In the mid 1860s, an English couple and their infant son escape a shipwreck, ending up near uncharted rainforests off the Congolese coast of Africa. The couple craft themselves a treehouse from their ship’s wreckage, but are subsequently killed by Sabor, a leopardess. Kala, a female western gorilla who recently lost her own child to Sabor, hears the cries of the orphaned infant, and finds him in the ruined treehouse. Kala encounters Sabor, and escapes with the baby in her possession. Kala takes the baby back to the jungle to raise as her own, an action of which the leader and her mate, Kerchak, grudgingly disapproves. Kala raises the human child, naming him Tarzan.
Five years later, Tarzan begins to befriend other animals, including a young female gorilla named Terk and the paranoid male elephant, Tantor. Tarzan finds himself treated differently because of his different physique, so he makes great efforts to improve himself. As an eighteen year old young man, Tarzan manages to kill Sabor with a crude spear he made, gaining Kerchak’s reluctant respect.