by KE Monahan Huntley

"The fun has arrived." And the fun really is for all ages. The superb animation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan transcends the Saturday matinee cartoon. It is also an engaging Dramatica grand argument story, destined to become a Disney classic.

The natural beauty of the African jungle sets the scene. In the tradition of folktales (particularly Disney's), the action (story driver) begins with untimely death. A vicious tiger, Sabor, kills a gorilla baby and a short time after, the human baby Tarzan's (main character) parents. Mama gorilla, Kala, discovers the orphaned child and appeals to her mate, Kerchak (influence character), to raise the boy as one of their own--inducting (mc problem) Tarzan into ape society: "He needs (relationship story catalyst) me."

As the formidable leader of the gorillas, Kerchak must be conscious (ic concern) of any danger (ic symptom-protection). He points out: "He's not our kind" (mc domain-universe). Kerchak wants to make certain (rs response) any potential (rs symptom) difficulty does not exist. Assured Tarzan is alone, Kerchak grants permission (rs thematic issue) against his better judgment. Kala is overjoyed. Kerchak's forbidding, fixed mindset (ic domain), however, is evidenced by the words: "I said he could stay. That doesn't make him my son." (rs problem-nonacceptance)

Tarzan's thematic conflict of work vs. attempt is illustrated in his efforts towards mimicking the gorillas, even though the "hairless wonder" is told he ". . . can't learn (os concern) to be one of us." Determined (mc approach-do-er), Tarzan follows whatever steps necessary (mental sex-male) to be "the best ape ever"-even fulfilling preconditions (os thematic counterpoint) such as yanking a hair from an elephant tail before playing with the gang. Tarzan proves himself a hero when Sabor returns to wreak more havoc. Sabor attacks and wounds Kerchak. With a rebel yell, Tarzan kills the tiger and lays him at his adoptive father's feet. Before Kerchak has the chance to accept Tarzan (rs solution), gunshots are fired off in the distance.

A British expedition has arrived to study the gorillas (rs inhibitor-investigation). The influence character function is temporarily handed off to Jane-the first human being Tarzan encounters. High spirited Jane is chagrined to find herself in peril-but Tarzan, immediately smitten, rescues her: "I was saved by a flying wild man in a loin cloth."

Tarzan confronts Kala with the deduction (mc solution) he is not really her son: "Why didn't you tell me there were creatures that looked like me?"-and together they revisit his past (mc benchmark). Eager to make Tarzan understand (os benchmark) his own species, Jane and her father teach (os concern-learning) him of the outside world-hoping to convince the ape man to return with them to "civilization": "Think of what we can learn (os concern) from him."

The expedition's leader, Clayton (equal parts charm and smarm), however, has his own agenda. Driven by the possibility (os problem) of obtaining 300 sterling pounds a head for the "magnificent beasts," Clayton implements his own dastardly scheme (os catalyst-strategy) to learn (os concern) from Tarzan where the gorillas nest. Clayton sways Tarzan--who wishes to impress Jane--to unwittingly betray the gorillas (mc critical flaw-prerequisites). Once again, Tarzan has incurred Kerchak's wrath.

Tarzan, of course, ultimately saves the day (outcome-success) and his own integrity (judgment-good). As Tarzan points a gun at Clayton, the villain taunts him to: "Go ahead. Shoot me. Be a man." Tarzan remains steadfast (mc resolve) to his essential nature, and in arguably the film's most powerful moment, delivers an uncanny imitation of a gunshot instead of pulling the trigger.

Kerchak, with his dying breath, appoints Tarzan the new leader of the pack (ic resolve-change) and says: "Forgive me for not understanding (os benchmark) that you have always been one of us . . . my son." To the primitive beat of jungle drums, Tarzan, Jane, and their family and friends swing through the trees with the greatest of ease.

About the Author

KE Monahan Huntley is an editor and publisher based in Southern California. As one of the original contributors to Dramatica, she helped edit and analyze many of the examples. In addition, her numerous articles provided an insightful "conversational" approach to the theory. Today she can be found at Write Between the Lines or follow her on Twitter @kemhuntley.

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