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Sabor is the secondary antagonist of Disney's 1999 animated feature film, Tarzan. Introduced as the antagonist during the film's first act.
Sabor was a dangerous, aggressive, and ferocious leopard who is well known throughout the jungle. Notably, she is the only animal character in the film (other than the baboons) who never speaks, instead of communicating with snarls and roars. In addition to being a stealthy predator, she was also extremely defiant and never backed down from a fight.
Sabor is one of the most lethal fighters in Disney to date; exceptionally deadly in battle and merciless as a carnivore. While still a young adult, she killed and devoured the infant son of Kerchak and Kala, slaughtered both of Tarzan's parents, and fought Kala over the infant Tarzan, although Kala managed to escape with the baby. Approximately twenty years later, Sabor has not only lived a remarkably long life for a leopard but is still an incredibly lethal fighter. Not only did she defeat Kerchak, displaying incredible speed and agility which gave the advantage over the gorilla's brute strength, but came even closer to killing Tarzan than Clayton ever did, and it was only through accuracy was Tarzan able to kill the lunging leopard with the spear tip.
Sabor is a large leopard with a slender, strongly built form that allows quick movement when hunting down prey. Clad in bright yellow fur with dark spots, she always displays a fierce expression with long, razor-sharp fangs and large green eyes.
In the opening song, "Two Worlds", Sabor's vivid eyes are seen as the leopard growls, and soon later when Kerchak and Kala are resting, their young baby is playing far off. Sabor chases him and kills him off-screen, leaving Kala horrified and she cries into Kerchak's arms. Later on, as the family is passing by the treehouse that Tarzan's parents built, Kala hears a baby's cry and rushes to Tarzan's old treehouse to investigate, finding it trashed and his parents' lifeless bodies next to Sabor's bloodied pawprints, much to her horror. She finds the baby and cuddles him when Sabor suddenly leaps from a beam and attacks them both. As Kala escapes with Tarzan on a lowering rowboat, Sabor gets her foot caught on the ropes lowering the boat, and is hoisted up into the air, left dangling from the top of the treehouse.
Sabor later appears in about the middle of the film, ambushing and attacking the gorillas. Kerchak tries to fight her, but he is no match for the leopard's speed and agility and receives a wound to the chest. Before she can deliver the fatal blow, however, Tarzan comes in swinging on a vine, kicking the leopard backward. During the fight, Sabor scratches Tarzan's chest almost into his heart and also slashes off the tip of Tarzan's spear. The spear tip falls onto a flimsy covering of a pit and Tarzan heads after it and eventually grabs it. Sabor leaps down on the ape-man and they plunge into the pit, and the leopard is incidentally impaled with the head of Tarzan's shattered spear as the ape-man raises it against her, finally killing the leopard. Tarzan then calls out the famous ape-man cry, as he lifts up Sabor's corpse, having avenged both his parents and Kala and Kerchak's baby.
Sheeta, the discarded original Burroughs designation, was later used in The Legend of Tarzan show as the name for one of two black panthers that attack together (the name of the other was Nuru). Black Panthers are actually a color variety of leopards and they do exist in African jungles, although they seem to be rare. In a few episodes, Sabor has been mentioned. In some episodes of the series, Tarzan battles an unnamed leopard resembling Sabor. In "Tarzan and the Flying Ace", when Tarzan meets Jane's former childhood friend Robert Canler, Tarzan says that when he looks into Robert's eyes, he feels as if Sabor is looking back at him.
In the seventh book of the series - The Insider - Sabor appears as one of the minions of the Overtakers. Finn is investigating Tarzan's Treehouse for clues to the Osiris Myth for bringing Mickey Mouse back to life. He takes notice of the Sabor statue and knowing full well that it could be brought to life asks the Dillard hologram to keep watch on it with the cameras. No sooner does this occur and Finn leaves, Sabor comes to life and tries to kill him. Luckily, Finn's girlfriend Amanda is able to use a powerful telekinetic blast to knock her out of the tree and down below, where Sabor reverts to a statue.
In Kingdom Hearts, Sabor serves as both a recurring enemy and a mini-boss for Deep Jungle. She can be encountered in four different areas, each time trying to kill Sora and his friends until the final encounter as a mini-boss. The battle occurs within a bamboo thicket, resulting in her defeat as the leopard stares into the sky for a brief moment before seeing the light and collapsing, meeting her end and leaving Sora with one of the leopard’s knocked out fangs.
Sabor is seen in Tarzan's Treehouse attraction. Guests walk up multiple steps until they come upon a small hut with everything wrecked, ripped, and broken. They can be seen in the middle of it, with mouth wide open in a crazy way.
In the novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the name Sabor is a feminine term used to describe lionesses, while the name Numa described male lions. Sheeta was the proper term in the fictional ape language of Mangani for leopards in the novels.
As lions are not found in jungles, Sabor was changed from a lion to a leopard for the film, which is the real apex predator of the jungle area depicted.
Despite being a leopard, Sabor was portrayed in a very stylized way, possessing a long, sleek body similar to a cheetah; very long, thin fangs (almost like those of a saber-toothed cat); large, scarce spots like a jaguar, and slitted pupils. As usual in film depictions of big cats, her roars and growls are a mixture of several felines, including leopards, jaguars, lions, tigers, and cougars.
In real life, leopards do in fact hunt gorillas and are apex predators.
Originally, Sabor was shown killing Tarzan's father at the beginning of the film, but the scene was removed. It can still be seen on the 2-disc DVD.
Sabor's gender is unknown, but within the Kingdom Hearts universe, is credited as a male.
However, Sabor was based on the lionesses from the Tarzan novels, so she is more likely a female.
Sabor has a total of thirty to seventy spots.
Sabor lived a remarkably long life for a wild leopard, being over twenty years old at the time of death. Interestingly, she showed no signs of aging, and her physical condition had not deteriorated at all. In real life, the average typical lifespan of a wild leopard is between 12 and 17 years. The oldest recorded leopard was a female named Roxanne living in captivity at McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary in The Acreage, Palm Beach County, Florida. She died on August 8, 2014, at the age of 24 years, 2 months and 13 days.
According to the film commentary, the lighting in Tarzan's duel against Sabor is symbolic. Whenever Tarzan is safe from Sabor, he's always in the shade, but he's vulnerable to her when he's outside of the shadows. The commentators say that this reflected how the gorillas were safe in their shady and secluded tree nests.
Despite being classified as a villain, Sabor is not truly evil. Rather, she is simply a fierce predator that is trying to survive in a harsh jungle.