons what they are. As someone not well-versed in Tarzan lore, I approached the series almost exclusively because of the Filmation brand, and because I knew the series was, in its second season, packed into an hour of animation alongside the Dark Knight in The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour.

My son and I both were immediately drawn into Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle. The series boasts a far more intelligent and eloquent Tarzan than any other Tarzan I’ve encountered, the character being more often characterized as a socially inept manchild who struggles with concepts like “Me Tarzan, you Jane.” But not this Tarzan! Here we find a seemingly worldly adventure hero, capable of outwitting his foes just as readily as he could overpower them.

That said, it’s not all mind games. There’s plenty of action throughout the series, which was ultimately the material my son raved about after each episode he watched with me. Personally, though, I found the scope of the individual stories to be the series’ true strong suit. Each episode relates an impressively sprawling, complex adventure with enough characters and narrative developments to give you a full hour’s worth of story in a mere half hour of television. And throughout the series, Tarzan faces all sorts of amazing challenges, butting heads with tyrannical warlords, magicians, knights, ice creatures, Vikings, and even UFOs!

The one thing that should be noted for anyone considering picking this series up for their kids though is that there are, predictably, a lot of socially antiquated messages packed into the series that you might want to avoid. In particular, you’ll find problematic gender portrayals at almost every turn. The first thing we see in the very first episode is, after all, a damsel in distress having been kidnapped by gorillas. Few women in the series are treated much better, honestly, but that’s hardly a surprise given the genre and the era. So keep that in mind, if you care about the media messages your children encounter.

Warner Home Video’s release of Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle: The Complete Season One includes all 16 episodes of the premiere, 1976 season across two discs, which are presented here in proper sequential order across two DVDs. That’s something distributors fail to do all too often so it’s totally worth noting. This release is all the more notable given that, until now, we’ve had basically no way of seeing the series except for the single episode, “Tarzan and the Colossus of Zome,” which appeared on Warner’s Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1970s, Vol. 1.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
Filed in: TV on DVD

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