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Sabor is the secondary antagonist of Disney's thirty-seventh full-length animated feature film Tarzan (which is based on the 1912 American novel Tarzan of the Apes by the late Edgar Rice Burroughs), a minor antagonist in Tarzan II and the posthumous antagonist of the TV series The Legend Of Tarzan (Tarzan mentions her)..
She is a savage female leopard who was responsible for the deaths of Tarzan's parents along with Kerchak and Kala's son. In a way, Sabor is the one responsible for Tarzan being adopted by the gorillas in the first place as well Tarzan facing off Mama Gunda and Clayton.
Her vocal sound effects were provided by Frank Welker, who also did the vocal sound effects of the other animals in the same film. And whom also did the sound effects of Ludmilla in Bartok the Magnificent, the Harvesters in Independance Day, Max 3000 in Man's Best Friend, Sharptooth in The Land Before Time, Red Death in How to Train Your Dragon, Mor'du in Brave and Rudy in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
Sabor is a leopard, but more greatly resembles a jaguar. She is more stocky than a typical leopard, and she has exaggerated proportions. . She has green eyes and sharp, long thin fangs more akin to a scimitar coat such as the extinct Homotherium than to a real leopard. Her coloring is typical of a leopard, with black spots featuring a brown rosette in the middle, on top of yellow ochre fur, with a white tip of of the end of her tail.
Sabor is a silent and dangerous leopard who prowls the jungle in search of prey to kill and eat. She is a predator by nature, but kills for reasons beyond instinct on occasion. Sabor is above all else a formidable enemy; being a wild beast, she is one of Disney's deadliest villains. While the main reason of Sabor's villainy was due to living as a fierce, aggressive, and bloodthirsty predator who is trying to survive in a harsh jungle just like real-life predators, Sabor is also regarded as a villainous character due to the fact that her antagonism and villainy are motivated by her being at odds with the gorillas: Sabor viewed Kala as one of her archenemies since the female gorilla saved the baby Tarzan not long after Sabor killed his parents and the said gorilla's son. However, Sabor seemed to focused more on Tarzan than Kala, which is seemingly obvious due to the fact that she was denied the opportunity to eat Tarzan at least twice (which the second time was due to Zugor's interference) and thus marked Tarzan as the main priority as her target. Additionally, she seems to kill for reasons beyond food, as she kills Tarzan's parents, but leaves the bodies with no intention of eating them, ignoring potential meals just so that she can target children. This may suggest that she was sadistic or infanticidal, as babies of any species were an easy meal to a creature like Sabor.
Sabor first appears stalking through vines during the night, where she spots Kerchak and Kala's baby strolling while chasing a frog. Snarling at the baby gorilla, Sabor manages to catch and maul him to death, much to both Kerchak and Kala's complete distraught upon hearing the sound and seemingly witnessing her eating him offscreen. Sabor is later able to infiltrate the treehouse home of Tarzan's shipwrecked parents, where she manages to kill the couple offscreen. Eventually, Sabor is about to eat their baby son, who is rescued by an investigating Kala. By luck, Kala manages to escape Sabor by having one of her paws trapped with a rope and a pulley while escaping down on a boat used by Tarzan's parents as an elevator. Kala then growls at Sabor before fleeing away with the baby, calling him Tarzan and raising him as her own adopted son.
18 years later, Sabor ambushes the gorilla troop. Kerchak battles with the leopard, but despite his huge size and strength, Sabor's deadly moves such as her claws, teeth, agility and reflexes prove to be too much for the silverback to handle. Fortunately, Tarzan, now a fully grown man, engages in a fight against Sabor with his own agility and cleverness, which ends when Sabor leaps down on Tarzan, sending both of them plunging into a pit below. Sabor is finally killed as she is impaled on the head of Tarzan's spear tip when the ape man raises it against the ferocious leopard, thus killing the animal. Tarzan then calls out his famous ape war cry as he lifts up Sabor's dead body, finally avenging his real parents that day along with his step-brother (Kerchak and Kala's son). Despite his early reservations against raising Tarzan as a member of the gorillas, Kerchak showed some respect towards Tarzan for killing Sabor, just as they hear several gunshots fired by the pompous and greedy hunter Clayton, who intends to track down the gorillas and sell them for profit. It is presumed that Sabor's corpse was left where it lay when the gorillas moved off after hearing Clayton's gunshots.
Sabor also made a brief appearance in Tarzan II, which took place during Tarzan's youth. While she chased Tarzan into a valley, Sabor nearly kills Tarzan. However, the sudden cry of the Zugor frightens the leopard off.
Legend of Tarzan
Sheeta, the discarded original Burroughs designation, was later used in The Legend of Tarzan as the name for one of two black panthers that attack together (the name of the other was Noru). Black panthers are actually a color variety of leopards as they do exist in African jungles, although they seem to be rare. Sabor has been mentioned in the series.
Sabor features as a prominent antagonist and boss in the Deep Jungle world in the first Kingdom Hearts game. After the main character Sora crash lands in the treehouse, Sabor attempts to kill him, but Sora beats Sabor back until Tarzan appears and drives the leopard off. Sabor later attacks Sora, Donald, Goofy and Tarzan several times, but is always forced to back off. Eventually, just when Clayton goes missing, Sabor appears for one final battle with Sora, who kills the leopard.
Sabor is classified as a female leopard. However, Jiminy Cricket's journal entry in Kingdom Hearts infamously got Sabor's gender wrong, referring to her as a "he", meaning that Sabor is a male in the game and a female in the movie. That said, the name "Sabor" sounds masculine and comes from a masculine word.
In the Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Borroughs, Sabor is the term for female lions, while males are referred to as Numa. Leopards are referred to as Sheeta in the novels.
As leopards are the only big cats that live in the African jungle, Sabor was made into a leopard in the film.
Sabor was extremely old for a leopard by the time she fought Tarzan for the last time in the film, being well over 20 years old (close to the lifespan limits for this cat). Despite her age, she showed no signed of deterioration from her aging and her deadliness actually increased as she grew older, as she was successfully able to defeat Kerchak before nearly killing Tarzan himself, keeping pace with him throughout their battle and even briefly overwhelming him.
Despite being a leopard, Sabor was portrayed in a very stylized way, with a body and head with strange angles, very long thin fangs (almost like that of a saber-toothed cat), and scarce spots like those of an actual jaguar. This design contrasts sharply with that of other characters in the film (like Kerchak) who were designed on a relatively more realistic style. As usual in film depictions of big cats, Sabor's roars are a mixture of sounds of several felines, including leopards, jaguars, lions and tigers, but especially cougars.
Sabor is the only villain in Tarzan who is not human and never speaks. Cecil Clayton and his pirates are humans and speak.
The name "Sabor" means "taste" in Spanish and Portuguese. This is very fitting, as Sabor kills animals to survive, so in a way, she has a taste for meat.
Although Sabor was killed off halfway to introduce the real main antagonist, Sabor served as The Heavy because it was the murder of Kerchak and Kala's baby and Tarzan's parents that drove the plot which made Clayton the Big Bad because he was far more dangerous than the leopard, and the one behind the plot.
Interestingly, according to film's DVD audio commentary, Clayton's breakdown during the climax was meant to mirror Sabor's actions during the first half of the film, symbolizing Clayton's increasing lack of humanity and descent into animalistic madness..
Some fans debate whether Sabor is truly evil or if she is simply a fierce predator who is trying to survive in a harsh jungle.