Phil Collins helps Disney preview its upcoming animated movies, including 'Tarzan,' Toy Story 2,' and 'Dinosaur'

By Josh Wolk
February 12, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST
Walt Disney Pictures

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It was obvious from the gala presentation Disney threw Tuesday in “The Lion King”‘s Broadway theater that animation is still priority No. 1 at the media giant. Top executives including Disney Studios chairman Joe Roth trumpeted their upcoming cartoon features — including “Tarzan,” “Toy Story 2,” and “Dinosaur” — to press, exhibitors, and Disney employees, who were kept entertained with a steady stream of sneak-preview clips and a surprise performance by Phil Collins.

Following Elton John’s resurgence with the “Lion King” soundtrack, Collins has become the next AOR superstar to write for Disney, contributing five songs to the “Tarzan” soundtrack, all of which have an African beat similar to the “Lion King” tunes. Tuesday, coughing loudly between songs, Collins seemed to be battling the flu. Still, he mustered enough Disney spirit to belt out two “Tarzan” songs and his classic “Sussudio,” running into the audience with a microphone to have confused businessmen sing the refrain with him.

As for the films, the “Tarzan” (opening in June) clips exhibited the usual rich Disney animation and humor, with lightning-fast scenes of the Ape Man swinging through forests and sliding down branches like a surfer. This time the trademarked goofy sidekick was a mischievous gorilla voiced by Rosie O’Donnell. And the computer animation for “Toy Story 2” (coming this fall) had the same fine detail as the original, while the toys’ repartee seemed just as witty. (“Watch it, Godspilla,” griped Hamm the pig to a clumsy Rex the dinosaur.)

Looking ahead to next year: “Fantasia 2000” is an updated version of the 1940 orchestral classic featuring new segments, including a version of the Noah’s Ark story (set to “Pomp and Circumstance”) with Donald Duck as Noah’s assistant, along with three segments carried over from the original film. The film opens New Year’s Day 2000 and will be shown only in IMAX theaters for the first four months. “Dinosaur” (due Memorial Day 2000) looks like “Jurassic Park” but without the humans. It’s a typically Disneyish tale of an abandoned baby Iguanadon raised by lemurs (a full-scaley twist on “Tarzan”‘s adoption setup) who must help his friends escape a series of natural disasters. The images are breathtaking, with all the realistic detail of “Jurassic”‘s dinosaurs but with much larger selection of monsters. Still, Disney couldn’t resist a touch of kid appeal by giving the dinosaurs slightly cartoonish facial expressions — all the better to friendly-up the packaging of all those future Happy Meals.

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